Today is my birthday. I am 61 years old. Last year, I had a little emotional discomfort with the idea of turning 60. This advanced age disoriented me a bit. I never thought of myself as elderly before, even when I retired, but the 60th birthday did mess with my sense of self. I found myself challenging my perception of reality.
Little did I know that my birthday disorientation was a precursor of things to come. My 61st year was a mix of muddle and misadventure for me and for the whole world. There is no way I was wishing for a worldwide pandemic when I blew out the birthday candles last year. Hiding in my house with only minimal human contact was not what I had in mind. Learning to breathe through several layers of sweat-soaked cloth whenever I ventured outside was not on my list of #lifegoals@60. Cancelling a long-anticipated trip to New York City was not on my agenda for my 61st year. Re-engaging with remote learning and virtual gatherings, after giving them up when I retired, was not something I would have ever imagined, much less desired. All in all, my 61st year has done a lot of sucking.
On the other hand, it has not been all bad. Things seemed like they were going pretty well at the end of 2019- a trip to Las Vegas, a visit to California to see my brother and his family, a Christmastime getaway at Disney World with a first time (and, at this point, maybe my ONLY time) opportunity to go to the Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, and a growing enjoyment of my retirement life here in Florida were all great starts to my “over 60” life. I grew in friendship and fellowship with my new church. My relationships were all doing great. I had plans and excitedly looked forward to numerous new adventures.
Then the coronavirus pandemic hit. My birthday candle must have fizzled out because my plans all went to hell in a handbasket.
This year, I am approaching my birthday celebration with cautious optimism. The celebration is kind of a moving target. When we had to cancel our New York City trip in May, we decided to go crazy and book a one-night stay in a premier room at Disney’s most luxurious resort, the Grand Floridian. We have visited there often, marveling at the water park area, the beautiful views of the Magic Kingdom, tales of the nightly water pageant in the bay in front of the hotel, and the cool dining options, including breakfast with Mary Poppins. We have never actually stayed overnight there because it is wildly expensive. Since we cancelled our even more wildly expensive trip to New York, we booked the Grand Floridian room as a consolation prize.
As time passed, it became increasingly clear that the pandemic-tempered Grand Floridian experience would be significantly lacking in cool factor. Disney was allowing limited access to the resort, so the fancy room we booked was not going to be available. There would be no fireworks or water pageant to view. Character meals were cancelled. The lovely up-scale dinner house is still closed. The water park area is still open, and the Disney people offered us a villa instead of the fancy schmancy room we booked. Still, for the money it was going to cost, I felt like any whittling down of the experience meant we should just cancel. Sadly, I cancelled that trip at the end of August.
Last year, we spent my birthday at the Magic Kingdom, participating in a behind the scenes tour. I had always wanted to experience the tour and my 60th birthday seemed a good time to empty that particular item from my bucket list. This year, there are no tours running and we 86ed our overnight splurge stay at the Grand Floridian, but we are again going to spend the day at the Magic Kingdom with friends. It will be a more laid-back day than we originally imagined, but I am sure we will all enjoy it. We have dinner reservations for Raglan Road at Disney Springs, which is another place I have wanted to try for a long time.
So, all in all, I am sure it will be a good birthday. At least, I am hoping it will be. One thing that the pandemic has taught me is that it is often better to live in the moment and to enjoy what is, without too many pre-expectations. I think many of us have spent too much energy over these past seven months or so trying to plan around the world-wide circumstances. We have been holding our collective breath, waiting for circumstances to change and for the lives we have planned to come together.
I think I am just now deciding that I would rather change my life to accommodate the worldwide circumstances than wait for the worldwide circumstances to change to continue living my life. The life I live, just like my birthday celebration, may not end up being what I expect or completely the experience I would choose to have, but there is something to be said for embracing the sweetness of discovery!
Just a reminder that you can get my second book, Random (A)musings on Amazon. If you never ordered my first book, Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement, and would like a copy, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. It is out of print, but I do have some copies for sale. Come on, folks, throw me a bone! It’s my birthday! Make me happy and buy a book!
Have a happy birthday or happy un-birthday, as the case may be!