I have some gray hairs. Do I dare to count them? Just the fact that I have enough to count scares me, and turns getting old into a reality. Does having some gray hairs mean that I’m old? I’m certainly getting older. We all are. But why does it have to happen so quickly?

We just celebrated my birthday. I say “celebrated,” because we had cake and ice cream. My children even made me a crown. For my kids, any excuse for ice cream and cake is a celebration. I’m not sure if to me it was a thing to celebrate, though. I like the special attention that birthdays bring, but I don’t wait for them 364 days of the year like my children do. For them, another number means more privileges, more things that they get to do. For an adult, another number means less things that you can do, like: “I can’t run as fast as I used to. I can’t see as far as I used to . . . etc.”

I’m actually not sure what old feels likeI take another look in the mirror. Do I look older? Do I look old? I don’t feel old, but I’m actually not sure what old feels like. My grandfather would say you are only as old as you feel. It’s the mind that makes you old, not the body.

I go with my children to the old-age home near my apartment building. We walk inside the door. The contrast between my bouncing preschooler and the women sitting in the wheelchair by the door stops me in my tracks. Not so long ago, I was the bouncing preschooler. Not so long ago, these women were the mothers of small children. Fifty years ago they were me, and in fifty years I could be them. The visit, like my birthday, serves as a reality check. “Elana, life is so short and it goes by so quickly. Enjoy the moment that you are in, because you will never get it back.”

“Enjoy the moment that you are in . . .” I decide that this is going to be my birthday present to myself. This is also what I want to leave behind to my children after 120 years—the memory of a happy mommy who looked for the good in every situation and in every person. Is that possible? Can I do it? I decide to try to start just by not complaining. In any difficult situation that I find myself, I am going to try to find the one good thing about it, no matter how small that one good thing might be.

When Jacob came to Egypt, Joseph brought him before Pharaoh. The commentators explain that Jacob looked so frail and old that Pharaoh asked him with curiosity how old he was. Jacob answered, “The days of the years of my sojourns have been a hundred and thirty years. Few and bad have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not reached the lifespans of my forefathers in the days of their sojourns.” Jacob had a really hard life, and it showed on his face. He wasn’t just old in years when he stood before Pharaoh, he was old in suffering, old in outlook and old in misery. When Jacob said that his forefathers lived more, he meant it in the sense that every day of their existence was living, and they were able to carry out their difficult missions with a full heart and a positive demeanor.

I look at my gray hairs once again. Really, there are not so manyAbraham, Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca all had incredibly difficult lives with tests and struggles, but we never hear that they complained. Not once does it report them as saying that they viewed the days of their lives as being few or bad. In fact, when Sarah dies at the age of 127, the Torah says that she lived “one hundred years, twenty years and seven years.” The commentators explain the Torah’s way of breaking down her age: at one hundred she was sinless as a twenty-year-old (until the age of twenty one does not suffer from heavenly punishment), and at twenty she was as beautiful as a seven-year-old, whose youthful beauty is natural and without need of any makeup. The thing that comes closest to a complaint is Sarah’s laughter of disbelief about the idea of having a child in her old age. The laughter of disbelief turned into a laughter of celebration, as the commentators expound for us that her menses returned and she bore a child at the age of ninety. Imagine having a son at ninety, and dying at 127, both sinless and beautiful!

I look at my gray hairs once again. Really, there are not so many. I take another look. I tell myself that they are signs of wisdom and maturity. Positive thinking. This is my birthday gift to myself. And really, I have yet to meet a happy person who looks old.