The numbers keep climbing, and as my father says, “It’s better than the alternative.”
I’m growing older. That’s a good thing, right? And as the numbers click higher each year, and I blow out candles and make wishes for health, happiness and love, I feel like I’m racing to a finish line lurking somewhere out there but I don’t know what lies beyond.
Five years ago, on the eve of my 40th birthday, I had this reckoning that I was on the fast track to old age and so I’d better make sure my life meant something before I’m done. I set about doing 40 things that make the world a better place in the year that I was 40.
It was great fun, and fruitful. I volunteered, donated, pondered and purposefully offered pro bono services. I thought about what matters to me, the causes I want to support, the issues I feel are threatening the peace of this world.
And then the year was over, and I turned 41 and time marched on.
In the past five years, I’ve settled into a new marriage, celebrated two mitzvahs, grown and shrunk and grown my business, made new friends, said goodbye to old friends, learned to row, joined master swim, switched my little guy to a new school whose community feels like a breath of fresh air and pulled inward to reckon with my soul about what life is really all about.
It’s been a good clip. And now I’m turning 45 this Saturday.
Finally, I’ve hired people who are amazing to work with and perhaps I’ve learned to be a better leader.
Finally, I’ve moved into an old house with a cross-breeze that keeps the indoors cool virtually all summer long, and where I just love to spend my time and hate to leave.
Finally, I’ve seen my eighth book published (2013) and am working toward others. Writing has reclaimed me, and I’ve renewed my devotion to this craft.
At mid-life, which is approximately where I am, I’ve realized that time is short and there are no guarantees, and so every moment has to matter. So when my eldest son accidentally walks into the pool with his brand-new phone, I can’t grow angry. Life is too short. Money comes and goes. It was an accident. Why beat up on precious souls when there are bigger issues to confront?
By this point, I’ve realized that the moments spent with my children and my husband and the one or two close friends I simply adore as soul-sisters are the soul of life. That my morning phone calls with my sister just to check in are why we were born in close proximity to the same parents.
That worry is short-lived and useless and serves no purpose.
That holding on doesn’t guarantee you’ll be OK.
That doing what you love DOES lead to satisfaction and joy and enough.
That the people you once thought were difficult are actually lovely, and those you at first saw as easy to deal with really are not.
That instincts are always right, and always have been. On those SAT questions in the 1980s and today, in whatever context they raise their hands.
Every experience leads us to the next one, and every encounter has meaning. I still miss my grandmother nearly every day and think about her impact no my life. My grandfather’s hands, which I haven’t caressed in 15 years, are soft and visible in my mind.
I remember the broken hearts of years past and the dreams that evolved into the life I live today. My journey through different cities and states, through degrees and yearnings and plans, it’s an onward trajectory. It never ends. I am going now and will continue to until this life is over.
Which could happen at any time, but likely won’t. The odds are in my favor to live for a good 45 or 50 more years, or maybe longer. I’ve got the genes, modern medicine helps, and it’s a good run.
Still. I want to know that my time here was worth something. That when I am gone the world will be better for me having been here.
That words I created and deeds I did leave a legacy far beyond one person.
In the year that I am 45, I will announce a new non-profit I’ve started called One Earth Writing, designed to unite teens from disparate backgrounds and disconnected communities with stories that show us how similar we are in so many ways. This is my labor of love and my effort to heal the world through the talents I was born with.
In the year that I am 45, I plan to breathe more deeply, slow down my pace, and yet ramp it up to live more fully.
I’m not talking about more raucous partying or hot fudge sundaes. I’m talking about embracing the dawn, diving into the pool even when it’s cold outside, peeling back the oars into the green waves of my river as I cascade from one end to the other in complete loving abandon.
I mean fully listening when my child speaks to me about anything at all, late into the night, early in the morning or in the midst of a bright slow-moving day.
My story begins and ends right here, right now.
I am going to do my part to end the hatred and fear of this world, where we always feel safe and never feel safe. Where we can’t even go into a nightclub or express our nature without being gunned down.
Every day, horrific stories of violence and separation. Let’s change that narrative to stories of love and peace, of community and understanding, of knowing that all that separates us is our disbelief that we are actually all the same deep inside, beneath our beating hearts and wistful dreams.
That’s what I’m planning to do, on the cusp of turning 45. What about you?