You’re Only Old Once

30 Dec

I remember my mom telling me to ENJOY being young. She said that youth is like a song that’s sung too quickly & that we’re old for a very long time if we allow ourselves to be. She looked at me, smiled & said, “Remember … old is just some poop in our heads.”

I didn’t have a clue what she was talking about & I never remembered to ask her about all that… until just now, on the eve of my birthday, & it’s too late because she’s gone. I wish I’d asked. But I don’t remember her ever seeming “old;” not until she became very ill & that illness robbed her of her youth & eventually her life. But until then, I believed she would remain forever young & she almost did.

As with many monumental occasions in our lives, we suddenly have a moment of clarity … that “Ah Ha” moment when we see clearly what someone was talking about & are at a loss to understand why we didn’t’ see it sooner. I think maybe that is part of the wisdom that comes with maturity &, although this isn’t’ one of those significant birthdays, I’m becoming even more mature tomorrow & I suddenly  know exactly what my mother was talking about.

I breezed through life without much concern until my 30th. birthday. Shortly after the presents were opened & the cake was mostly crumbs in the cake box I found my first gray hair. And shortly after that I looked in the mirror … one of those “magnification 30X” mirrors … & came face-to-face with the beginnings of a crow’s foot. How could I have gotten old overnight?

By 40 I’d begun worrying about all the things I hadn’t accomplished in my life. I’d wanted to be a mom & an artist & an author & a journalist & I wasn’t any of those things, although I was, by then, a step mom, which filled that empty spot in my life. I wrote silly poems for my step son & drew cartoons to accompany them. Sometimes my poems turned serious & I called that self-expression. I had a rewarding career as an OR nurse so I was far from being a failure. But I hadn’t done some stuff that I was interested in doing and…I dreaded turning 50.  

But I did it anyway… that turning 50 thing.

I was ushered into that decade riding the crest of a powerful hot flash that turned into a very long “personal tropical moment” that defies definition.

Shortly after that I took an early retirement because I wanted time to enjoy my life while I was still young enough to & shortly after that I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

While going through almost a year of treatment I remembered what my mom had told me … we’re old for a very long time if we allow ourselves to be. Since my “time” had suddenly become one of the greatest uncertainties I’d had an occasion to face, I started making adjustments. I was determined that NOTHING, not age or cancer was going to rob me of the youth I’d seen fleeting since finding that first gray hair. In light of my chemo-induced baldness, gray hair seemed a moot point.

I put forth a very conscious effort to enjoy every day … to pursue the things I wanted to do in this life because I realized we aren’t promised second chances. Getting old seemed the least of my concerns, right up there on the list with gray hair & crow’s feet. Getting old was just some poop in my head.

Without hesitation I began a second career with a local cable television channel as a talk show host (me – the kid who dreaded giving oral book reports in school). I wrote a book & worked for 2 years to get it published. I included 6 original illustrations. Now I’m writing a BLOG, which is a form of journalism & self-expression – an unexplored avenue until now.

I’ve accomplished all those things I felt were lacking in my life when I turned 40 primarily because cancer made me realize that I’d been threatening to make myself old for a very long time (echoes of my mom’s warning). Our “time” is precious & I didn’t want to spend mine worrying about getting old. I found I simply didn’t have “time” for that.

So on the eve of this birthday I have finally realized exactly what my mom was talking about when she said we’re old a very long time if we allow ourselves to be. She knew that somewhere in the back of all our heads we just can’t help mentally marking off birthdays… doing a mental count-down to oblivion. She knew that worrying about it can bury our youth & make us old for many years when we’re still very young & just too dumb to realize it. She also knew that “young” is mostly a state of mind … how we approach life … how we enjoy it & what we make it. She said, in her wisdom, “Old is just some poop in our heads.”

Tomorrow night is New Year’s Eve … my birthday … & I’m celebrating with people I care about who make me happy because they are in my life. I won’t be just going through the motions because, after cancer, no one is happier to see another birthday on their calendar.

There’s something else my mom always told me from the very beginning when I started being aware of my birthdays. She told me that all the horns, bells & whistles that are such a big part of New Year’s Eve really had nothing to do with the New Year at all. She told me that all those bells & whistles were for ME. And you know what? I believe her … especially tonight after realizing that she has given me an absentee birthday gift … the gift of youth all over again.

We’re only old ONCE & tonight I realize, for me anyway, that’s a long, long way away. I believe my mom would be proud of my sudden burst of clarity.

Happy New Year! It’s my birthday & I’m planning to dance (if I can just get these arthritic knees moving ……..)

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18 Responses to “You’re Only Old Once”

  1. Betty Hudson December 30, 2013 at 11:19 pm #

    Love the message

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Like

    • heimdalco December 30, 2013 at 11:35 pm #

      Thank you so much, Betty. I appreciate you reading it.

      Like

  2. monkeys22013 December 30, 2013 at 11:30 pm #

    Your Mom was wise and young beyond her years. I think you are both so much alike..I enjoyed your blog and wish you a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY AND A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR LINDA!!!!!!!! Enjoy your celebratation of LIFE!!! Love u..Les

    Like

    • heimdalco December 30, 2013 at 11:36 pm #

      Thank you … love you, too, Leslie. So glad to have you in my life …

      Like

  3. Jeanne Wilson December 31, 2013 at 12:06 am #

    Linda, you will always be young. Happy Birthday and Happy New Year. Love you Jeanne

    Like

    • heimdalco December 31, 2013 at 12:45 am #

      Thank you, Jeanne. I’ve learned a lot from YOU. Love you back …

      Like

  4. Darlene West December 31, 2013 at 2:25 am #

    Linda,
    I enjoy reading your blog….it is both entertaining and enlightening! I hope you have a very Happy Birthday!!

    Like

    • heimdalco December 31, 2013 at 3:00 am #

      Thank you so much, Darlene. I’ve been trying to start doing the blog for over a year but never had time until I made myself take time. Now I’m really enjoying doing it. I thank you so very much for reading it … & I’m so pleased that you enjoy it. Happy New Year to you guys, too.

      Like

  5. Anthony Moshonas December 31, 2013 at 3:49 am #

    I really appreciated this one very much…Linda….. Some of those words
    seemed to hit “Home” for me…Thank You and I Loved it !!!
    Happy New Year and a Very Happy Happy Birthday !!
    Luv U,
    Tony ” )

    Like

    • heimdalco December 31, 2013 at 4:46 am #

      Thanks so much for the kind words, Tony & for the good wishes … New Years & birthday. I’m glad you enjoyed this post. I’m so enjoying doing the blog. Willy asked me where all this stuff was coming from & I told him, “my head.” LOL. While I can’t seem to come up with a premise to attempt a novel, I don’t have a bit of trouble(so far) doing the blog.

      You have a very Happy New Year, too

      Like

  6. cheeseheadva December 31, 2013 at 4:56 am #

    To what degree is our reality shaped by our own perceptions of reality? There is a sense in which it appears to me that as you became more aware of your limitations and your mortality, you became more determined to maximize what remained possible in your life. It was possible all along, but you thought you had longer to get around to doing it and therefore didn’t pursue it. You seemed to begin focusing more and more on what you are most passionate about. I am convinced that pursuing what we are most passionate about leads to greater fulfillment and less frustration; therefore, we feel more alive and more connected, which causes us to feel young emotionally, if not physically as well.

    Like

    • heimdalco December 31, 2013 at 5:10 am #

      What a beautiful reply, George, & of course that’s true. Being ill with a potentially fatal disease is a terrific wake-up call. It also fired my determination to be all I could be, to do what was important to me … not to waste the talents I’d been given while I was able to use them. I would hate to get to the end of my life with things left undone & untried.

      I had been working in a job that was very time consuming, too, which was also limiting. I didn’t intend to deal with limitations of a disease if I could circumvent them.

      As strange as it may seem, being ill propelled me into “the time of my life.” The last 3 lines of your post say it all. Thank you for responding.

      Like

  7. Willy Smith December 31, 2013 at 1:07 pm #

    Happy Birthday Linda. That was really good … and true!

    Like

    • heimdalco December 31, 2013 at 4:59 pm #

      Thank you, Willy ……….& it’s going to be a happy birthday all day long.

      Like

  8. Willy Smith December 31, 2013 at 1:12 pm #

    I wanted to read all the replies to your latest but was only able to speed read the am. Have to go to work but I’ll think about you blog all day. Love you – Husband

    Like

  9. Gail January 3, 2014 at 4:34 am #

    Congrats my friend. You’re a “dizzy dame’ OR nurse just like me. What fun we did have (most of the time) as we dared that clock to say 3pm. I love your blue eyed, blonde haired wit. Always have………..I am coming out of the shadows that I stepped into before Thanksgiving. It is time to live again plus I am having surgery, rt arm and wrist 1/8. Doggone it!!! Mama said they’re be days like this. Mama was right.

    Like

    • heimdalco January 3, 2014 at 7:35 am #

      Good to hear from you, Gail. Thanks for reading my blog. Send me a regular email & let me know how you are.

      Like

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