Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me, hope I live to 103  

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Well, here it is… the big D-Day B-Day.

On Thursday, I turned 56. The same age as my mother when she died suddenly of a brain aneurysm. At this age. My age. Where I’m at today.

Holy freaking hell, am I not ready to go.

Was my mother ready? I don’t know, because frankly, her life was a complete mess — some of it her own doing, some not. She was a maker of serial bad choices, compelled to always make the wrong decision as a moth is compelled to throw its tiny body against the porch light night after night until it fizzles into dust and falls to the ground. Honestly, my mother has served as my “fashion don’t” — whenever I find myself perplexed with a decision, it’s a WWMD moment — What Would Mom Do. Whatever the answer to that question is … I do the opposite. This has served me well.

It’s one thing to take control over life choices, quite another to be the victim of one’s own genetics, anatomy and physiology. Do I have the gene that makes one’s veins and arteries fragile? I don’t know. My legs certainly do. My brain? Who knows? Both my mother and father’s mother had peripheral vein disease (those are varicose veins on the inside of the leg, where you can’t even see them — bigger, badder siblings of the familiar unsightly ones). My mom made it to 56. My grandmother made it to 103, in perfect health.

Which set of genes do I have? Time will tell. But I do know this. Life is short, random and unpredictably cruel, so any amount of time (read: life) you waste unnecessarily on misery and strife is a tragedy. Some waste of time is unavoidable (read: DMV), but for the most part, I have been striving to eliminate stressful people, groups, activities and situations from my life, and padding my life with people, groups, activities and situations that are uplifting, enLIGHTening, entertaining and nurturing. It hasn’t been a perfect endeavor, but it’s taking shape.

So. Fifty-six. It was the big, bad obstacle up on the horizon of my life for the past 29 years. I dreaded it. I dare not put on the brakes because that would mean stopping even earlier. The last few years, 56 loomed closer and closer and suddenly there it was. I anticipated the big crash into the brick wall, but no … I just passed right through as if it was merely an apparition. And, in the end, maybe that’s all it is. Because the fact is, barring those with a terminal illness, none of us knows how or when The Time will come. It’s all basically a big crap shoot.

The best we can do (emphasis on best) is make the most of every day. Carpe the hell out of every diem. In fact carpe the, um …

Hmm. A quick Google search reveals that the Romans didn’t have a word for “minute.” They had a word for “moment,” however, but “carpe momentum temporis” doesn’t really sound so snappy. Without asking any expert’s opinion, and also because it’s my birthday and I can do anything I want (read: call me Her Royal Highness), I’m going to borrow from Italian, because the bulk of Italians are descended from Romans, and settle on “carpe minuto.”

Yes. Carpe minuto. Seize the minutes, the moments … look into your child’s eyes, or your spouse’s or even your dog’s for one entire minute, and feel the experience of staring into another vessel of cosmic wonder… at some point, a giggle or smile will just burble up. Cosmic joy! In a single minute!

Stuff all tose kinds of the minutos into your diems that you can.

So on this first day of my next 365-day trip around the sun (Goddess willing), I’ll add to that, “carpe anno.” Yes. I will seize the year, this year, and not just any old year, but the year that my mother didn’t survive. In fact, I may have to stuff double minutos into this anno, in her honor. She didn’t die happy and fulfilled, not by a longshot. In my mind, that should give me happiness credits going forward. Double for my dad, who, for all intents and purposes, didn’t make it past 54.

For those who complain about the signs of growing old — silver hair, achy joints, less energy — might I remind you that growing old is the biggest gift you’ll ever get, and one that is denied many. Sometimes denied tragically, shockingly early.

Grow old? Oh hell yes. As old as I can get. I may end up looking like a toothless iguana with a hairpiece, but more years?

Bring.

Them.

On.

I’m going to carpe the hell out of this anno, this much-feared, horrifically anticipated anno. Rather than put on the brakes in dread and fear, I’m going to step onto the accelerator and launch right into it. Starting this anno. This diem. This minuto.

Funny side note: The proper Latin word for year is actually “annus.” “Anno” is the less preferred word for “year.” However, for our purposes today, “carpe annus” would have invited a few two many adolescent snorts and giggles. It takes a woman of tough, stern fortitude to declare “Seize the annus” with a straight face. Me, I fall short. I am chuckling just thinking about it.

And therein is another tool for successfully navigating the second half of one’s earthly walk: Keep a sense of humor. Don’t just carpe the minutos/diems/annos… laugh at them too, whenever you can. Anytime life gives you a reason to laugh rather than cry, it’s a bonus. I did enough crying 29 years ago. In memory of my mother, who if I knew her today at the age she was when she died would now be my peer, I’m going to pad my life unapologetically with love, laughter and good times.

I’d suck at being Catholic, wouldn’t I.

Laugh at that … it’s totally funny!

— Email Debra DeAngelo at debra@wintersexpress.com; read more of her work at www.wintersexpress.com and www.ipinionsyndicate.com

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