So, yesterday was my birthday. This blog post isn’t a (not so) subtle fishing expedition for birthday greetings (I got tons of lovely messages yesterday), but rather a semi-formed reflection on getting older.

I turned 50 yesterday. Half a century. If not over the hill, teetering on the summit.


And for big chunks of yesterday, variations on the following ditty played in my head.

Happy Birthday to me,

I live in a tree,

I look like a monkey

And I have to go pee…

Or

Happy Birthday to me,

I live in a zoo,

I look like a monkey

And I like to throw poo.

Also,

Happy Birthday to me,

I live in a tree,

I look like a monkey

Because I am a member of the primate family and so is a monkey and thus we share certain phenotypic traits… (breath)

Remember. I am 50. Half a century. Hell, I am a grandpa.

And I like to throw pooooo…

There are aspects of getting older which are inevitable and unstoppable. I creak where I once bent, and I’ve got the rheumatism working a bit in my joints. My hair is still more brown than grey, but that won’t last forever, as my grey beard so ably demonstrates.

But the age of your body and the age of your spirit don’t have to be inextricably bound to each other. I want to be careful about drifting into ageism, but I also want to celebrate a notion often referred to as young at heart. It can mean a lot of things; at the positive end, it may refer to retaining a sense of wonder and playfulness, of taking joy in the world. Sometimes it’s used a pejorative, indicating a kind of careless indifference or lack of seriousness.

I embrace the positive meanings and endeavor to live them while recognizing that even at my age I sometimes (often) suffer from the negatives. The idea that there’s something inherently youthful about playfulness or carelessness is absurd, of course, just as is the idea that with age comes wisdom. Some of the wisest people I know are young in calendar years, and some who evince the greatest sense of wonder are far older than me.

It strikes me that some people treat their age as shackles. When you’re very young, you don’t have much choice, perhaps. But as you grow and gain agency, you have more to say about who you are and what kind of person you want to be. The person I want to be is one who never stops learning, and who doesn’t care who’s doing the teaching. I want to be a person who can take pleasure in a giggle fit over a silly cat picture or in stretching my brain to the breaking point trying to make sense of what the hell the Higgs Boson really is all about. (Result: I mostly have no idea. I think.)

Sure, I fail. Often. Too often. Our society has ingrained in me all the awful background noise of our darkest natures. I have to fight back against kneejerk racism and sexism every day. I have to remind myself to listen to the words and message and not react to my perception of the person sharing them.

But I have help. It comes from a lot of places, and one of those is in books. (Surprise!) I read for lots of reasons, same as most people I’m sure. Escapism, education, wonder (usually all three at once). I read to grow as a writer, to grow as a person, to laugh, to feel an adrenalin rush, and to experience the lives of people very different from me. I read about old people, young people, alien people, dead people. I read about sex and romance and murder and adventure.

And I read because I hope it will help make me a better person. Or least a people who can sing little ditties all day while working.

And I have to go peeeeeeee…

A few favorite reads this year


Pie photo from Happier Than a Pig in Mud.