Welcome to My Year of Aging Youthfully

In my birthday vest from my sister, Ilene. The original gift was teal, but my preference for black hasn’t changed.

This is what I typed in response to one of the birthday wishers on my Facebook timeline. (Remember when we called it a “Wall”?)

“You are finding the key to aging backwards,” my childhood friend Debbie Levine Herman wrote.

In the past I haven’t handled my birthday so nicely. Even last year my birthday wish was for it to come and go quietly and quickly.

Like my father, who’s in the same camp, I’ve told friends and family that if they cared about me they would not acknowledge my birthday. Ok so my husband’s an exception as he is particularly talented at jewelry gift giving, and it would be a shame to waste an obviously well-developed skill.

“You know you can remove your birthday from your Facebook profile,” Kevin McGuinness, my physical therapist, mentioned to me last year, when I advised him not to say a word as the day was approaching.

“Hmm,” I nodded. I know that.

In How to Age, Anne Karpft uses a visual to depict our lives as a collection of tree rings. Think being 16 and 17 all at once as if when you turned 17 you began to live your age 17 with the benefit of having lived your age 16. It’s not as if we leave our youth behind, it’s that we take our youth with us as we add another ring. Karpft’s idea is that we live all of our ages at every age.

My husband’s stepmother called to wish me a happy birthday and apologized for not getting to the post office to mail me my gift.

“You don’t need to send me a gift,” I said. “I’ve been 49 at least 5 times. I can use the one from last year.”

Don’t worry I’m not going shopping at Zara anytime soon.

But when I’m out West during an upcoming ski trip, while I won’t be interested in racing down the mountain, which might have been my goal a decade ago, I plan to welcome standing at the top, with my tips pointing downward, and freaking out.

That’s a moment I’ve lived before.

I had so much anxiety leading up to my triathlon last spring, and I’m thinking part of that is because it’s been too long since I’ve willingly put myself in harm’s way.

The thought of skiing is scary, but I remember enjoying it when I was younger. It was scary then, too, right?

People say we get more fearful as we age. My take is that we leave behind the memory of conquering fear as we add more rings to our tree. We leave our youth behind.

Soon I’m taking my age 25 with me. Rocky Mountain, bring it on.


Excerpted from the original blog post on Carolee Belkin Walker’s website Be the Dog.