“There are just so many summers and just so many springs.” ~ Don Henley
I know there are thousands of people, millions even, who can relate when I say that this past year has been a tough one. But spring has arrived and signs of renewal are everywhere. Hope is the pervasive sentiment of the moment, both here in blogland and out there in the real world.
Me, I’m feeling better these days but still often sad and overwhelmed. Maybe it’s all the unstructured time I’m faced with since losing my business, the lingering grief and incessant longing I feel for a man I may never see again, or the dawning realization that my forties are half over and that this decade, the first of a new century I could barely conceive of as a child growing up in the ’70s, is drawing to a close.
Or maybe it’s the shocking tragedy of Natasha Richardson, someone who, frankly, was barely on my radar during her lifetime but with whom I now find myself identifying, because she was born, like me, in 1963 and now she’s gone.
They have always struck me as unseemly, these collective moments of morbid voyeurism that overtake us when tragedy strikes the seemingly charmed lives of celebrities, those familiar strangers we have never met but somehow feel we know.
Because people die every day. People die tragically and prematurely and in anonymity every single day.
But I think it’s because Richardson’s life was privileged and presumably happy and fulfilled that her accident is so disturbing. She was, after all, someone with whom many of us would have gladly traded places.
If there is one thing I learned years ago, though, it is to never, ever envy anyone. That said, Richardson did appear to have the two things I continue to long for: an enduring love and creative fulfillment. They are the two dreams I still allow myself, that I assure myself, even as I start over at the age of 45, there is still plenty of time for.
The thing is, tragedies such as Richardson’s point out the very conceit of the midlife crisis. Because when something senseless and shocking happens, especially to someone who has otherwise been so fortunate, we must confront our deepest fears and, in doing so, we recognize as lies the platitudes we rely on to make ourselves feel better.
Granted, aging isn’t what it used to be. I would rather be a woman-of-a- certain-age now than at any other time in history. But, and I don’t care how many magazines articles tell me otherwise, 40 is not the new 30. Forty is 40. If you are 40 and very, very lucky you have many good years ahead of you. But those years are not something you can expect or feel entitled to.
And, while we’re on the subject of platitudes, I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that age is not just a number. All those accumulated birthdays serve an important purpose. They allow us to steadily mark the passage of time even as they remind us to stay conscious and engaged and grateful for the fact that we’re still here.
The truth is, none of us will know when we reached the middle of our lives until we’ve reached the end. Because, impossible as it would have been to comprehend at the time, Richardson’s life was half over before she turned 23. In that respect, she was very fortunate to have experienced and accomplished as much as she did in the short time she was given.
And I know that I’m fortunate, too. I have this day, this moment. Every morning I’m given the gift of a little more time. More time, and another chance to get it right, this, my beautiful, fragile, uncelebrated life.