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Happy Birthday?

The Guideposts editor-in-chief shares why birthdays are a time to celebrate.

I’m getting too old for birthdays.

Years ago I vowed I would never get to the point where I cringed at the prospect of another birthday. I would always revel in the celebration of another year of life no matter how old I got.

But when I hit my 50s it happened: birthday denial. This morning, as I do every morning on my walk with Millie, I stopped at our corner store to buy a newspaper. Today, though, I couldn’t help but stare in alarm at the little calendar at the checkout that says, “If you were born after this date don’t try to buy cigarettes from us!”

The date was appallingly recent. I mean it was in the ’90s! There were kids born practically yesterday who were running around trying to buy cigarettes. A few of them were legally old enough! I suddenly felt terribly elderly.

There are still societies on earth (somewhere) that revere age, where men wait through their middle years eager for streaks of gray to appear in their beards. Then they’ve arrived. Age confers status. Old guys are cool. In our society status is conferred by “Just for Men” hair dye and pharmaceutical products that help men regain their…well, nevermind.

The point is we fight not against getting old—against going gently into that good night and railing against the dying light, as Dylan Thomas would have it, against the creeping shadow of mortality itself—no, we battle against not appearing sufficiently youthful and hip.

We chase a lost, magical moment in our lives when we were at some perfect age, so perfect we didn’t even realize it at the time, and now all we can do is stand back and gaze at the high-water mark. 

I was depressing myself by the time I got back to the apartment and fed Millie her breakfast. You can probably guess by now that today is my birthday. I turned on my computer. At least I could check my horoscope, the only day of the year I actually do. As you grow older you will appreciate the finer things in life, it said. Yeah, like dentures and bunion surgery.

I glanced at my inbox and wondered if I was seeing things. The screen was full of messages on my Facebook account. I started opening them, one after the other, “Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday….” And pretty soon I was laughing.

This is the first birthday where I have had an active Facebook account, and of course everyone on FB knows your birthday (at least the day and month). Yet still it was amazing to hear from all sorts of people who I never usually hear from on my birthday, old friends and people I barely knew.

Something about all those greetings pulled me out of my absurd birthday funk. All at once I felt part of the human race, part of a greater plan.

We are meant to grow older and to grow. God gives us the time to know ourselves and to know him. Life is a process of change. Who wants to stand still in some mythical moment of perfect youth?

If the price for change and growth and wisdom is getting old, it is a cosmic bargain. My friends had reminded me: It’s time to celebrate another year of life and get ready for new one.

P.S. Speaking of Facebook, did you know we now have an ANGELS ON EARTH Facebook page? Check it out. And if you really want to give me a birthday wish, tell a friend about our GUIDEPOSTS FB page. As I said last week, I want to get to 10,000 fans by year’s end.     

Edward Grinnan is Editor-in-Chief and Vice President of GUIDEPOSTS Publications.

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