So last week my great kid and I decided we were in the mood for a “breakfast for dinner” meal and headed off to our local IHOP (which – might I say – is crowded no matter what time of day or night you go. Way to go with your business model, IHOP.) Their menu is so vast and so overwhelming and all I really wanted was pancakes, as simple as that. And every pancake choice (chocolate-chocolate chip, silver dollar, pigs in a blanket!) were sized to feed a small – or maybe even a medium – sized family. “Just a few plain pancakes,” I told the waitress. “Do you offer something like that?”
And they sure did, as she so kindly flipped the pages of the menu for me and pointed me to the Senior section of the menu where I could order the Senior pancake special of 3 plain pancakes, nothing more, nothing less. And when I pointed out I wasn’t truly a senior, she oh so helpfully pointed out the caption on the Senior section saying it applied to people 55 and up.
Oh, the horror.
When did I exactly get this old? How have the years crept up on me this way and why do they seem to be going past faster and faster, like the pages in one of those flip books you had as a kid?
Many of the people who will read this are girls – and I know, trust me, that they’re no longer girls but grown women with children and, in some cases, grandchildren but they’ll always be girls to me – girls I’ve known since I was 14 years old. Girls who I shared what seemed like 4 endless years in high school, 4 of the truly happiest years of my life. And I remember talking with them back then and wondering aloud, wishing that we’d still be alive to see the year 2000 (OMG, you guys! We’ll be so old when that happens! We’ll be 46!!) Now I’m hoping that I live to be old enough to collect Social Security (and that Social Security will still be there to be collected when I hit that magic age of 62).
I know that life is a process and that it’s not the destination but the journey. But some days I feel like my life, my years are slipping past me so quickly that I don’t have time to stop and savor the moments along the way.
I am surrounded by so much love and beauty and kindness in my life, far more than I sometimes think I deserve. I have been given great gifts by my family, my friends, my country, my God. I am so grateful for all of the blessings that I am so privileged to experience every day. And when I get cranky or tired or annoyed at something that – in life’s rear-view mirror – usually amounts to nothing, even then I am grateful that people tolerate my grouchiness and that I live in such a wonderful country that I can express my opinion or annoyance or outright anger at any number of things that I see going on around me and my perspective is not only tolerated but encouraged and protected.
I don’t take these things for granted, although it’s easy to become complacent and forget how much we all have (even those of us who are going through our own hard times have much more than so many people not only around the world but even in our own country). And sometimes you need someone to really shake you and say “Look around and see what you have”.
I like to think that you need to have the perspective of what is and not what if. I think we all tend to imagine what our lives would be if – to quote the Barenaked Ladies – we had a million dollars. Wishing doesn’t make it so, and being grateful for the simpler things in our lives – a good meal, a good friend, a roof over our heads, a car that gets us places safely, a warm and comfortable bed at night – is sometimes hard to do when our eyes get clouded by the idea of a bigger house, a better job, a dream vacation, a new wardrobe.
But as I continue my relentless march towards the future (and I’m counting on Willard Scott wishing me a Happy 100th Birthday in June 2054), I remember some wise words someone told me many years ago when I was struggling with a dilemma, unable to move in either direction. I was retelling her my woes for the fourth or fifth time and, of course, nothing had changed because I was frozen with inertia. All I really wanted was her to tell me I was right and to let me continue to linger in my self-created inability to change. And she told me that it’s a very short distance between your back and your butt but it’s a world of difference between getting a pat on the back and a kick in the butt, especially when most of us could use a good butt-kicking every now and then to remind us to shut up, stop complaining, start smiling and, for goodness sakes, do something.
So thank you to the lovely waitress in IHOP who pointed out to me that I’m officially a senior now, at least in their eyes. Being old – and hopefully being wise – is not such a bad thing to be. In fact, it’s turning out to be pretty darn good.
And the pancakes were great.