My odometer rolls over to 59 this week.
There will be no black balloons. No lamenting the loss of my youth. No dreading old age.
Getting cancer at 41 is the gift that keeps on giving. It has made every birthday since that diagnosis a celebration of life.
Cancer taught me that “Happy Birthday” is a victory song. That getting older is a “get to.” That growing old beats the alternative – dying young.
I don’t plan on combating age with Botox, wrinkle removers or anti-aging creams. The older I get, the less I care about how I look. Besides, you start to become invisible as you age. When you realize no one is looking, it’s actually freeing.
I’m not big on bucket lists, on world travel, skydiving or completing a triathlon. Most days, I’m content to sip lemonade on the backyard swing with my nose in a book.
This my last year to be in my 50s. Here’s what I plan to do with it:
Complete the things I keep saying I want to complete: Write the next book. Frame the best photos. Get my Irish passport.
My dad’s parents were both born in Ireland, which makes me eligible to become a citizen of Ireland. I’ve had the documents sitting in a folder for years. When Ireland voted to approve same-sex marriage, I finally went online and applied to become a citizen.
Learn something: Open the piano and learn Pachelbel's Canon so I can play it by heart. Memorize a few Psalms. Try out some new recipes. Get CPR certified.
Befriend technology: Learn how to load music onto my iPhone to create a soundtrack to my life with uplifting music. Learn how to take photos off of my iPhone. There are currently 4,123 photos. About 4,000 of them are of the grandkids.
Experience something new: Sample every flavor at Ben & Jerry’s, including Spectacular Speculoos, The Tonight Dough and Hazed & Confused. Hit the 60-meter target in archery, and hopefully in the center. Find the Shoe Tree at Lake View Cemetery. It’s a small tree down a dirt road decorated with dozens of pairs of shoes thrown on it by strangers.
Create sacred space in my heart and in my life: Be still. Spend more days with no plans. Live by the seat of my pants hour by hour. Get the email inbox down to zero and keep it there.
Unplug. For 24 hours, no email, cell phone, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Go silent for one day. Not a word to any one.
Stop believing everything I think and saying everything that pops into my brain.
Focus on Family: Watch all the home movies we shot of the kids when they were little and the grandparents while they were alive. Complete the family genealogy on Ancestry.com.
Tell everyone I love that I love them. Most people know, but there are a few that probably need to hear it more often.
Have more fun: Say “yes” to what brings me joy and “no” to what doesn’t. If I’m not sure, I’ll take it as a “no.” Take more road trips to nowhere and more trips to the beach.
Don’t do anything that feels like homework. Stop reading any book that doesn’t dazzle me by page 40.
Take better care of me: Wear sunscreen. Add aerobics to my weekly workout. Get 10,000 steps in every day. Give yoga another chance. Quit cutting my own bangs. I am not a beautician.
Peacefully abide: Listen more; talk less. Embrace all beings. Hand feed the chickadees in the Cleveland Metroparks. Let the squirrels eat the birdseed. Live in harmony with all beings, or at least safely evict the spiders, bees and bugs from the house instead of squashing them.
Live with more faith and less fear: Stop being afraid of being wrong, getting lost or getting hurt.
Once and for all, follow the simple instructions for living offered in that most beautiful of all Psalms that I say every morning upon awakening:
This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice in it and be glad.
Regina Brett is the New York Times bestselling author of “God Never Blinks: 50 Lessons for Life’s Little Detours,” which has been published in more than 24 languages. She also wrote, “Be the Miracle: 50 Lessons for Making the Impossible Possible” and “God Is Always Hiring: 50 Lessons for Finding Fulfilling Work.” Connect with her on Facebook at ReginaBrettFans and on Twitter @ReginaBrett.