Wednesday, July 26, 2006

meditations on turning forty

The seven ages of man, made famous in the English-speaking world through Jacques' speech in
As you Like It. I'm the old guy on the right, dressed in pilgrim garb.

I turn forty today and I must admit I'm not going gently into that good birthday. I know I should be a sport, but... At least I'm not spending the day the way I planned, rolled up into a ball in the closet and sobbing. Imperatrix pulcherrima Africae occidentalis has organized a party for me tonight in a bar in the East Village. They even said I could bring an ipod full of my music (wait until everyone hears the rap in Latin). So I should have a good time.

What is it about turning forty that bothers me? The physical decrepitude, the loss of youth, the lack of achievement in my life? No, I'm fine with that. My constitution is that of one who is clumsy but sturdy and I go forward slowly in good health none the worse for wear, like a patient burro. I never really liked youth, so I'm fine with losing it. It is true that I am middle-aged and have the income and savings of a college student, but hey, I've lived a couple different lives and now I have a family I love and am doing something I find worthwhile.

It's just that I got to forty so quickly. Just yesterday I was five years old listening to my grandfather telling me about how his grandmother arrived from Ireland as a child, her suitcase in one hand and her little sister in the other. Then a blur passed by. I woke up and I'm forty and my grandfather has been gone for thirty years, dead like so many people I have loved, and the train shows no sign of slowing down. What happened? I was in Madrid last week and I said to myself, "I spent ten years here? It's been six years since I lived here? Where did all the time go?"

Life is short, life is precious. Really, I have nothing to complain about. Perhaps this wee bit of melancholy and panic is good medicine that will teach me to appreciate all that God has given me, the beauty of every passing second, the miracle of love.

Time to take stock of things, order some Chinese dumplings for lunch, and go out and face the world in my fortieth year.


Brian Cubbage said...

Happy birthday, Liam! I understand how you're feeling, but curiously I never feel that way on my birthday. On my birthday, I always feel like a kid again. (Of course, some would say I never grew up in the first place.) The reason? A liberal application of beer and presents.

So, my advice, for what it's worth: Liberally apply beer and presents (or some functional equivalent thereof).

crystal said...

Happy Birthday! :-)

For age is opportunity no less
Than youth itself, though in another dress,
And as the evening twilight fades away,
The sky is filled with stars invisible by day.

- Longfellow

Talmida said...

Happy Birthday, Liam!

I thought I would be miserable and depressed when I turned 40 -- even took time off school, just in case.

Turned out to be the most liberating day of my life. It hit me very strongly that one man loves me passionately. He and my 3 children think I'm the most beautiful woman in the world. I have a roof over my head, enough food to eat, a healthy family, and the rest of my life in front of me.

I forgave myself all my mistakes, quit waiting "until I'm older" "until I have enough money" "until I'm thinner" and started doing what I wanted to do.


Sandalstraps said...


Happy 40th. As I said in the comment section of my last blog post, responding to the comment you left, you should be proud of how much life you've managed to squeeze into 40 short years.

May the next 40 be as richly lived as the last 40.

Liam said...

Thank you all -- it turned out to be a great birthday.

Jeff said...

Hope you had a great birthday Liam. You should be very proud of yourself, your family, and of the fact that you are doing work that you love.

Now that you are a few days past 40, I'm sure that you realize that the milestone really ain't no big deal.

Paula said...

Happy birthday Liam. :-). I think that you have all the reasons to be happy and proud of yourself.

Courtney said...

hey, happy birthday, liam! Glad it was well spent.

Steve Bogner said...

I'm late - but happy birthday anyway!

Latin rap?

Deloney said...

Happy belated, liam. I don't remember my 40th at all, though I have some confused memories of my 30th. Blame it on the Bosa Nova.

lullaby said...

che, tío! ¡qué tarado es tu primo! ¡qué boludo!

lo dijo todo sandalstraps... si te preguntan "¿y tú? ¿qué has hecho con tu vida (hasta ahora)?" tenés para responderles.

un fuerte abrazo y mucho amor.