I recently had a birthday. It was no. 39 and therefore the “deep breath” before the plunge into 40.
In many ways, it was like an old stone by the side of the road where you stop to sit and rest a bit. Not far ahead lies a great, walled city with menacing turrets and a massive iron gate which lies open for you like a dark, foreboding mouth. Behind you, is a sun-baked road that is heavily worn and offers no comfort, save for a few good memories lost behind the distant hills where the dusk now rises. Are your best days behind you? Is the city a dark and lonely place? Or does it just appear that way due to its overly defensive presentation?
39 is definitely a totem of reflection; the last slice of limbo before middle age wraps you in its arms and carries you off into the future. Mine wasn’t as depressing as I expected, however. I always try to do something memorable on each birthday – either by traveling some place new or hosting a uniquely themed party. It is important to me to celebrate every revolution around the sun that I have survived as such benchmarks are worthy of noting. Survival on this blue rock is no easy feat, and although my life is nowhere near as difficult as those born in war-ravaged Sudan or other parts of the world, I do try (every so often) to appreciate that my path has given me wonderful opportunities. Not indulging in those opportunities is like leaving perfectly good fruit to rot in a bowl on your kitchen counter. It’s a waste, plain and simple.
This year, I went to the remanent crater of Mount St, Helens and stared into its desolate shell. This quiet volcano (fairly dormant since its 1980 eruption) reminded me that even in the face of what we perceive as certain doom and destruction, there is a promise of a peaceful after-effect. It’s been 30+ years since the side of this mountain blew out and devastated the surrounding forest. However, today, the area is teaming with life and thousands trees have regrown in shadow of the magma-filled monster. I imagined if all this fear I have of turning 40 is the equivalent of that explosion in 1980, I would be happy to know that eventually, things will take the place of ash and cinder. Life will pour into the space hollowed out by age, and something new will take root.
So stopping to rest at that rock along the road called “39”, I can see that no matter what is waiting for me in that walled city, I will be alright. And as I get closer, maybe that place won’t look like a prison, but rather a busy port with a sailing ship to new places and adventures.