Life is short

birthday candlesI’m sitting in the quiet of my bedroom, the precious few moments I have each morning before the kids get up and the mayhem begins. I am not jumping on Facebook or scouring emails though, not today. Instead, I’m lying quietly, running through the calendar in my head, mentally dog-earing pages as I fast forward from my birthday last year to the one today, collecting moments big and small.

Birthdays change as you get older. The excitement of cake turns into the quiet joy of an indulgent pedicure; and seeing three good friends for dinner trumps seeing thirty okay ones. But there’s something more.

You start looking back maybe as much as you look ahead. Or at least I do.

But then, that’s not a surprise to those who know me. I’m nostalgic. I can still name every teacher I ever had, I remember details of my entire teen years without a journal, and I am increasingly unashamed to proclaim that I still like Journey without irony.

To me, this is a day of some reflection, of figuring out who you want to be when you grow up–despite the fact that, by most accounts, you are pretty much grown up. Even if you do still eat the occasional Pop-Tart for dinner.

Birthdays seem a good time to do that.

(And here’s the big secret: One of the best things of getting older? You don’t have to apologize for what you eat for dinner or for the music you like. You even get to roll your eyes behind your sunglasses at some faux-poser punk rock teenager on the street wearing a repro Clash shirt and think to yourself, I was listening to Janie Jones before your parents even thought to get it on in the back of your grandparents’ ’94 Volvo, you whippersnapper. Also, the dog collar around your high-tops? How adorably old school. Now get out of my way, I have some antacids  to buy.)

When I took the time to stop and take this mental inventory (do I ever have the time to do this?) there is one theme that recurred so plainly and abundantly over the past year, that it’s like little fairies swarmed me all year long and and bonked me in the head with it to make sure I really really get it. Three words: Life is short.

Life is short. 

It’s something I heard so often this year from so many sources, that when I finally recognized the meme and took it as more than mere coincidence, I am certain it changed my outlook on life profoundly and compelled me to take some huge steps to get things right.

Now that could be a factor of hitting an age where women start to be invisible to the world (ironically, also when we start to be our most powerful, or so it seems to me). Or it could simply be that various friends and counsellors and inadvertent oracles in my life conspired to send me a meaningful message and for once, I was able to listen.

Sometimes I heard the phrase uttered  by a friend or relative. Sometimes I heard it in a  movie. Certainly I would hear it today non-stop on the TV should I turn it on at all, which I won’t–one of the factors of having a 9/11 birthday in New York City for the last 13 years.

Most recently, it came from Paula Cole via a loudspeaker in CVS which is another thing that makes you feel like life is short–that you’re old enough to hear songs you loved from the not-so-distant past, passed off as crowd-pleasing oldies music in the aisles of a drugstore.

(And admittedly no, I didn’t even know it was the Dawson’s Creek song until I searched for the video online. I never watched that show. But I did watch the Brady Bunch, and can totally sing that theme song on demand. Just ask me. I’ll prove it and everything.)


All we have now is this very moment. 

Or as I put it recently, there is only now. 

(Shoot, sorry if I ripped you off, Paula Cole. It was unintentional, swear.)

When I hear “life is short” it doesn’t mean, go out and jump out of planes and what the hell, eat that fourth piece of pie. It  means, take inventory. Get it together.

Make decisions now, not later. Find your bliss. Pick up the phone and call someone. Contact the friend you’ve put off contacting for way too long and make a date for coffee and actually keep it. Dust off that CD collection and listen to whatever makes you happy without apology. Pursue that business dream. Pursue that life dream. Clear your life of the energy-suckers. Spend less time being annoyed about people you don’t really know who do things that don’t really affect you. Do some good for someone else. Try to honor the moments as much as you treasure the years.

Yeah I’m feeling a little reflective today. I’m entitled. I’m forty-fucking-five.


53 thoughts on “Life is short”

  1. You’re forty-fucking-fabulous.

    Happy birthday. Enjoy flipping through the inventory of your years to date, and looking forward to the moments you’ll add.

  2. Happy Birthday, Liz, I hope it’s a great day for you. I like the idea of not spending time being annoyed by people you don’t know and who don’t affect me at all. My uncle has the same philosophy about celebrities. When they give a shit about him (even a tiny bit, buy him a loaf of bread or say hello), he’ll give a shit about them. It serves him well, and he doesn’t find himself sucked into Miley drama, or royal baby drama, or any of it. I have friends who are very into pointing out the annoyances of life, and yes, sometimes they can be pretty funny. But also, annoying, which maybe we don’t need on a daily basis.

  3. Happy Birthday, Liz. I love that taking inventory/imagining what’s on deck next quality of birthdays. It seems like you are diving into the next chapter like an Olympic medalist — way to go!

  4. Love. Reflect on a fabulous you, and the gift of a happy life. What a great way to spend a birthday. Enjoy it.

  5. Happy Birthday!

    What a lovely post. I appreciate the idea of seeing “life is short” as an opportunity for reflection rather than panic.

    Have a truly wonderful day.

  6. Great post. So much good stuff in here to mull over. I agree- this is the time to do what we’ve been putting off; to take charge of the direction we’re headed, rather than being propelled by other forces. Really enjoyed reading this. (And the invisibility thing – UGH! I hate it.)

    Happy birthday!

  7. Happy birthday, Liz! I’m not sure how long I’ve been reading you for my daily dose of wisdom, but you never disappoint. Wishing you a year that is both simple and sublime.

  8. You will never be invisible.

    Life is short. We ought to do right by ourselves for the time we’ve got. You’re an inspiration in that regard, and in so many others too. Happy birthday, dear friend.

  9. Happy Birthday!

    And I might be biased (I did just turn 41 this year), but I think feeling reflective is a good thing. Love this post.

    Also, now I’m totally singing the Brady Bunch theme song in my head 🙂 (I didn’t watch Dawson’s Creek either.)

  10. Happy Birthday!!! And thank you for the reminder! I hope this year is as awesome and amazing as you are!

  11. Happy, happy birthday, beautiful lady. Hope this year is as lovely as you are. (And maybe next year we can all pitch in and get Journey to play at your next b-day bash.)

  12. I love Journey. And “inadvertent oracles” — I love that, too. My year was full of them.

    Happy birthday. I enjoy sharing the part of our lives that we report out on on the internet. 😉 I know I’m better for the connection, and I know SO many people are so much better off because you’re here for this short, strange little trip we’re all on. I send hugs all around that birthday dinner table, especially for you, though. Live. It. Up.

  13. Love this! Happy Happy Birthday! I’ll be 45 in a few months, so your advice is so spot on and I will certainly follow it. I hope you have a spectacular birthday with a soothing pedicure and a wonderful dinner w/friends – and I’m sure your girls will do something special for their very special mom.
    (I sing the “Brady Bunch” theme song to my girls (8 and 6) as a bedtime song, usually mixed in w/a showtune and something from Journey or Squeeze 😉 )

  14. What a great post. Happy Birthday! Have a wonderful day!

    I can totally relate to your post!! I will be fabulous forty-five tomorrow. Cheers!!

  15. Amen and well said from your forty-something-fabulous friend who gets it fully.


  16. Love it. Not too ashamed to admit I still love the Donny and Marie theme song – and think of you every time I hear it. Happy Birthday! 45 seems great to me.

    1. Back at you Tamar! I keep thinking that Thalia is now the age that we had sleepovers every Friday night. Is it even possible?

  17. Happy birthday Liz! I hope next year you have a wonderful collection of unforgettable “nows” to reminisce over. Thanks for being one of those inadvertent oracles in my life.

  18. Happiest of birthdays, Liz!

    And confessing that you find yourself singing along to the Paula Cole song, or the Sarah McLachlan one, or…(fill in 90’s Lillith Fair artist here….) then you just made me feel less alone in the world. Thank you.

  19. Love your blog, love your writing, and loved this post…happy birthday! (And I’m three f-ing years older than you!)

  20. Happy Birthday to one of my very favorites, ever.
    Don’t stop believin!

  21. Liz,
    I say Amen to this piece, so true and it is indeed so important to just stop and smell the flowers. I’m living VERY far away from family, and I have to remember the importance of picking up the phone, writing a letter, show that you care, in spite of the many miles apart.
    Happy Birthday, you’re a cute 45, and I will always be 15 years older than you, so high time for me to remember the meaning of living in the moment. There is only now.

  22. Happy forty-fucking-five. I think a great big year of upheaval and transitions is great for clearing the slate for what’s to come: more kickassery and only invisibility when you want it.

  23. Happy 45 dear Liz. I love this post. Really great words. Thank you!
    So open up your morning light,
    And say a little prayer for right
    You know that if we are to stay alive
    Then see the love in every eye…

  24. Oh my goodness– Paula Cole! How many times in my younger days did I sing along to that song without thinking twice about what it meant? Too many. Thanks for the memories and the reminder that indeed life is short. Wishing you a happy belated birthday and a fabulous 45!

  25. Firstly happy birthday!!! I have to admit I watched Dawson’s Creek and I do get the life is short bit totally. I was a workaholic and raced around until my mom had a stroke and in those few moments before she died I learned to really live. It is sad that a death taught me to live but it did. People mock me when i carve moments to make them dinner but I can’t explain well enough that this is life. Pausing the chaos to make the time for important stuff

  26. Since some time now i can finally be a teenager at age 26

    Enjoy your dinner 😉

  27. Happy birthday a few days late, Liz. You have inspired me for years to speak my mind and heart. And hey, I’m almost forty-fucking…SHIT! I’m almost fifty!

  28. “It means taking inventory.” Love it. Oh for the gift of presence instead of presents each birthday! Thanks for the wonderful reminder, whether we’re four, forty, one hundred forty, or somewhere in between.

  29. Happy birthday.

    I’m with you, Life is short does not mean to me, what it may mean to others.

    Life is short means treasure what you have, and don’t waste time and effort on things and people that add nothing to your life. Life is too s hort for that.

  30. This was amazing…so on this train right now… Turning 40 was a huge milestone for me, where I started to like myself a lot more than I ever had. It was really liberating to not compare myself to sister sassy fancy pants who is dressed to the nine”s and has it all together…I don’t and that’s ok. I also find myself humming to the songs in CVS and feel that Journey pretty much rocks…I will admit that I was a little obsessed with Dawson’s Creek…but that was well before I turned 40 and didn’t know any better!

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