The only birthday that troubled me was No. 47. That was the age my sister was when she was diagnosed with cancer, and when I hit that age, that one was hard.
And now, suddenly, I am face to face with 55, and it is not fun. It does no good to tell myself that I'm only a minute older, an hour older, a day older. It does no good to point out that I am in good shape, I have all my teeth, my hair isn't gray, my knees don't hurt.
Don't tell me I'm only as old as I feel. Don't tell me that today is the first day of the rest of my life. I stare at 55 and I feel like lying down.
It doesn't seem possible; I look at the girl in that picture and I remember everything about her--what she read, what she wore, how she liked to hide in closets and under tables, to get away from the commotion and chaos of the house. We are the same person. But now that little girl is 55. (And I have to admit, it's been a long time since I sat under a table.)
This morning I woke up early, as always, and lay in the dark thinking. And it occurred to me that I've been working at the Strib for 15 years--and it feels like a flash, a snap of the fingers. And in 15 more years--another flash, another snap--I shall be 70.
That thought was discouraging enough to make me not want to get up at all.
My birthday is tomorrow. Forget the chocolates, forget the cake, forget the whiskey. Send encouragement. This one hurts.