February 24, 2008

When you're past your 40th birthday

IT had been a most unusual day.

I woke up rather early, at 5 am, and couldn’t go back to sleep. I watched Cate Blanchett’s Elizabeth: The Golden Age while waiting for Sis to wake up so we could have breakfast. Usually, it is she who wakes up early and eats breakfast while she leaves me alone lolling in Dreamland.

We were in Boracay with Pangs for my birthday last weekend and even before we arrived, the island had been suffering from a spot of unusual weather, battered as we were by strong gusty winds and intermittent rainshowers. Phooey!

There were hardly any people awake as we went down to the resort’s restaurant for our morning meal. We plunked down in an empty cabana, and I stared at the breakfast menu for the first time in three days since we arrived.

After giving out our food orders, we stared at the dark heavy clouds and shuddered in the cold winds. I wondered when I would ever get to swim in the beach and if the sun would ever sneak a peek from behind those billows in the sky. Then the faint strains of some groovy ’70s Motown music started wafting through the restaurant speakers, feel-good doo-wops that my older siblings were singing and dancing to back when I still toddled behind them. Sis and I were like, “Wowwww!” Suddenly the gray morning didn’t look so bad anymore.

As The Moments’ “Love on a Two-way Street” played away, we heartily dug into our bangus belly à la pobre and beef lugao. We swayed and sung along as we laughed and exchanged stories. We were amused at how these songs from our childhood, tunes from Pangs’s CD as we later found out, just put us in a freakishly good mood. They just made us feel that everything was perfect and all right in the world. Stories of Benjamin Abalos and his $130-million cut, the raging controversy on the ZTE-NBN deal, just seemed so far away. It was as if these songs held a promise of better things to come.

We were not disappointed. As soon as we were done with our meal and finished with our coffee, the pillow-like gray clouds began to part, and the sun’s rays finally broke through. Yay! The powdery white sand was finally dotted with shadows from the beach umbrellas, the tables and chairs, and the people walking. Salamat, Lord!

Still, the waters were just much too cold for swimming. I froze my hefty buns off as soon as I set them down on the water, which made me instantly leap up and run back to shore. Brrrr!

But when you get to be my age -- for the record, it is 23 forever -- you learn to appreciate the small stuff. At least the sun was out, and although shaded by a huge beach umbrella as I lounged on the beach bed, I was enjoying a mild dose of vitamin D. I read my magazine, spied on the young gorgeous European hunks nearby playing volleyball, and sipped on my cool mango shake...what more could I ask for?

I take my birthdays very seriously. It is usually a time for me to offer up my thanks to the Great Almighty above for all the blessings in the past year, as I look forward to another one full of exciting possibilities. It’s just like celebrating the New Year, as my reflections take on a more individual, closer-to-the-soul note.

Unfortunately, there are certain realities one cannot escape as one rushes past 40.

Like, no matter how my brain thinks I’m still in my 20s or 30s, there are just some days I wake up in the morning with the wind whistling through my bones. I am creaky all over and feel too tired to get up. Of course, my age is also an advantage, because this is probably the only time in my life when I can actually declare that, fudge all that! I shall stay in bed the entire day! If I were in my 20s and 30s, I’d still get up, despite a hangover or a fluish condition, and haul my carcass to the office.

I can’t hold my liquor as long as I used to. Time was when I could start drinking from 6 pm until 4 am the next morning, and still go to work the next morning. These days, three glasses of red wine is cutting it too close and the sulfites in my drink will deaden my brain right up to next day. (Again, staying in bed is usually the solution.)

My forehead has two fine horizontal lines and I have dark spots on my cheek that refuse to go away. No matter how many anti-aging creams I slather on my face, they just sit there staring back at me from the mirror. Unfortunately, my unpredictable cash flow won’t pay for any Botox injections. Besides, I’m a coward when it comes to needles and even if I had more financial resources, I will probably spend the money on traveling and good food rather than on my face.

I am now prone to allergies. For some strange reason, some food or beverages which I had no problem ingesting only a few years ago, now give me a rash or a headache. Take cheese, for example: I used to eat all my favorite nutty and intense varieties at any time and any day. But now, I noticed that as my period approaches (excuse me, gentlemen), eating cheese gives me a migraine. Added to that, the migraines sneak up on me more often than they used to.

And as I mentioned in this space two weeks ago, I am now on maintenance pills to restrain my hypertension, a legacy from both sides of my parents’ families. Thanks to mom and dad, I have to watch what I eat, making sure I stay away from Aling Mila’s lechon and Two Seasons Resort’s sinfully good Crispy Rack of Pork and Char Shiu Rice forever. I cannot afford to miss a single class of yoga, otherwise my blood pressure may start hiking up a treacherous path.

(UPDATE: Three days ago, my doc took me off the anti-hypertension meds, pronouncing me in the pink of health...well, almost. Just need to exercise more. But at least, this is one reason to feel good on this birthday.)

To top it all, I hate exercising, and any effort spent on a treadmill or stationary bike makes me feel cheap. I love my body and I’m happy with it, but somehow I still feel I need to conform to society’s standards of beauty and wellness.

I don’t have the patience to read books anymore. A bookworm since I knew how to read, I now can’t sit still through three pages of any novel, no matter how high up it was on the New York Times bestseller list, without my mind wandering off somewhere. I think of my schedule for the entire week, the recipe I’ll be using at dinner, or what I’ll wear to an interview I’m conducting the next day. Maybe it’s because I already do a lot of reading on the Internet that having pages of printed words on paper just doesn’t hold my attention anymore as staring at my computer. If I do read a book, it is usually a biography or a collection of short stories. My favorite reading materials now are magazines -- Vanity Fair, Gourmet, Travel + Leisure, Interiors.

Finally, I want someone to come home to other than the mother and the maid. It doesn’t matter if it’s a man or a pet. There are just days when you want to cuddle with someone because you are feeling awful and need to feel secure or comforted. Or just do the nasty with every night. Because Johnny Depp is already hitched to that beyootch Vanessa Paradis, I might have to get a cat instead.

But in all things, I take the bad with the good. You can’t have a happy sunny morning without going through some voluminous rainclouds first. So, thank you, Lord! Thanks for another fabulous birthday in Boracay with my best buddies. Thanks for those relaxing massages I got. Thanks for that gorgeous birthday spread and for all the lovely meals we enjoyed. To all those who remembered my birthday and took the time to greet me, Bless you all! It feels great to be alive and well, the sometimes creaky bones notwithstanding.

The ultimate reality bite: It’s the little things in life that count the most and make me happy.

(My column, Something Like Life, is published every Friday in the Life section of the BusinessMirror. Photo from BusinessMirror.)

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