In 140 days I will turn 40. Maybe because it marks another decade it has me in knots. Turning 10 was a big deal. I can remember fifth grade in detail. I was excited for junior high and looking forward to being more grown up. My 20s had 40 years of hope before me. I couldn’t see the finish line at all. The crest of the hill was all that was ahead of me and the anticipation of what was at the top of that was exhilarating. I still was itching with the thrill of making the world a better place. If idealism was electric; I probably could have powered a small city. I was ready to stop making everyone happy. My 20’s were going to be spent doing the things that made me happy. I was going to be a teacher and inspire change daily.
At the end of my 20’s marriage and babies came. I spent the beginning of that decade wanting to make a difference, wanting to follow my own dreams and I would end that decade feeling like I had lost all that ground.
My kids were my purpose in my 30’s. Knowing I was going to give birth to 4 beings whose light was so much greater than mine, who the Earth needed so much more than me kept my own life secondary. Everything was for them, the job I chose, where we moved, getting pets, driving myself out of my shell so they could have a better example. My 30’s felt like a decade of compromise and concession. There was exponentional growth that occurred here which was odd because it is also the decade where I took the worst physical care of myself.
Now with a decade of placating and concession behind me I see 40 ahead to the end. To the light at the finish and it has me slowing down, grasping at stillness. My past following close behind like confederate statues, constantly reminding me of my transgressions.
Yesterday, I took a walk and turning 40 kept haunting my thoughts. The thoughts I wrote above came to me then. And I spent the rest of the day working, parenting, driving kids here and there, back to school nighting and as I was headed to a board meeting I was filled with so much angst about getting older. I was in a major funk. I prayed for guidance and clarity.
Driving down the road, I notice the two cars ahead of me. One is stopped and the other is turning around and as that second car u turns I see the accident. I pull over and jump out of my car. There are other helpers. Establishing that someone has called 911; I look to the bodies on the ground. “What can I do?” I ask the woman standing with one of the injured. She hesitantly sends me to a young man in the middle of the street, next to the broken car. He is so angry and I know trying to keep him still is going to be a chore. I keep talking to him. A woman who says she is a nurse comes running up, but barely inspects him and moves on. I keep talking with him and in what seems like decades, he finally calms and reaches out his hand. “Hold it.” He says.
I take his hand and he grabs mine fiercely; squeezing it in pulses which must match the pain criss-crossing his body. I let him know I won’t leave him until the paramedic gets to him. We sit like that as the amazing teams of first responders work like angels in the glow of headlights. I finally have to let go so the medic can assist him.
When I am cleared by the officers, I am shaken and the tears start to fall. We never stop making a difference. There is no age limit on when life starts or stops. Our heartbeats are in each and every minute no matter what is ahead of us. We can choose to u turn away and go a different path or we can find our way through the wreckage, hold a hand and see life in all it’s angst and beauty. See how that all blends together to enrich our lives in ways we can’t imagine.
No matter what lies ahead of me, an age, an accident, a hand to hold I want to carve substance into my existence every day of my life and stop thinking there is some sort of marker that defines that. We can make a difference in each moment regardless of what decade it is. After last night, I have no doubt that I will always walk into the wreckage and hold the hand of the person in need. Age isn’t a marker or a definition and I am going to stop measuring my life with it because there are so many moments to come and that is far greater than 140 days.
Until next time,