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October 9, 2015 / 26 Tishri, 5776
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Smart Wrinkles

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This column is being written on my secular birthday, February 14 (my real birthday is 11 Adar), a birthday – not surprisingly – that I share with my twin brother. The strange thing about that is that when I look at him, I see the middle-aged zayda that he is. Yet when I look in the mirror, I see a young kid who happens to be a grandmother. Sure, the face is not as taut as it once was, and the girth is a bit more than I’d like; but no doubt there is a young person looking back at me. Other people might not see it that way, but my opinion is the one that counts. And the fact is, I may be chronologically “up there” but in my eyes I’m still a kid, albeit a mature one. Which means I have the best of both worlds – a youthful outlook melded with the wisdom that is the byproduct of experience.

Staying “young” isn’t all that difficult. Just don’t take anything for granted, no matter how many millions of times you’ve experienced it. Like walking down your street. There is always something that should make you open your eyes in wonder, as if you are seeing it for the first time. Even a blade of grass growing from a crack in the sidewalk can be something to get excited about.

Every morning we say Modeh Ani, as we thank God for returning our souls back to us. In a way every day – if not a “birth” day – is a “rebirth” day and we should view and enjoy our daily activities with renewed awe and appreciation. Just as children do. They can see a squirrel for the hundredth time or hear a story over and over again and never lose their enthusiasm. That is what being young is all about. Joie d’vivre. Joy of life.

I love the fact that I am now a year older. Unlike most people who groan at the thought that an impending birthday will bring yet another year to their life count, I’m thrilled about it. Why? The obvious reason for embracing aging is that it sure beats the alternative.

All of us have had close calls. I actually feel like benching Gomel every time I cross the street – even when the light is green. There have been many times when distracted or careless drivers turned onto the street as I was crossing – cutting just inches in front of me. Had I been a few steps forward And then there are the medical tests that need to be repeated or require further investigation that we all have tzittered (shook with fear) over. We’ve been lucky, B”H, but we all know too many others – our age or younger – who weren’t so fortunate. I am also very aware that almost all my grandparents’ grandchildren – 30-40 of my first cousins – did not live past their mid-20s. They were murdered by the Nazis. I am one of the few who did; not by any heroics, but by simply being born years after the war.

But beside the fact that aging means I’m still alive, when people ask me why I’m so happy about getting older, I truthfully tell them, “The older I get – the less stupid I am.” Throughout your life, you are faced with many life altering decisions, difficult challenges and tough hurdles. No one gets a “free pass” over the obstacles and potholes that litter the road of life which can throw you some rather serious curves. Young people are often clueless when it comes to wisely assessing the situation – whatever it may be – and making the best choice. But with age (what I call life experience) you can learn invaluable lessons from the mistakes you made earlier as well as from the errors of others, thereby gaining the wisdom and sechel that will hopefully guide you – and those who look to you for advice – on to a smoother path.

It’s like the more you drive – the better you are at driving. The more you live – the better you are at living.

Wrinkles are a small price to pay for that.

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