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The Front Side of 40

On Thursday, I celebrated my 40th birthday. By “celebrated,” I mean that my partner, Doug, took me to a local brewery where we gorged on foods made of cheese and bread and potatoes. Next, we waddled to a nearby bookstore to do some shopping. Just before we were about to crash from our carb-induced high, we got some coffee and rested up for a visit to our favorite ice cream stand.

The only way this birthday was different than others was that we didn’t know about that ice cream stand last year. Otherwise, My Big 4-0 was no big deal.

But a few of my friends made comments that got me wondering. “This is the big one. So…how are you doing?”

Of course, I’ve pondered what it would mean to reach age 40. Compelled to obsess, I ponder meanings. A few days before the big day, I started writing a poem, sort of an “On the Occasion of…” poem. It ended up being about Doug and me, particularly how much of my life we’ve been together. Our relationship has lasted 3/8 of my life, so far. I’d considered the numbers before, but I’d never done the math. Although I’m not exactly a numbers person, I know that’s a significant fraction.

But it was my day. What of my own, personal, one-of-a-kind, no-one-else-can-help-me-now experience of this milestone? Some people “turn” 40. Others “hit” it. Having made no plans about what verb I would do to 40, when the day arrived, I just sort of let it go by. My friends’ messages of concern had me wondering if I was doing something wrong, missing some rite of passage. I felt anxious and worried I was having a hot flash, then remembered it was 87 degrees that day.

Really, I’m as ambivalent about this birthday as any other I’ve had since adolescence. On any occasion that involves marking time, I feel frustrated by all the time I’ve wasted, but happy for the variety of experiences that time has afforded me. I don’t want to turn back the clock. I just hope the clock keeps ticking indefinitely. (I wrote about that in the poem, too.)

I know this isn’t likely. It just so happens that one of my friends, David, has a birthday the day after mine. David died 15 years ago and would have been 48. It’s strange to think I’ve outlived him by eight years. I was just a kid when he died, and now I realize he was too. But his death had nothing to do with getting old. He got sick; he up and died on us. He fucked up the chronological order of my universe. The feelings have been extremely complicated, but the fact is pretty damn simple.

Seems to me time is interpreted as much as it’s measured. Maybe it’s true that 40 is the new 30. Good, because 20 sucked; 30 was when life started to get better for me. I feel less worn out now than when I was half my age. I hope that energy continues. All I can do is keep going.

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One Response

  1. […] stay at home, drink Folger’s, and write no less than 100 pages per day. Lucky for me I turned 40 last August and magically no longer give a shit what anyone thinks of my writing habits. (Yeah, […]

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