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Wednesday, June 19, 2002

Zero Birthdays

Happy belated 30th birthday to Dervala Hanley. She blogged the happy occasion yesterday while I was away from all electronic devices, cooling my heels at the beach for Father's Day. A spectacular, clear, sunny day--an all too rare event on the northern California beaches. There are many things to love about Northern California, but the summer weather at the beaches ain't one of'em. So when the occasional weekend day with no coastal fog comes along, I like to seize the opportunity. All the better if it's Dad's Day.

Anyway, Dervala, as she always manages to do, expresses the emotional charges around a situation in her special, perceptive and entertaining way:

"Zero-birthdays are disconcerting; a summing-up and a beginning. They’re a border to which you bring your papers to be stamped. Madam, your figuring-things-out visa has expired."

I've been through six Zero Birthdays so far. Ten and Twenty don't count because those are milestones about which you're thrilled. Thirty marks the beginning of the ones with a negative tint. It was also, for me, the most difficult of the lot. The uncertainty was a killer. Knowing that a lot of serious personal events--from which there would be no turning back--would be unfolding over the ensuing decade. Having no idea in hell what they were going to look like. Frightened about the implications of something being the wrong fork in the road.

Again, Dervala says it best:

"Thirty, in particular, is freighted with ‘supposed-tos’ for those who think about such things. Some people take it as a spur to build. They get engaged, start a company, or have babies. Older and younger friends smirk at the burst of activity. Others, like me, tear things down at the sight of that big round zero hurtling down the hill towards us, gathering dread and longing. We’re no longer automatically the youngest in the room. At work, the formless class of ’94 now divides into contenders and schmoes. We slide from mentored to mentor, just as we realize we know nothing at all.'

That division into contenders and schmoes--that was the most frightening of all.

If Thirty was the most disconcerting, which one was the least so? In my case, at least, that would have to be Fifty. The peak of your power. Plenty of energy and time left which to look forward. A certain built-in respect from others that is thrilling when you first start to experience it. Best of all, you pretty much are who you are. The painful uncertainty of Becoming has, for the most part, taken a back seat to Being.

Sixty is not bad either. Not as much energy as Fifty, but still passably good. Adult relationships with your children (especially thrilling). Uncertainty is just about out the door entirely. By now, you truly ARE who you are. The down side, of course, is that mortality is beginning to peek through that same door. You no longer have any illusions about your future being wide open and unlimited. But that has its upside. It makes you much more powerful in your ability to be in the moment--which is probably the biggest prize of all.

Anyway, best wishes to Dervala for a dynamite decade!


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