Holiday gives us an opportunity to reflect on gifts, drawbacks of getting older

Posted: Sunday, December 21, 2003

What happened?

I swear it was just a month ago we were ringing in the new year.

I swear I just took down my Christmas decorations and packed them away. Wasn't that last week?

I must have missed something along the way.

And wasn't it just a year ago we were worried about Y2K? We were so sure we were going to combust into an eternal meltdown because we weren't prepared for the future, and now we're here, and it's passing before our eyes.

In a little over a week, we will enter 2004. Wow. Where did the time go?

Funny how when we're younger we can't wait to be older. We want to be all grown up so we can act like adults. Then somewhere in our 40s comes the realization that time is moving too fast. Or did we just slow down?

I vote for the first answer.

With the realization we're getting old comes a desperate attempt to hang on to our youth. We decide that maybe if we act younger, we are younger.

I've tried to dress more hip ("No, I'm not wearing white tights why?"), change my hairstyle ("Uh yeah, I meant to add gray highlights!"), get into Top 40 music ("Did he just say what I think he said?") and learn the lingo ("What do you mean I'm fat?! Oh, 'phat!'").

But it's no use. As Popeye would say: I yam what I yam.

I hate to think of myself as growing old. Still, when I get out there and exercise, I have to have a knee brace and a handful of ibuprofen to make it through the day. Ouch.

Yes, I admit it: I'm another year older. My body is slowing down; I'm in horrible shape compared to my youth. I vowed to take better care of myself this year, and to some extent I did.

OK, I sort of did.

OK, I did once in a while.

Does another year make all that much difference, though?

It certainly has to my eyes.

I once easily could read the fortune in a cookie. Now I freak my co-workers out when they use my computer because the letters are so big on the screen it looks like a billboard.

"Whoa! What the heck is this?"

"Oh, my eyes were starting to get a little irritated, so I increased the font size."

"I think you better have them checked."

"Why do you say that?"

"I had to scroll down three times to read the word 'peninsula.'"

OK, so I'm not that bad yet.

But the times, they are a changin'. I just wish they weren't changin' so fast.

I had all these plans, these dreams and schemes for my future. I was going to do great things, go great places: I was going to be somebody!

As it turns out, I have done a few great things, I have gone places such as Colorado, Kansas and Montana, but I haven't come close to filling the pages of my great American novel. I haven't turned out to be somebody.

Or have I?

I do have a lot to be thankful for, despite my incessant whining to the contrary. And I think I'm getting a little bit wiser as my years add up. I am learning a lot.

So far, I've learned that after seven years of marriage, my husband, Mark, is still that incredible man I met nine years ago even though I still have a difficult time letting his weak proposal slide. But he's always there for me. He's smart, funny, warm AND he cooks, cleans and rubs my feet when they ache! He's definitely a keeper.

I've also learned that my family loves me no matter what I do and how far away I am. And just because they don't come see me (hint, hint) it doesn't mean they don't care, because we will always be close in our hearts. It is a bond that cannot be broken.

I've also made wonderful friends along the way, building friendships I know will last the rest of my life. I have learned that friends have so much to offer, and I've taken a piece of every one of these people and made it a part of me.

In recent years, I've learned you can teach an old dog new tricks. I've had a blast with my dogs. I learned they are much more than companions that sleep at my feet. I taught them to run through obstacle courses and we earned ribbons and toys and we traveled. We shared incredible highs and disappointing lows. But all of those moments created a stronger bond between us. They have taught me many lessons.

I've also learned that no matter how much fun I have with my dogs, I seem to have more fun teaching other people to have fun with their dogs. It proves it is much better to give than to receive. Yes, yes it is.

There also have been plenty of not-so-good things thrown into my life over the years, and I'm sorry to say they have affected me more than I care to admit. But I've learned from them, too. At least I like to think I have.

I'm far from perfect, but maybe there is no such thing.

I do know the experiences I go through will continue to teach me lessons for years to come, and perhaps that's the best I will ever be. I can live with that.

So, I welcome 2004 with open arms. May we all learn from our successes and failures and become wiser with every step we take into the future. That would be phat.

Happy New Year!

Dori Lynn Anderson is the assistant editor of the Peninsula Clarion.

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