There is a lot of hype approaching a 40th birthday. It sits on the calendar like the gateway to your own age of enlightenment. Everyone has predictions: "You'll stop caring about the little things." "You'll gain confidence." "You won't care about the extra 5 pounds." "You'll be more calm." Maybe it takes awhile for all of these predictions about being 40 to seep in, because none of these things have happened yet. At least not to me.
And while everyone has something to say about turning 40, the advice that resonated with me the most was this New York Times Op-Ed published shortly after my birthday: We're all just winging it.
What the doorstep of my 40s has taught me, more than anything, is that the greatest common denominator among all of us is simple. We are all unsuspecting. So many of my friends are divorcing after decades of marriage; relationships that seemed destined to succeed have somehow failed. Other friends are coming to terms with brain tumors, and breast cancer, infertility, and children with terminal illness. Still others are coping with elder care issues, unemployment, living loss, and death. None of those things were there yesterday. Yet they are here today. No one suspected it. We were all unsuspecting.
We need that unsuspecting space. It's the space that allows us to experience great joy, fully and without compromise. Mixed in with that joy we sometimes find awe, beauty, and love issuing their own unexpected gifts; parenthood, friendship, accomplishment, a home-run, a phone call, a warm bed. It's where we hear laughter and feel lightness of heart.
I don't plan to search for that gateway to self-enlightenment and I don't expect my 40s to bring me anything more or different than my prior four decades have. But I do think I'll try to experience them with more awareness; alert that time is mercilessly marching on and what it will bring is unknowable. I am set to be unsuspecting. And there is a freedom and a confidence in that.
"they say the owl was a baker's daughter. lord, we know what we are, but know not what we may be." (Hamlet, Act IV, Scene 5)
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- ► 2011 (13)