It was one of those mornings here, the kind where Spring winks at you through the window and gives a flirty little beckon for you to come outside. So you do, only to find that Winter is hanging around to spit in your face like a jilted lover as soon as you walk out. Still, it was a nice morning for a run, and I was two miles in when a comically chubby little dachshund came out of nowhere and started sniffing around on the grass by the curb.
I stopped to greet him, putting my hand out for him to smell, and told him he was a bit too close to the road for my comfort and perhaps he should reconsider where he did his sniffing. I started to jog again and he fell into step beside me. We jogged along for about three houses until he veered off and headed up the steps to what I assume is where he lives. I jogged on, alone, but somehow happier for this encounter.
Today is my birthday, and my longtime readers know that this is the day, more than any other day, when I turn up the introspection and get all deep and reflective and kumbaya. But the fact is, it’s hard to take things too seriously on a day that began on a run with a wiener dog, so today I’m finding myself reflecting more on where I’m at, right now, right this moment, in the little space I occupy on the planet.
I’m 45 today, which for some reason strikes me as a very odd age. Being 45 sounds ancient when you’re 25, and childlike when you’re 65. But when you’re 45 and you feel 45, well, that puts you right on the fence, doesn’t it? Does that mean you feel young, or old? I don’t feel either one, actually. I feel frozen, stuck, like I have some industrial strength adhesive on my butt that will not let me move in either direction, toward feeling young or old, all I’m allowed to feel is 45. It’s a difficult age, I think. Haha, I’m at that difficult age, you know, the one between potty training and death.
I think 45, really anywhere in the mid 40s, is the hardest age of all because you aren’t young and you aren’t old. When you’re young or old, you and everyone else can just write the stupid stuff you do off to your age. “Well, don’t worry about it, you’re only 16. You didn’t know any better.” Or “Oh well, you’re 98. You couldn’t help it.” But when you’re 45, there’s nothing you can do with your life but own it. When you’re 45, you’d better have your act together. Things that are “cute” when you’re little and “quirky” when you’re old just make you weird when you’re in your 40s. And lately I’ve been feeling the pressure that comes with facing the fact that I’m 45, and I still don’t have my act together.
But right now, today, my birthday introspection has made me realize that I honestly don’t care. I kind of like not having my act together. I have it together in the important ways – I can bathe and dress myself, I know how to handle money and how to order a turkey sub with light mayo at Subway. Beyond that, having your act together is seriously overrated. I’m a dreamer, a dawdler, and despite having been a journalist for most of my adult life, I find deadlines or any kind of serious structure to be horribly weighty and dull. Now that I’m 45, part of me wants to have the footloose freedom I had when I was 15, and the rest of me craves the stability I know I’ll need when I’m 85. In every way, I’m somewhere in between.
Last year at this time, I shaved off all my hair – ala Demi Moore in GI Jane – and took my first hard look at myself as I really am, gray hair, slightly lumpy scalp and all. It was liberating, seeing my unframed face in the mirror. This year, I’m looking at my unframed, unstructured spirit and feeling a liberation that blows last year clean away. I may not have my act together the way I’ve always believed, and been told, that I should, and I’m glad. Tonight I’m going to my favorite pub for a drink and a laugh with people who matter to me, and tomorrow I’m going to write, and every moment in between and ever after, I’m just going to go wherever life takes me.
Right now I think I’ll go see if that dachshund knows where to get good cake around here. I’ve a feeling he does.