Fortune has smiled on me.
This is the sentence that repeats like a chorus in my head, in a manner as sublimely peaceful and mellow as possible.
I was a bundle of nuclear nervous energy at 21, but at 40, I'm very meh, and meh feels pretty damn good, I gotta tell you. It's a nice meh. Very chill.
If today is any indication, the reason I don’t “do well” or stand on ceremony on “big days” like birthdays and holidays is because I don’t enjoy placing undue expectations on people or moments. I don't want to get up tomorrow having to choose the Perfect Birthday Outfit or the Perfect Lunch Destination or the Perfect Birthday Party Plans. I just want a nice day, and even that might be asking more than I deserve. Expecting more just seems unfair.
Which brings me more joy, the movie I didn’t expect to be good but was sublime, or the one that lived up to its billing? Which brings me more joy, the discovery of a new band or the revisiting of one of my favorites?
In 40 years, fortune has provided me, gifted me, with people to whom I will never be quite capable of expressing my gratitude and love. From parents to friends, from my wife to my children, from coworkers to acquaintances come and gone. I tried writing about them all last night, but what came out will stay with me. Sharing it felt tawdry. Moreso even than usual, I mean. But just trust me, little words like “parents,” “friends,” “wife,” “children”... they each create greenhouses of vibrant, flourescent beauty.
How could he still think of me as his friend when I have all but disappeared into a life of domestic responsibilities and daily obligations and desires closer to home, where the two hours of distance between us often feels like an ocean rather than an easy Interstate? I honestly don’t know how he holds fast to our friendship, but I cherish that he has. I cherish how we humans are like that in our best moments, how willing and able we are to let go of the dirt and cling to the essence of what is good.
The longer I've known someone, the more opportunities I've had to completely f*#k things up with them. A tornado moment of self-destructive stupidity or a never-ending monsoon of small mistakes. Betrayal or mere bundles of minor disappointment. Who knows which kind of natural disaster my goofy ways brings to those who cross my path; I only know my weather patterns come with risk.
On this day, perhaps the reason I'm not falling into some abyss of despair is because I can't even get deep enough into all the ways I've been wildly lucky. Health, love, security, more happiness than not for so many of the people I love and care for, and none of those could have received from me as much as they have given.
The midlife crisis will have to come another time.
I am forty.
I am fortunate.