I love my birthday and if you’ve been around this site, you know I write about it pretty much every year. Once every 365 days I make it a point to take a breather from reporting on the simultaneous brilliance and idiocy of my kids (Brag Alert: guess who made Honor Roll?!? Right, the same kid who tried unclogging the toilet with a toilet BRUSH and snapped it in half, lodging that, too, into the pipes…) to focus on me. Why not, right? I don’t dwell on getting older and I don’t mind having to buy a monthly dose of brunette-in-a-box to keep everyone thinking I’m the sister of Dorian Grey. Since a blog is like a real-time diary, I think it’s good for my kids to take a look every so often to see how cool their mom is. So sure, with full aplomb I say yay me! once a year.
If I’m being 100% truthful, I’ve got a lot to knock on wood about. My family is healthy, nobody’s got a parole officer yet and despite finding out I’m the same age as was Rue McClanahan when she started in The Golden Girls (Lord. Now that was a moment), I feel good. I feel smart, too, because I happen to surround myself with some pretty amazing friends. Sure, it’s a magnificent thing (the whole you raise me up thing) but the downside of that is it’s really impossible to measure up much of the time.
We’re a tight-knit group We are blue collar bikers and white-collar workers and business owners and bartenders and nurses and everything else in between. We are moms and dads, all with kids who are alternately perfect or colossal frickking asswipes, depending on the day. We are beer drinkers. We are patio and bar floor dancers (not Joe; he’s just a danger to super expensive equipment and sound systems, but he’s a super good time so we let him “dance”). We are fiercely loyal. Oddly enough (given the obscene amount of Coors Light and buffalo chicken dip) we are a collectively healthy crew. We have marathoners among us. And cross-fitters. And spinners. And (back pat) we are far from thirtysomethings.
So you see, we are a lot of super awesome and gigantically good things.
What we are not … is invulnerable to awful things happening out of the blue.
Some serious medical issues made their way into our tight circle since my last birthday and while not a direct hit to me personally – as we all know – the shock and awe of a horrible diagnosis for a close friend hits one’s core as if it had been. So at the very least, this gateway to middle age has been an alarming wake-up call for my crew.
A couple of months ago I found myself at the start of Lent pondering the cliched what to give up dilemma. I wrestled with the coffee and wine I didn’t want to live without for 40 days. I felt selfish about that. Then I thought about the dairy and the animal protein my doctor discourages. I shuddered (thinking about bacon this time) and then felt selfish about that, too.
My thoughts wandered to my friends. Right at that time we were all still reeling from the recent news of a massive heart attack that had befallen one of us. Far more serious than we could ever fathom, we had found ourselves hearing the unimaginable phrase lucky to be alive for – absurdly — not even the first time. This was the third time in a calendar year one of our healthy comrades was very seriously, very scarily out of commission.
I decided that rather than give up something, I would instead do something for Lent, something that would force me to stop taking my good health for granted.
So ever so quietly and without any Facebook fanfare, I started running.
Now, every person in the universe already knows that running is the most dreadful activity there is. I’m here to report that – as a recipient of the 1978 Presidential Award in Physical Fitness for successfully running the 600 in the nationally prescribed time at Lenox Elementary School — probably the last time I ran, period — this activity most definitely, absolutely, positively STILL sucks just as much, all these years later.
But here’s the thing. Within my tribe are a ridiculous number who run and (please sit down for this) they do it for fun. While I was selfishly deliberating avoiding ice cream for a month, my good buddy was hauling around a portable defibrillator in case his heart stopped again. Another love was being fitted for a post-mastectomy bra. Both of these crazies would have given anything in the world to be running at that time. So for 40 days, as a private nod to them, I decided to at least try to do what they could not. Remember me saying it is impossible to measure up to these people at times? No lie there.
To keep myself from backing out of my Lenten promise, I registered for a 5k a month away. That it was a town wide St. Patty’s Day fundraiser is, let’s just say, apropos.
The first time I went out I barely made it around the block. I will spare you the details of the injured walrus I resembled but for certain the pain and fire inside my chest had me convinced I, too, might be needing a defibrillator. I was awful. And cumbersome. And excruciatingly slow. And yet …
… each day I went out and tried to run a little further than the day before.
Ever hear the expression easier said than done? Yeah, there’s that. Popping out four babies? Pfft. Bring it. This was the hardest thing I have ever attempted.
By Race Day it was a secret no more. To the contrary it was a full-blown party (have I mentioned my group’s affinity for barley & hops?) Some friends joined me at the starting gate; others waited at the finish line. I made myself a cute t-shirt, put on a rockin’ playlist and clocked my first 3.2 miles in my 51 years.
It was amazing. So was my tribe.
Somewhere within this journey I got caught up in the milestones of running further and further. Somewhere within this endorphin-laced insanity I also let my running friends talk me into joining them in another race: a 26.2 marathon. Unbelievably the words it’s only 4.3 miles lost their scope of science fiction so I next set a goal for hitting that a few weeks later. It was hard to say no to a team that would be pretty damn special: 2 miracle friends – both lucky to be alive – would be running it, too.
5 days before my 52nd birthday I crossed that finish line, too.
I enjoy and appreciate my birthday every year — seemingly more and more as the years fly by. I think everyone should. We are all spending more time than we’d ever like in hospitals and funeral homes. Our parents are passing. We’re worrying about our kids spreading their wings, or leaving or (worse) becoming adults. Scouts honor: the best part about getting older is finding out nothing really matters all that much. It takes a while but we finally start to get it: It’s not the end of the world if a kid flunks out of college, or has a baby before marriage or a spouse loses his job.
When we finally realize we’re all here temporarily it’s kinda sorta embarrassing looking back on all the hours we spent bitching about Little League playing time.
I have some pretty strong opinions on the pitfalls of middle age (most involve imploring Mariah Carey to stop – please – wearing lingerie in public) but hell, we’re all traveling that road. The stress of aging is unavoidable.
I say give yourself – and your friends — a reason to celebrate. Without or without sneakers. But definitely with some beer.
(How do you like me now, kids?) 😉
Tina Drakakis blogs at Eyerollingmom and was featured in the 2014 Boston production of “Listen to Your Mother: Giving Motherhood a Microphone.” Her work has been featured in NPR’s “This I Believe” radio series yet she places “Most Popular 1984” on top of her list of achievements. (Next would be the home improvement reality TV show of 2003 but her kids won’t let her talk about that anymore). A witty mother of four, she takes on cyberspace as @Eyerollingmom on Twitter and Eyerollingmom on Facebook. and@Eyerollingmom on Instagram.
Missed the start of A Momoir? Catch up here:
Chapter 2, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/08/13/chapter-2-sometimes-kids-suck-a-lot/
Chapter 3, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/09/22/chapter-3-sorry-were-tied-all-kids-are-filthy/
Chapter 5, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2018/04/20/a-momoir-chapter-5-the-magnitude-of-the-middle-aged-mom/