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Monday, July 07, 2008

Peace and Love


Life and How you Live it


The Birthday Post

If you haven't heard, Ringo Starr declared for today, his 68th birthday, that he wanted everyone to stop at noon and say "peace and love."

He didn't consult me.

This is my birthday as well. Only my 40th, so I don't have as many years under my belt as Ringo, but still, the 40th seems more eventful than the 68th, so you think I'd get dibs on this one.

Last year was 7/7/07, which has a nice heavenly numerological ring to it and would have been appropriate for a big "perfect number" celebration. I heard at one point it was also scheduled for the release of the 7th and final installment of the Harry Potter series, but that release was pushed back to the 21st. (Two weeks?! You miss the marketing coup of the millenium by two weeks. Somebody in printing and distribution needed to be fired over that one.) Anyway, for some reason I can't remember, we didn't do anything major (at least nothing I can remember).

I believe it was the year before in '06 that Lisa was shooting a wedding for a friend on my birthday in which Olivia was also asked to be the flower girl. Or maybe the rehearsal dinner the night before was on my birthday.

In 2005 terrorists bombed the London Subway on my birthday.

In 2004, we spent my birthday driving back from a disasterous attempted vacation in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. We had a cabin rented up there with friends of mine from college. The cabin was much smaller than expected (too small for 2 families), the weather was cold and rainy, Lisa's morning sickness from her pregnancy with Ben kicked in with a vengeance and Olivia (who was really a trooper for a three year old) was terribly homesick. So mid-week, I made the call to pack up and leave three days early for the long drive home on the 7th.

Needless to say, my expectations for my birthday have diminished over the years. The day itself is one of 365 (or 366 in leap years). I may, like today, take the day off from work. But the day comes and goes with little fanfare which is really how I prefer it.

This year however, the 40 thing has been kicking my butt.

Thirty I celebrated. It seemed like a delayed rite of passage. You finally escape the striving of the 20s and feel more established. At thirty, I'd been recently married. I still felt relatively healthy and active. It was before the birth of our children who bring immeasurable joy into my life, but whose arrival signaled the banishment of a good night's sleep. It was before the acquisition of our now 80 year old house which I equate with back injuries, aches and pains and the gradual decline of my fitness levels as I spent too much time working to shore up an aging structure.

Now at 40, I feel like an aging structure myself which makes me wonder how bad 50 will be.

The 30s were a time when I gained much: most notably 2 wonderful children. Also, a deepening relationship with my wife which is more work than either of us naively expected, but which seems to be on an upward trajectory after some "challenging" years of growth and adjustment. The thirties marked some degree of professional success.

But they were also a time of deterioration. I discovered, with a doctor's assistance, that the cartlidge in my hips has degenerated prematurely and that I'm a candidate for "early" hip replacement, whatever that means. That has narrowed my scope of physical activity and diminished my expectations of my quality of life. Combined with a shoulder injury a couple of years ago, from which I seem to have healed after a long recovery, the hip problem helped me realize that I can't take running, swimming, biking, hiking, throwing a ball or playing on a playground with the kids for granted. I was never athletic, but now I know the time for throwing myself recklessly into any activity (yes, including that one) is over.

I realize the 30s, most regrettfully, also were a time when I let relationships deteriorate. Already introverted by nature, I too easily fell into the trap of using parenthood as an excuse to stay home. I lost touch with people. I didn't get out there. The demands of energy that went to wife and kids seemed to deplete my reserves, so when the chance for "me" time came around, I chose solitary activities rather than keeping friendships going or building new ones. I have friends at work, but they fall into the realm of people-you-go-to-lunch-with, not people-you-go-to-dinner-with, which is a significant distinction. And for whatever reason, that seems a difficult boundary to cross. Unlike the hips, for which there are surgical remedies, this relationship area is something I can do something about without too much blood, although it will take some sweat and likely tears. But it's worth it and it's toward the top of my to do list for the next decade.

At forty now, I realize something I should have long ago. Namely that you can't wait for the right circumstances to fall into place to do what you want with your life. The stars don't ever align. Nothing falls into your lap, except maybe food off a kid's plate. If I want to be fit and healthy, that is still achievable, but it will take a lot of work. If I want to move toward old age with deepening friendships, that will take time and commitment. If I want to write a novel (which I do), that will take a great deal of time and work and commitment. And the scary truth is, there may not be enough of those resources to acheive all those goals this decade and spend quality time with my kids, and read a lot of good books and (ah-ha!) lay on the couch late in the evening and watch tv.

So this morning, I decided I wanted to cook omlets, which I've become quite good at, and sit out on our deck for breakfast. One of those work friends, a truly wonderful woman in her 50s, gave me a bottle of champagne, so I decided to be decadent and open it for a sip even though it seemed wasteful to open the bottle without a group of adults with whom to share it. It was a nice symbolic gesture, but one that reminded me I don't really care for champagne all that much. By 8:00 the deck was already getting hot and humid here in July in Nashville. So we moved our party inside and began cleaning up and getting on with the day.

The half drunk glass of champagne was sitting on the counter and I picked it up for a sip when I noticed something in it. "What's this?" I asked and extracted a gnat with my finger. "Oh, a bug."

"Happy Birthday!" shouted my hilarious daughter who inherited her gift of sarcasm from me.

We all laughed, I took a last sip anyway and life moved on.

Oh, by the way....

Peace and Love.