Today, I am two twenties. I have racked my brain for weeks trying to come up with the perfect blog post for this momentous occasion. After all, I am a writer; I have big words, and I know how to use 'em! And I want them to be funny, because I am pretty darned excited to be forty -- there, I said it! -- but the thoughts that come to me now are deep, so I am going to take a moment to be reflective here. Stick with me 'til the end, and there's a chance that I'll crack a joke -- but first, let's be serious:
Just a few years ago, a pulmonologist voiced the opinion that I might not live to see forty without a new lung. I can still picture his eyes when he said it, as if he were forecasting the weather next Sunday, not predicting the end of somebody's life. He was a horrible, arrogant, and, I daresay, incompetent doctor who offered a diagnosis based on inadequate information -- and he practically scared me to death, forget the lung situation! So cheers to second -- and third -- opinions, and to doctors who stand up to others and say "you are wrong." Here I am, aged forty, with my same old lungs -- still not perfect, but pretty close, and in shape to see me through my years with decent management and medicine. Huzzah!
Yet as I reflected on this "hooray! I made it!" moment in my life, something truly horrible happened in my family. At only twenty-seven years old, my cousin's beautiful wife passed away just a few days ago in a tragic car accident. He donated her organs, and so parts of her -- perhaps, even, her lungs -- live on in others. But the one who was the "baby" of my generation is now a widower in his twenties. And I'll be damned if anyone can make any sense of this tragedy. I just pray that this beautiful angel rests in eternal peace and that her family, especially my beloved cousin, be comforted in this time of loss.
Life is so precious, and so fleeting, and we are never guaranteed another day. If there is ever a year in which I have been ever-so-keenly aware of that, it is this year. That is why I went to Burning Man, because every so often, we just have to scream to the world, "I am going to live." There will come a time when we cannot, or when we do not.
When it's over, I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement. I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms. When it's over, I don't want to wonder if I have made of my life something particular, and real. I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened, or full of argument. I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.
That passage is from Mary Oliver's poem "When Death Comes," and a lot of her work and the personal reflection it has inspired has been key to my personal healing during this year of transition from married to unmarried, from thirties to forties. That passage speaks to me because it is a reminder that I must take an active role in the experience I have on this earth. Life does not just happen to us; we make it happen, and I plan to do so in amazement, taking as much of the world into my arms as I can, indeed.
Birthdays are happy occasions, and indeed, I am happy for a few simple reasons: I am here. I am loved. And I am able to love and to serve others. I do not really need more out of life than that ability to wrap my arms around people and say "I love you" and to accept their love in return -- and to be there when they need it, as they have been there for me.
Maybe when I turn fifty, I will actually be fifty instead of two twenty-fives. But this year, I say, bring on the twenties that I never had -- twice-over. Bring on the ever-growing circle of friends, and their parties, and so much dancing and music and fun and oh! the art ... bring it on, all of it, and I am going to soak it all up because I am here.
And I plan to spend it diving in to as many new experiences as possible, just like this:
And yes, I am, finally, forty years old. WHATEVER. xo Rox