Thursday, May 18, 2006

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

"I turned 40 today. I woke up and realized that I was half dead."

The day has arrived. I am 40. I don't really feel any different, but I have been dreading this day for almost a year now. Why? What's the big deal? I didn't know, but something has really been bothering me.

Yesterday I was driving home and the anxiety of "40" hit me again. I knew that on the next morning, I would be realizing I was 40. My mind immediately responded, "Well just don't do it!" The next thought that followed was the over-whelming sense that I had no choice- there was nothing I could do to stop or avoid it. That's when it hit me: regardless of what I do, what I have done, or what I was going to do in the future; I was going to turn 40 on the next day. No matter what!

Why is this so bad? What's the big deal. Everyone has been telling me that the day you turn 40 doesn't feel any different than the day before or the day after. "Don't worry about it.", they say. "It happens to everyone." Well at least to a lot of people.

I think that therein lies my problem. I want it to mean something! I don't want to move into a new decade of my life and there be nothing different. My fear has been that this day will pass and I find that it didn't make a difference.

It has been 40 years since my breaking onto the scene.That was a long time ago. If I make it another 40- that's going to be equally a long time. I have a whole lot of living to do and I think it's time to make my mark, to do my thing. As the Snowman said: "It's time that we introduce them to the old boy." (Smokey and the Bandit)

40 seems to be a great spot to say it's time to be a better husband, time to be a better dad. It's time to be a better employee, a better speaker, and a better person. It's time to really make that relationship with God solid, it's time to read the good book again. It's time to take advantage of all the things I've learned. As Jimmy Buffet sings-"All of the things that I've sung and I've read- they all make sense in time." And of all the things I posses, time spent on this world is the thing of which I have the most.

I was 14 when I went to Alaska. All my stories were fresh in my mind, but they lacked any context in life. At 20 I was in France, still naive and unaware of the worth of my experiences. I was 24 when I got married, but knew nothing of marriage and relationships. When I hit 30, I was a father for just over a year. In addition to not being able to understand the significance of that role, no one wanted to hear about fatherhood and parenting from a new father. In fact, new parents should be banned for sharing their opinions for at least 5-10 years.

At 40, I have credibility. I have a good vast array of life experiences against which I can measure the adventures of my youth. I have measured my cultural experiences against the world for 20 years since leaving France. I have been married for 16 years, a father for 11 years (and a father of five for 6!). I have something to say, things to share and I cannot be dismissed because of my youth and inexperience!

At 40, I am ready to make my mark- whatever that mark might be. I am going to make turning 40 mean something. I am going to not let it pass by like any other year. It just seems too perfect not to make a new beginning- the start of using the last 40 years of lessons and experiences to my advantage. I feel that the first part of my life has been dealt to me. The second half- if I am so lucky to live a full second half- I want more say on how I play my hand.

Dr. Layne Longfellow once said that the mid-life transition doesn't have to be a crisis. But he added there are some important questions to ask. It doesn't matter as much how you answer them as it matters that you ask them.

My question to myself is this: "Now that you're forty, what are you going to do about it?"

My answer, whether it's important to anybody else or not, is this: "Watch!"