Well, it’s my birthday.
I’m 45 years old today. What a strange feeling it is, growing into myself.
By way of reflection, then, I guess I’ll write about this birthday thing.
I recognize as I sit to write today I am carrying this shifting perspective. I spent most of my young life looking forward; to becoming a teen, to becoming a driver, to becoming a voter, to become a (legal) drinker, to becoming a graduate, to becoming a parent…all the life happenings in the first third of our life are looking forwards it seems. The road is always ahead of us.
I admit, I had no grief for the end of my 20’s. Angst had been my watchword until that point and it never really looked good on me anyway. Leaving “29” behind was a relief.
My 30’s found me parenting for the most part. Distraction and sleep deprivation were at the top of the laundry pile so I wore that on a daily basis. My 30’s were comfortable and well-worn, hopeful yet utilitarian in some ways. “39” came and went in a whirlwind, a wonder, a wandering.
And so, I did not mourn at 40 although I know that many people do. I still felt, at 40, I was forward facing and I embraced 40 like a sweater when the chill comes. Those extra pounds that my hormones suggested were neatly woven into that sweater, the wool was warm as it was itchy, a constant reminder that I was no longer 20, no longer 30. I admit, wearing 40 with some aplomb meant hard conversations with reality and expectation. It may have been at 40 that I realized finally that I’d never be a rock star but that’s a story for another day.
What struck me most about turning 40 was the response of my body to the basic reality of gravity in particular. The pull of the planet on my physical self was so gradual and so constant I had barely realized it. I fought against it for a while. It’s a little crazy making so 40 was the year I made peace with planet Earth on this sneaky assault and offered myself some grace.
Today as I consider turning 45 I find I am filled with gratitude. The road ahead is, as always, uncertain, maybe dangerous or monotonous or poorly mapped but it’s my road even so. In some ways perhaps the only way for me to cultivate this season of gratitude is to be willing, finally, to look back and see where I’ve been, to acknowledge the pull of the earth, the heaviness of time and the richness of life lived so far and move forward holding all of this and my shifting perspective in the pocket of that wooly sweater, close to my heart.
At 45 I catch myself pondering that perhaps this is midlife and this is where the perspective shift comes in. In a conservative estimate, half of my life is spent; some of it invested, some squandered, some saved. And that draws me back to the heaviness of time, that fleet-footed behemoth, that noble currency. I’m lost and found, floating, swimming, running and resting and I feel this shift finally from the near constant facing forward. I see myself standing at a crossroads the path behind me so clear I can see deep into the past and remember well where I’ve been. The road ahead is uncertain, exciting and always daunting. There will be some hills, some valleys, roadside attractions, tourist traps, detours and divine appointments and rest areas too, I hope, with clean facilities and decent vending machines. I’ll take it.