Monday, March 14, 2016

Hello, Forty

Well, hello, Forty. I'm glad you're here. Really. I'm sure others don't accept your visit graciously. In fact I've heard of a few who run, or drink too much to try to live up to their younger ways, or simply just deny your presence. I've been waiting for you. And I have no reason to be upset to see you. It's a bummer that you just missed Twenty...she came and went so quickly. I tried to talk her into staying for just one more drink. Always running, that one

You do look different than I'd anticipated, Forty. You don't eat as much as you used to -- and jeez, you eat a lot of greens! -- you exercise more...I really thought you'd be thinner. And I thought you'd have longer, tamer hair -- like maybe you'd finally figure out how to fix it so it looks, well, less poofy. On the flip side, I thought you'd have more gray in your hair...hmm, that's an interesting turn, isn't it? 

I do see a few lines here and there on your face, a couple more scars on your hands. That furrow in your forehead is fairly deep now; maybe just pull your hair across to cover it. I suppose those lines show some of the good and bad you've seen. Each line carries the memory of a smile or a wince of pain, I'm sure. 

This past year has been challenging, hasn't it, Forty? This is awkward to say, but I had anticipated you'd be wealthier. I'd assumed you'd stop buying clothes at Target, for instance, or that you'd be taking lavish vacations from time to time. Ha, I'd really thought you'd at least own a house and have a decent retirement fund! Even perhaps some money in stocks or a flush savings account. But here you are, like the rest of us, living comfortably but frugally, and not without the occasional middle--of-the-night financial anxiety. What is it they say? The best laid plans something something... You did everything right, I know, everything "they" say we should do. But you didn't know the economy would change so dramatically, that our parents' way of saving wouldn't really work for our generation, so I hope you won't second-guess your decisions. You've worked hard and tried to plan, but you also can't control everything. Now you know that. And now you know, as well, that money is only money. It comes and goes, and you know now how to get through in the leaner times. 

I definitely like the certainty in your stride. Like you know you're on the right path, finally. It's good to see such confidence. Have you learned to be still in each moment yet? We talked about this at length at Thirty's house, how it's not healthy to dwell in the past or maneuver too much for the future. Be here now. It's a platitude, you told me, but it's nice we agree that now is the most important moment, the place we should focus our attention.
The best kind of Saturday afternoon

Here's what really stands out to me today as I'm looking you full in the face, Forty: You have peace in your eyes. You like where you live; in fact, I can't believe you get to walk on the Maine coast whenever you feel like it, or hike a wooded trail. Your job fulfills your do-good-work goals (and you can walk to work most days with the sunrise over the water leading you!). Your husband is healthy, maybe healthier than ever before, and your kids are thriving. I know it's hard for you to see it each and every day, but they're all pretty great, this family you've been nurturing. You wish you had more time to yourself, I bet. But you're afraid to voice that because you know how blessed you are. I get that. You know that someday soon, because time passes so quickly, you'll have too much time to yourself. So you're still trying to find the right balance. Isn't that the way of life, though? Constantly seeking balance. (Ha! Forty! We're so wise now.) At least now you take time to jump off the rat wheel and breathe deeply. Stillness matters.

It's amazing to think we have friends whom we've known for 20, 25, even almost 30 years already. Decades. Plural. That hardly seems possible! Think of all we've been through together and apart, how we've always found our way back to each other. Such amazing bonds formed in childhood and youth. And suddenly new friendships forming with people you've known only briefly yet love fiercely. Maybe that comes with time, too, the ability to love without fear. 

I had hoped by the time we met here, though, all our friends would be leading happy, healthy lives too, free of illness and upheaval. I didn't expect to have friends our age battling brain tumors, that's for sure. Forty, we're really too young for this, don't you think? I mean, sure, we're old-er. But we're also so young! Certainly not old enough yet to face such dire, scary health situations. Friends having heart attacks, dealing with cancer scares, having surgeries to repair damaged joints. Other friends who have discovered suddenly their partner wasn't who they thought or wanted, and others fighting fierce battles for their children. I want to fix it all for each of them, for all of us. Sometimes it overwhelms. I'm seeing more clearly, though, that this is what life is about: Constant change. But more than that, it's about finding the friends on shore we can cling to when the riptide threatens to pull us to sea.

The best kind of
Sunday afternoon
And, Forty, have you seen my siblings, how they shine? Both so talented and following their passions. Both creative hard-working people, the most loving, generous folks I've ever known. They anchor me, like our Dad does, and encourage every move. We rarely speak of how much we miss Mom; the hole she left will never fill in. The closer I get to the age she was when she died, you know, the more I realize just how young she was. That's why we didn't have a big party to welcome you, Forty. I hope you understand. The big party will be when Forty-Eight arrives, because that's the one she didn't get to see. I want to meet Forty-Eight for both of us, celebrate for all who didn't or may not get there.

The biggest thing you've taught me, Forty, is that nothing remains the same. Whether it's good or bad, there is always change. Sometimes it's gradual, sometimes it's sudden, which is yet another reason to try as hard as we can to be present in each moment, to squeeze every ounce of goodness out of every day because we really never know what's coming next. 

I like you, Forty. I feel like you get me -- like maybe you've been waiting for me to arrive instead of me waiting for you. You're easy-going, firmly in the middle: Young enough to enjoy long walks and the occasional late night out with friends, but old enough to know when it's time to just climb into bed with a book. And I think other people take you more seriously...like you've been around the sun enough times to know a thing or two, yet you're not yet jaded or harsh -- still young enough to show some sparkle and optimism. We're in the middle now, aren't we, you and I? Right between young and old. And it's pretty nice. 

So welcome, Forty, get comfortable. Be fabulous! Be kind. We'll have a good time together, as long as you don't mind tucking in to sleep by 9:00 on Friday nights or eating all those greens. And I'll need you to help me to remember to look around from time to time and be grateful. Even if my joints ache a little more than they once did, or the gray hairs start to sprout more aggressively.