My birthday came and went yesterday. I spent it watching mindless TV. My main celebratory indulgence: Rhubarb Custard Pie for breakfast. Not the whole pie, mind you. Just a slice. Gone are the days when I would justify bad dietary behaviors by saying it was my birthday, or at times, a whole month of debauchery dedicated to turning another year older.

It’s not that I didn’t celebrate the milestone. I just did it a bit differently than most folks, for it occurred to me that the real celebration takes place at the close of the previous year, on the eve of one’s birthday.

Stay with me on this. The last real birthday worth celebrating is 25. That’s the year you can finally rent a car. 21, the legal drinking age. 18, eligible to vote. 16, get a driver’s license. Those are the birthdays to look forward to and celebrate their arrival. No 65. What a silly thing to celebrate.

Oh, I know it’s supposed to be retirement age, time for the Golden Years. But that’s a false flag, in part because Social Security changed my retirement age to 66 years and 8 months. That day will come in February 2025. Not my birthday, not anything but a day when I can finally call it a career. It’s not like that is mandatory either. I can continue working if I like. It’s not like 66/8 arrives and they shovel me out the door with a pension.

So Sunday was just another day. It is the start of 364 more where I will be the same age. The real milestone happened the day before, when me being a Beatle’s song came to a close as I would no longer be 64.

With this in mind, I chose to have the celebration and measured debauchery on May 27, Birthday’s Eve. It was a time to mark another 365 days on this rock and reflect on everything that had happened during the year. I would wake up on the 28th and it would be my birthday and all the pages that were to chronicle this supposed milestone were all blank. What’s to celebrate?

But the previous year, right up to midnight, that was cause for celebration. I managed to keep a job, stay married and not give up another house in a messy divorce. I finally got my little red truck, I survived a three-year pandemic, one of my best friends moved back from Florida, I still am on just one prescription, I have some of my hair, most of my teeth and I still have all of my faculties. At least the ones I care about.

That’s worth celebrating. Not the fact that a new chapter awaits me in the morning with a bunch of blank pages. That’s a writer’s nightmare. There would be plenty of time to reflect on what to fill those pages in the coming days, weeks and months. For the moment, it was all about the past year and what I experienced and what I learned.

And what did I learn?

The most important lesson I came away with was that seeking happiness is bullshit. Happiness comes with a sliding scale, a scale that keeps changing. There’s never enough money, or friends, or love, or status. Someone is always going to seem to have more than you, and pursuing it is a waste of time and spirit.

The thing you should seek is contentment. Being content is what it’s all about. It’s not about being happy, though you will find happiness in being content. But being content is about being good with it all – the good, the bad and the downright ugly.

That’s what I’ve been working on this past year. Being content. While everyone else is finding new things to be indignant about, choosing sides and descending into tribal camps of hate, I choose contentment. In the river of life, I am on an inner tube. I don’t have to struggle to swim back to the past. I don’t have to paddle wildly to see what the future holds. I just get to enjoy the ride.

The river will take me where I need to go. Yes, there will be scary rapids and maddening backwaters where I seem to get nowhere. There will be snags and rocks. That’s just part of the experience.

Where the pursuit of happiness can be downright maddening, being content with your life is freeing. It brings you peace. You no longer struggle to keep up with the Joneses in your life. You come to realize that you are making them crazy because they actually want to be more like you, but don’t have the faintest idea how to be content.

And that’s what my Birthday’s Eve was all about. Recalling all the reasons why I am content and why I don’t need to be in a continual struggle over what might have beens and what might becomes. I’m just here on the inner tube, enjoying the things life has for me, for as long as I get to enjoy the river of life.

And all those empty pages waiting to be filled in Year 65? It’ll come to me. There’s no rush. I’m not ready to write “The End” just yet.

Somewhere north of the Emerald City, wondering if there is any more pie left,