Monday, October 18, 2010

Birthday Post

 O may my heart’s truth
   Still be sung
      On this high hill in a year’s turning.
                                                      --Dylan Thomas, "Poem in October"

Today is my birthday.  I'm 42.  In American culture, it seems like no one ever celebrates their birthday (it's a downer) and no one admits their age (it's a downer).  I do both.

I wonder why we fear aging.  Actually, I know why.  We fear death.  We think of age as a diminishment of who we are, a mark of the ever-increasing incapacity to do, say and be what we want to be.

But this is life.  When we enjoyed youth, we knew that time would pass and age would come and with it would come a range of different experiences and, with any luck, a little wisdom too. 

Why fear what can't be changed?  Why not simply head towards it, with dignity and thoughtfulness, savoring what the journey brings along the way?  Why assume nothing good remains to us, when there's so much evidence all around us that that simply isn't true?

Faces filled with botox and collagen erase all of the story lines of who we are and how we got to be who we are and where we are.  When I see someone who's had all of that done, I feel like I don't know what to look for or what to pay attention to about them, what questions to ask them about who they are and what life has meant to them.

Instead I just wonder, "Isn't it weird to want to have a needle stuck in your forehead or your lips, when you don't have to?"

I would never want to be 18 or 24 or 30 or 35 or even 40 again.  It would mean I would have to move backwards in time, erasing all that has come to me in the meantime, and all simply for the sake of a youthful appearance that was never the sum total of who I was anyway.

Every year, on my birthday, I check my life over, to see if I have any regrets from the previous year.  If I do, and I can fix them (and I usually can, because no more than a year has passed since the last time I checked), that's what I do.  Mostly, I spend the day being quiet so that I can measure the weight of time on my life.

Today, I'm thinking of the lines from Dylan Thomas' "Poem on His Birthday."

Dark is a way and light is a place,
Heaven that never was
Nor will be ever is always true



  1. Happy birthday!

    It sounds like you really have your life in perspective, which is no small feat to accomplish. I hope your year is filled with glory!


Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "Life is short, but there is always time for courtesy."