XXXVI

I’ve got a weird relationship with numbers, specifically with regard to age. I only bring this up because I turn 36 tomorrow, and I’m not sure how I should feel about that.

Turning “36” just doesn’t have much luster to it, it’s another year farther away from the halcyon days of youth and stands as a gloomy herald that I am only four brief years away from hitting the big 4-0.

I can remember turning 13 and welcoming the transition from being “just a kid” to being a teenager. For someone who felt “mannish” even as a boy, I was always eager for something a bit more substantial than just a number. To be 12-years-old wasn’t enough, I wanted to at least be “something” teen.

Turning 16 wasn’t a big deal, because I’d already been driving and earning a paycheck for a couple years by that point, and 18 was somewhat anticlimactic due to the expectation of college and other forms of arrested development. I hurried toward the age of 21 only to find that acquiring alcohol before I was “of age” was far more interesting than doing so in accordance with the law.

In my twenties I started building tremendous momentum… falling in love, getting married, having babies, crisscrossing the continent, and then crashing full-speed into my thirties.

Thinking upon it as I have all this week, I’ve come to think of 36 as being the age when one becomes a proper adult.

Yeah, I know, in the U.S. you’re considered “legally” an adult at age 18, but really you’re just a “newborn” adult.

In about 5 years (age 23) you’re still just an adult kindergartner, ten years after (age 33) you’re a 15-year-old adult. Old enough to be trusted with some basic adult responsibilities, but still not old enough to be President.

Thus, to be 36 years of age is to slam shut the door and drive the final nail in the coffin of one’s youth, not to mix metaphors.

As a wastrel youth one always feels that life has not yet truly begun, that “life” is always scheduled to begin next week, next month, next year, after the holidays… or just some vague “someday” that never comes.

Then, suddenly, you’re old and the scheduled life didn’t arrive. You find yourself asking what was it that you were living all that time, that nebulous interlude of scrambling madness, and what happened to all the time you had before.

I like the idea of growing up. Count me as a “heretic” in our youth-obsessed culture if you like, but I gladly welcome the gray hairs and laugh lines. I look forward to having a bushy white beard and the wisdom of many years. Most people don’t grow up, they just age. They find comfy parking spaces, honor their credit cards, get married, have children, and call that maturity. But that’s just aging. Growing up is what occurs in the inside. Like that great American philosopher once wrote, “the beauty steals inward.”

Of course, this is not to say that one must become dour and humorless with age. However, there comes a point when it’s time to start putting away childish things, to get off the proverbial bench and “get in the game” of mature adulthood. As the ripe old age of “40” looms ahead, I feel like I’ve got to take stock of what I’ve accomplished thus far, while also making solid plans for not only my own future but that of my children.

But, on the whole, I think I’m in a pretty good place. I hope that I’ve had enough time to offset the folly of my younger years.

If my 20s was aimless time of carelessly sowing seeds, my 30s have proven to be a time of cultivation and even some harvest…  a harvest that proves to be abundant, and raising my spirits of an even greater harvest to come.

Looking back on this past year of my life, on all that I’ve seen and experienced, it’s my privilege to have beheld so much wonder. Much honor and praise has been mine, to be sure, but I think what has heartened me the most is how I’ve been in a position to help and serve so many of my neighbors, friends, and loved ones.

I daresay that the age of 35, and the span from July 2011 to July 2012, will hold a hallowed place in the halls of my memory.

Verily, it’s been an epic year.

During this year, I’ve been blessed with fine health and no physical setbacks or illnesses of note. I had a brief bout of allergies during late autumn but it soon cleared up. Yesterday, during my annual physical examination “Doc” said my metrics remain “in the green” and that I’ve actually lost a bit of weight since last year. A daily exercise routine I’ve recently re-instituted has no doubt contributed to that end.

In my relationships I am a blessed man indeed. Upon midwinter I welcomed the last of my children into my household, a ruddy and beautiful lad of such gentle and sweet demeanor. Xander is the “cherry on top” of my children, who are each confections themselves. My wife and I continue to grow deeper in love and affection for each other. Our quiet moments, after the din of daytime frivols, are both a respite and communion that we cherish in building this life together. We remain ever as loving friends and tender lovers to each other. Our days are a raging tumult ringed by sunshine and rainbows.

Creatively I think I’ve made some strides this year. After stalling for much of the middle chapters, I finally finished my first novel earlier this month. I had hoped to have it complete by New Year last, but the imminent birth of my youngest son made writing difficult. Nevertheless, by the first storms of springtime I was back in the groove, and by summer I was “tallying up the dead and wounded.” After some well-earned time off, I hope to spend the rest of summer revising and doing a bit of reworking before sending it off to the publisher by autumn. Over the past winter I wrote a children’s story for Gaelynn that I should probably do some more work on before publishing it for her Christmas present. I’ve also got a book of meandering self-absorbed poetry that’s almost halfway to being done. So much time and so little to do. Wait, strike that, reverse it.

In my professional sphere too, I continue to be blessed with success upon success. I was named “journalist of the year” by the NETPA after consecutive years of finishing as runner-up, in addition to receiving honors both as a writer and photographer from such distinguished groups as the Texas Press Associaton and the Associated Press. My Lord has deigned to have me be praised by my peers for that which I consider only my duty, so I must return all honor to Him… for it is only from Him and by Him that I am even able to arise and walk.

Spiritually, I feel as zealous and energetic about my faith as I ever have. My passion for and delight in the Lord remains the warm glow within at all times, it is a sublime illumination that shines forth my way when all other lights have gone out. This is due in no small part to the glorious fellowship my family and I now enjoy with the church we helped establish. What began with late-night conversations at each other’s houses, has grown into a living and vibrant community of believers loving on and pushing each other ever onward and upward. I’ve seen lives transformed and the fires of faith ignited where there was once only a heart of stone. Faith, hope, love abide within our walls and it is glorious to behold.

The days shuffle and hasten, weeks spin into months, the seasons whirl and disperse into years. O, I am alive, I am alive, and I am alive. I sing in my chains and I am the sea.

Old as I am, and growing still, I feel a well of life surpassing anything I knew in my younger years. I don’t claim to have discovered a “fountain of youth” but I can speak to the things that keep me going: creativity, love, passion. Though my glorious visage may pale and sag, within my frame I feel as virile and potent as I ever was in my years of bronze skin and gleaming eye. I think that I am only just now hitting my stride, and that my life has only just begun.

Our little lives, the Bard says, are rounded by a sleep, and none more so than mine. The stuff upon which my dreams are built is shimmering diaphanous moments of silver and gold… the laughter of friends and good company, the curling of her toes when I let my nose trace invisible lines along her neck, the echo of voices in a sanctuary singing “Hallelujah” in unison, the warmth of strong muscle in the summer sun, smiles, tears, hopes, and fears. Selah and Amen.

It is with these unbreakable fragments that I have shored against my ruins.

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