Culturally I have been conditioned to accept that turning Forty is some kind of milestone but I cannot imagine why. The transition into middle age cannot really be marked in years but rather in maturity and if maturity is the measuring post against which my age should be observed , I am at once Sixty, Thirty and Twenty even on the days I feel like I may be Eighty.
Perhaps the age of Forty is so significant because we more or less think of ourselves as either halfway or perhaps Two Thirds of the way to the grave under ideal circumstances. Perhaps it is simply a way to make us remember we are getting older, that we have responsibilities and that we must "act" a certain way that is in keeping with our age because that is what is expected of us. Forty is considered by many to be the age in which we reach full emotional maturity. That makes some sense to me but like I said, sometimes I feel Twenty and act like it so if this is the peak of my emotional maturity…uh oh.
We set these days down every year, our birthdays. They seem to sit outside time and space, perhaps like the days of our ancestors when one day is set aside for the gods, this day is set aside for us, to mark our passing through the space of time. If anything, perhaps we should all be honoring our ancestors, especially our mothers, rather than ourselves. It it was their pain and blood that brought us into the world while our fathers wrung their hands in worry. I remember my own worry as my wife gave birth to our son. It was a feeling of being powerless...this important moment and having no control over the outcome. As someone with a family, I often awake thankful to spend another day with them, sometimes as I prepare myself for work, other times as I sleep in just a little bit so I can feel them next to me (my son typically comes and climbs into bed with us when he awakens). It has helped me to have a child because when you watch a child embrace every day with wide eyed wonder, it helps you remember the wonder we have lost in our long slow ascent through the years as we deal with the simple common activities of living that seem to take up more and more of our time. There is nothing wrong with taking the time to honor ourselves on our birthdays, I am certainly looking forward to my annual birthday dinner with family but I also want to honor everything in my life on such a day, something I can do every day when every day becomes a birthday.
It is perhaps this, that pulls me closest to the Earth. To look out of my window and see the rain washing the Land is not the same as to feel it on my own face, to let the microscopic pieces of me mingle with the land and the water there that runs into the sea. This is where I remember my childhood, running through the woods playing games with my cousins. A carpet of orange pine needles at my feet, sometimes a white carpet of snow, the crunch of fall leaves; The fire of summer in my hair and the fire of the mosquitoes on my skin. I realize as I think upon these things that my spirituality has reawakened my sense of wonder about the world around me and that each day, each awakening, is a new birth. In this context, each previous day, each previous cycle of my life is a period of gestation, leading to this day, this awakening. So, when I awaken on Tuesday morning to head off to work and go about the routine business of my day, it will be the day that I have completed Forty revolutions around the sun. My life up until now has been a gestational period and tomorrow morning I will be born again from into a new day, a new moment, a new chance to grow and learn and live just as I was today. This does not happen simply at the beginning of a new day though, it happens in each moment. Each moment is a chance to walk with honor, purpose and wonder no matter which direction we have come from.
In Ten years, I will be Fifty, a half century old, and yet, in that time, I will still be of the Earth, still walking in wonder, the child of Fifty years instead of Forty. In two decades, I will be the child of Sixty years. In this way, I appreciate the miracle of gestation and birth, every day and in every moment and my birthday wish is, that you too can embrace the same sense of wonder in every moment. Let the wild in, let the mist between worlds and moments enfold you. This is the place where we gestate and awakening to each moment is the crossing of a threshold into greater awareness and understanding than we had in the womb of the day before. Happy Birthday to everyone.