Grateful: For ALL Of It

Today is my birthday.

I’m 55.

Eligible to move to 55 and over communities and edging closer to coveted senior discounts at movies and places like the Old Country Buffet.

I’m already eligible for 10 percent off at Banana Republic and 15 percent off at Bealls Outlet but only on Tuesdays, when I’m working and unable to get to an outlet.

But I digress.

Birthdays with 0’s and 5’s get progressively tougher.

Oh, 20 and 25 are cool.

But 30 and 40 and 50 are really rough. I enjoyed 35—thought that was kind of the perfect age, just the right amount of seasoning. But 45 induced a twinge of mortality and this birthday brings a mix of emotions.

When you hit your 50s you start to feel a little more comfortable with who you are. The little things don’t bother you as much and you learn to avoid toxic people. You learn not to feed negativity.

You also learn to appreciate the good times, the good people and the love in your life.

Good friends become more precious. Good times and laughter more valued.

Experiences take precedence over “things.”

It’s a good time of life.

By the time most people reach their 50s they have experienced a whole lot.

Love, loss, joy, sadness, parenthood, career successes, career setbacks and everything in between.

What makes the 50s so poignant is this feeling that in so many ways you are at the top of your game.

You have perspective, knowledge and hard fought experience. But you can also see the end game.

It sounds morbid and hopefully its decades away, but you realize how life is a blur and how time seems to fly.

My best buddy from childhood texted me some old photos while I was writing this. Some cannot be shared, taken when we were young and somewhat foolish as young men should be (within limits) which we managed to always observe.

Some were from high school graduation and others were from a trip we took to visit his parents in Arizona which dovetailed with my 30th birthday. I blinked and 25 years passed.

Looking at that photo of us standing in 100 degree plus heat at the Pima Air Museum with his dad Mickey brought a smile to my face and a catch to my throat. Mickey is gone and I really loved him. So is my mom and she was the world to all of us. Both were around back then—in fact they were about the age we are now.

In 1994, I was a father to a four year old and a two year old. Now my oldest is turning 30 and is well into a teaching career and my little boy is an accountant who advises me on my taxes.

So there’s a lot of pride at this point in your life—you get to see your kids succeed and your friends do some amazing things in their lives and careers. A buddy of mine just sold his company for a mind blowing number and will be sailing the world and others are climbing the ladder of success or retiring after really making a mark.

But we’ve also lost some classmates and been touched by disease. Happy hour discussions these days range from politics, movies, sports (the usual) to prostate health and various aches and pains. Sometimes we pass mirrors and wonder who the old guy is that’s staring back at us.

But if you look closer you also see wisdom and depth. Hair lines recede but knowledge grows.

A few weeks ago, CNN’s Anderson Cooper did an interview with comedian Stephen Colbert that got quite a bit of attention.

Colbert lost his father and two brothers in an airplane crash when he was 10 years old. It was a crushing life defining loss.

“I was personally shattered,” he says. “And then you reform yourself in this quiet, grieving world that was created in [your] house.”

But as a religious man he found the strength to forge a life making other people laugh.

Cooper, who recently lost his mother, was visibly moved by Colbert’s response.

He asks Colbert, “You [once] said, ‘What punishment of God’s are not gifts?’ Do you really believe that?”

To which Colbert replies, “Yes. It’s a gift to exist and with existence comes suffering. There’s no escaping that.”

Regarding his losses, Colbert says, “I don’t want it to have happened. I want it to not have happened. But if you’re grateful for your life — and I’m not always — then you have to be grateful for all of it.”

You have to be grateful for all of it. What a wonderful belief.

Loss and the prospect of an end can make you love more deeply. It can help you develop a greater understanding of other people and life itself.

So yes, 0’s and 5’s can be tough if all you think about is aging, loss and your own mortality. But if I have learned one thing in my 55 years it is to be aware of the lessons that life is trying to teach you. The universe or a higher power sends messages all the time if we care to be alert to them.

It could be a cardinal in your backyard or it could be an interview with a comedian you admire who reminds you to be grateful for all of it.

Be grateful for all of it.

And I am.

 

 

Comments

  1. Nancy Stewart-Franczak says:

    A very happy birthday to you my friend. ONLY 55! I wish:) Hope your day is filled with the joy you bring to those around you.

  2. I am grateful for all of it because you just reminded me to be so … and I am grateful you are in my life… As I sit here facing some difficult times, I am grateful to be here doing just that!!! Thank you dear friend❤️

  3. Bill Wood says:

    Happy Birthday Jeff!! Well done article… You just seem to get better with age which is sorta your point. Age (and all that comes with it) brings perspective. Perspective brings wisdom. Soooo, are you and the universe sending the messsage that we need more old f_rts with perspective and wisdom involved in city politics!? 🤓
    Perhaps (old man) you can think of some folks?

    • Jeff Perlman says:

      Thanks, Bill.
      I was only 35 when I was elected…20 years later I do feel like I know so much more, which may be a reason to pass.

  4. Very poignant Jeff. There is always more to learn and more to be grateful for. There is a gift in everything. Thanks for the reminders

    • Jeff Perlman says:

      As Stephen Colbert says, he’s not always grateful, but he strives to be. I found that interview very powerful.

  5. Happy birthday Jeff. Beautifully written, and oh so true! I have a few years on you, so much of what you describe hit me awhile ago. I do believe we get to a point where getting older is ok. Our life and work experiences mean something. We can share what we know and try to empower the younger people coming up behind us. It’s a great place to be, and I’m grateful for all of it too!

    • Jeff Perlman says:

      Wonderfully said Melissa. I think you are spot on. Those with experience have a lot of lessons to impart and a responsibility to do so.

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