My birthday is two weeks away.
Normally, birthdays aren't a big deal for me -- just another year older and hopefully an acknowledgement from my family, some cake, and ordering in some Indian food. My expectations are needfully low - high ones result in big disappointments, and I struggle to keep on top of my mood and anxiety as it is without creating the opportunity for failure.
This year is harder, though.
This year I turn 40.
I have been reflecting on what this means for me, but I keep circling back to thinking about my brother. He would be turning 37 exactly two weeks after my birthday.
As I take stock of where I am in my life, 40 years in, I can't help but think of where he isn't -- the joy in my accomplishments, the pride in my children, and my abiding love for my spouse is tempered and subdued with knowledge that for every one of these that I celebrate, it is something he will never have the opportunity to experience for himself.
Nineteen months later, it is still hard to fathom that he is gone. It seems impossible that his warm and generous personality has blinked out of existence. He should be living in his farmhouse, tending to his pigs and cattle. There shouldn't be this empty space that he used to fill.
His absence punctuates my presence.
We look at 40 years as a milestone -- the halfway point in our lives...
We look at 40 years as a milestone -- the idea, I suppose, that this is the halfway point in our lives and that from here on in we are moving towards that inevitable blinking out. I look at my daughter, 11 months old now, and try to imagine her at my age -- me 79, and her 40:
Will she have children of her own? Will she wonder what is coming in the second half of her own life?
Will she be there? Will I?
The truth of it is unbearable when thought about too much.
We, any one of us, can blink out at any time. All we have is today, and to hang onto that thought too hard prevents us from authentically experiencing anything. Dwelling on our fragility - our limitations - limits us.
If given the opportunity to live forever, though, I would not accept. We are all part of a rhythm and harmony, and a note held too long would ruin the song. So, in looking ahead as I look behind, I hope there is a long and fulfilling life awaiting me, I accept the possibility that there is not, and I move forward with the intention of leaving this world a better place than I found it.
I hope one day when I, too, blink out of existence that it will be without regrets, and with the satisfaction of a life lived in love and enjoyed to the fullest.