Last week I turned 36 years old. I will honestly admit that it was the best birthday I can ever remember. Trey sent me a beautiful flower arrangement at work and took me on a fabulous date (dinner and a bookstore…the man knows how to make me happy!) Logan gave me the sweetest birthday gift ever! He bought me a box of clay and with the intent to craft with me. Jack learned to say a 2-year-old version of “happy birthday!” I felt perfectly content.
A friend jokingly commented, “Wow! You are old!?” The comment got me thinking. I know a lot of people really freak out when it comes to turning older. I hadn’t hit that stage of aging yet. I admit that sometimes I look at my life and still feel as though I’m just playing house. Sure, I worry about money, argue over chores, and stress about my kids. BUT…I also get to share life with my best friend, play with the coolest kids on the block, and make life up as I go! We can have a dance party at breakfast or eat popcorn for dinner if we want. I can tease Trey about ongoing home improvement project or build a fort with the boys. I don’t know if I’m doing everything right but I’m having fun. One of my favorite quotes is “The best advice I’ve ever received is, “No one else knows what they’re doing either.” (Ricky Gervais) This is perfectly true for me. The second I feel like I’ve figured life out, it changes and I’m forced to adapt with it. While basking in the glow of the perfect contentment of a birthday, I wondered when I would begin to feel old. Hello, age is just a number and I feel young! I have a toddler and I can quote Iggy Azalea. I’m not old!?
Call it karma or chance, but my age caught up with me. Thursday I changed into my running clothes at the group home I work with, like I always do. On my way to my car, one of my favorite teenagers yelled “Mrs. Lauren, you look great from the front but your butt is sagging. Does your insurance cover butt lifts?” Another teenager quickly came to my defense, “Leave her alone. She looks good for being so old!?” And another, “Yeah! At least she’s trying. My grandma doesn’t even try to exercise.” And another, “Mrs. Lauren, don’t you pay any attention to them. They hatin’. Besides, it doesn’t matter how bad you look, you got your man.”
Friday, one of my clients was excited to tell me about a project she was working on for a history class. She was researching reactions to an event in history…waaay long ago…waaaaaay back. She was interviewing her parents and grandparents about the attacks on 9/11. I was in graduate school!?! She was thrilled to learn I’d been alive that long and had “so many questions about life back then.”
I classified both of these encounters in the “Sweet naive children” category and went home to enjoy a weekend with my family. I had big plans to run a 10K and muscle my way through several yard projects. See, I’m not old!? Unfortunately, Logan came down with a stomach bug and I was up half the night Friday night dealing with scenes straight from “The Exorcist.” I’ll kindly spare you the details. In my younger days, staying up half the night wouldn’t have slowed me down the next day but suddenly I realized that there was no way I’d be able to sleep 4 hours and then run 6 miles. I had to skip the race. At least my money went to a good cause. After not being able to run, I was even more determined to push my body to make significant progress on yard projects before the forecasted rain hit. (Perhaps my incessant checking of the weather app ought to have also been a clue that I’ve aged…) I spent the day pulling up unwanted tree seedlings and digging up rooted vines and weeds. As I was laboring over a particularly stubborn tree, Trey got onto me for working harder, not smarter. He then easily plucked the tree out of the ground with the 4-wheeler. I suddenly channeled my inner Paul Bunyan and began pulling trees harder and faster. No machine would outdo me!? Until it did. When digging out a small pine, I felt my lower back twinge. I told Trey I needed a break and officially assigned him to tree pulling duty. I reasoned that as I was no longer pulling trees, my back could handle picking up branches and leaning over to hook the strap around the trees and 4-wheeler. Each time I bent over, my back screamed a little louder. I kept going though. I’m not old and surely I can continue through the pain. After it started raining, I headed to the grocery store. Somewhere amid the frozen veggies, my back muscles revolted and I felt every bit my age…perhaps even older. Tears began to flow right there, next to the frozen spinach. I made it home and spent most of the remaining weekend on the couch. I guess this is what “throwing out your back” feels like. Trey lectured me on not working too hard and that I needed to listen to my body. All my body was telling me was “Damn girl, you are old!” As I adjusted the heating pad and took another pain pill, I wallowed in self-pity. Crap! I’m old!? Two days later and I can’t breathe too deep or stand too quickly without tears welling up in my eyes.
I’m pretty sure it’s a matter of time before I’m wearing black socks with Birkenstocks, complaining about not enough restaurants serving meatloaf and beets, and drinking Metamucil. I suddenly have a strong desire to drive slowly and tried to schedule a perm. My to do list now includes buying underwear that comes up to my armpits and slathering my body with medicated lotion. I’ve asked Logan to begin looking at assisted living options for me. Perhaps, the pendulum will swing back towards age appropriate expectations once my back feels better but I’m pretty certain I’m growing more aware of my age.