Today–January 20, 2019–is my 50th birthday.
Half a century since the day of my birth. The beginning of my fifty-first year.
As this day has been approaching, and as I have been writing on this blog and tossing around the term “midlife crisis” like it weren’t no big thang, it turns out if kind of is for me. So I’ve been pondering why that is.
The conclusion I’ve come to is a simple one, though not truly accurate, and it is that my fiftieth birthday is a clear marker that, time-wise, the largest part of my life is now behind me.
None of my relatives (so far as I know) has lived past the neighbourhood of 85, so the
chances of me surpassing a century and proving myself wrong are pretty slim. It’s a sobering thought realizing I am closer to my death than I am to my birth.
Another thing that has dawned on me: how few the number of those years are in which I really had a handle on my emotions. From birth to puberty–let’s call it age twelve–I was totally in touch with everything I felt, and then again for the last couple of years (though still to a lesser degree). All that time in between was spent with a typical male’s grasp of emotion: happiness, anger, and not much else discernible.
That’s one of the sad things about being a man: if it doesn’t come in a sixteen pack of crayons, it’s not a colour, and if it doesn’t make you happy, then get angry at it.
It turns out that, not only is there a whole range of other emotions out there, but if you don’t let them out, they kinda stick with you…mess you up for a while. And when you do realize they exist…well, they want to come out.
This is why I cry at movies. And TV shows. Heartfelt commercials. Songs written in a
minor key. Really, just whenever I feel like it. I just finished reading The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger two nights ago–a book I’ve read before–and ugly cried for half an hour despite knowing how it would end.
Turns out that thirty plus years of holding shit in can build up a lot of sadness and grief. Friends and loves lost, hurts given and received, deaths. So much happens over the course of a life, and then you turn fifty: a perfect time to take stock, to glance back, to look ahead.
And therein lies the rub, for me. Looking back is easy to do–I’ve been doing a lot of that over the past few years in my quest for healing–but, if I was completely honest (and that’s one of the things I promised to be when I returned to writing this blog), the future is shrouded in fog. On my forty-fifth birthday, when my then-wife put on a burlesque show in my honour for my birthday, I never would have guessed that five short years later I’d be lamenting on my blog about the futility of online dating. Back then, Plenty of Fish, OK Cupid, and Tinder were the places where young people went to try to get laid, not where guys like me went to have
their egos bruised.
Finally, my father was a month shy of his 65th birthday when we lost him to pancreatic cancer, a fact that lurks in the back of my mind no matter how hard I try to vanquish it. It’s not a constant in my head, but there’s that little niggling at the back which occasionally reminds me that, if I met the same fate, it now leaves me less than fifteen years.
Please understand: I am not all doom and gloom, but perhaps a realist. Life is finite. No matter what you believe happens after death–whether there is an afterlife, or we begin anew, or there is nothing–this current life we live will eventually come to its end. For some, it takes a long time to really grasp the implication of this, no matter how obvious it appears. I guess you could say I’m one of those. It took a two-part wake up call for me to totally get it: my father’s death and the end of my marriage.
Some days, these things leave me a mess, fearful of the future, regretful of the past, and I don’t want get out of bed. Other days, it gives me a place to stand, a solid spot for my feet. When you’re solidly planted, you can go anywhere, do anything.
The beautiful part about life is: you get to decide how the past affects you. You get to
decide how to feel about the future. Not just once, but every day. Many times a day. Every moment.
Last night, I was chatting with my amazing children and their grandmother and they asked how I felt about this milestone birthday. I told them to read my blog, but they wouldn’t accept that, so I related to them much of what was written here. When I told them how my life was not what I expected it to be and that I had no clear path for my future, my 17-year-old
daughter quickly piped up that she was graduating soon and she had no idea what her future held for her (of course, she did it in that “I think I’m smarter than you because I probably actually am” voice that only a 17-year-old daughter can pull off). And then my 24-year-old son pointed out that he was also in the same place having just started back for some schooling because, you know, sometimes us old guys need to be clubbed over the head with the obvious.
I love my kids.
As I begin my fifty-first year, I know there will be sad days and there will be good days. I
don’t know how much of this life there is left, but I do know two things: I’m going to do my damnedest to make the sad ones less sad and the good ones better, and you’re going to find me here sharing it all with you, whether you like it or not.
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