Friday, February 5, 2010

The Oddness of Forty-Five

Turned forty-five today. Lots of people are rocked by the decade birthdays, but those I seem to have taken in stride; they feel much more stable than the years in-between. Prime numbers are the worst; when you're forty-three, you're just forty-three. At least with forty-five, I can say I'm nine times five or fifteen times three.

I'm generally healthy (though with a clotting disorder that has to be managed medically), still in good shape, in fact stronger than I've ever been thanks to a regular exercise routine. Little things flare up now and again: some back problems last year, a sinus infection I just got over this winter. I've long since said goodbye to my hair (that's my dad's legacy), which had gone from black to virtually white (my mom's) before vanishing pretty much altogether. Still, I don't feel old, or even particularly older.

I remember my mom telling me years ago that she'd reached a point past which she'd stopped aging mentally even though she kept aging physically. In her mind, she said, she was still eighteen or twenty, in her body fifty or more. That's been my experience too--I suppose it's everyone's--and it's a strange thing, watching one's body grow alien to oneself. It explains why so many of us experience time passing more quickly as we age, at least in retrospect: since we tend to measure time by our memory of who we were, if the self we remember from twenty years ago is identical to the self we experience now, those twenty years might just as well have been a single moment. My childhood self seems a stranger, and the chasm of time between us immense; my twenty-five-year-old self seems like a guy I was just talking to yesterday, even if I can't quite remember the conversation we were having.

Forty-five is somewhere in the middle: not old, not young, half-hale. In half a decade I'll be half a century. Like many people at mid-age, I've been trying lately to come to terms with who I am, where I fit into things, what my life has been or could yet be worth. This blog has helped me to do that, as has my other writing, my job, my family, my activism. I don't expect the journey to come to an end anytime soon.

So, forty-five. When I blew out the candles tonight I set another piece of my life in stone, lost it at the same time.

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