Yesterday I made meatballs for dinner. No big deal, but it got me to thinking.

I can throw a from-scratch batch of meatballs together in no time. I toss the ingredients into my meatball bowl like it's not hard - because it isn't.

It hasn't always been this way. Meatballs haven't always been easy. Not at all.

Years ago, when my husband and I were just starting our lives together, meatballs were downright elusive. They were complex and confounding. Mysterious balls made up of meat and other ingredients too numerous to imagine.

My husband tried making them; I tried making them. We tried together - without much luck.

But every once in a while, we both craved meatballs. So we kept trying and failing - many times.

Once, I put in an inordinate amount of crushed red pepper; dinner was nearly inedible that night. We were hosting my in-laws. I'm lucky that way.

Among our failures was a success or two. And then three. And so on until finally, one day, meatballs were easy.

A lot of things in life are like that. You have to practice them over and over until you get it right.

It's a concept that occurred to me as I made the meatballs yesterday, I thought about all the things that are easy now but were hard if not nearly impossible 20 or 25 years ago. I came to the conclusion that I was glad to have the knowledge acquired over the years. I was glad to be where I am now.

This surprised me - this contentedness about time because I've always been one to fight time. I remember didn't want to be 30 because I didn't want to grow older. Same goes for 40 and each year after that.

I realize now at least part of it was because I didn't want to be defined by merely age. Most of us measure our time on this earth by the number of days and months and years that we are living and breathing on it.

I propose we try something different. A change in perspective, you might say.

Instead of being 35 for the 15th consecutive year, how about we describe the measurement of our lifespan in the number of sunsets we've shared with our spouse?

Or the vastness of the love we feel for our children?

The pounds of strawberries we've eaten throughout a lifetime?

How many breakfasts we've made for our kids before school so they will start the day out right?

The number of dogs (or cats or Guinea pigs) we've had the privilege of loving?

The sum total of compliments we've received - ever?

The times when we offered kindness to a stranger and it literally made our heart gush?

How many doors we've held open for others?

Waking up and feeling good?

The fact that this life never gets old?

I've always ran from my age because I guess I think age is limiting. I don't want to be defined by something that is limiting. But yesterday, in the kitchen, while I was practically up to my elbows in meatball goo, I realized I'm only limiting myself. It's my choice. And I choose meatballs - among other things.

If you want to put a number on me, I figure I've made upward of at least 5,000 meatballs over the last two decades.

Let's go with that. It has a nice and even ring to it.

Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.