Gosh, it feels like just yesterday I was thirty-eight-years-old. Like all thirty-eight-year-olds, I was reckless and thought I knew everything. But when I woke up at 3:30 (again) this morning, after a full and restful night of 5ish hours of sleep, I knew immediately that something had changed. During those five hours, I grew up, learned my lessons, and now pronounce myself old and wise: ready to share with you what I’ve learned in thirty-nine years. You are quite welcome.
Oh, and I like Ferraris, free vacations to exotic locations, pet elephants, and rare diamonds, all of which can be found on Amazon. I do accept late gifts.
But I want to give you something, too, so here’s what I know at this point in my life:
- Not much at all. I mean, virtually nothing, so you should probably stop reading.
- Life, afterlife, themeaningoflife, why-do-bad-things-happen-to-good-people, do we owe God an explanation or vice versa…all of life’s biggest questions, in other words simply do not have clear-cut answers. If you think they do, you’re setting yourself up for a rude awakening. I’ve undergone my own rude awakening on this front, and it’s pretty brutal to think you have it all sort of figured out only to discover one morning that virtually nothing you thought you could be sure of is 100% certain. We/you/I will have to learn to live with the mystery – the whatthefuck – of it all if we are ever going to have peace. This is life’s ultimate irony: Peace comes from accepting uncertainty.
- Dogs are probably the closest thing to pure Goodness that exist on earth. When people don’t make life worth living, a good dog can probably keep you going until you find a person worth living for.
- Death is central to whatever life is all about. It may well be The Meaning of Life. It’s the only universal, and it’s something none of us will wriggle our way out of, and it’s something that starts happening, literally and figuratively, from the moment we’re born, or conceived even. No one wants to die; unfortunately, we don’t get a choice in the matter. But! When the lighting is just right and your mood is maybe a teensy bit alcohol-enhanced, you can start to see how beautiful death can be. I mean, seriously, this view of death happens for me about once every 6 years, 4 months, 17 days, 9 hours, 54 minutes, and 12 seconds. But I got a glimpse of it on Monday while I sat in my car crying, yes again, and listening to my “Sad” playlist (yes, I have one of those (see below), and you should, too). I thought about how hard everything had become, how everything redeeming and Good in my life had been stolen from me, either literally or through my own screwed up perspective that completely obliterates things that should be filled with joy. (Uh Tim, where’s the “beauty of death” part of this?!)…And then, after hours of listening to the same songs over and over again, that little glimmer of sunlight hit the world in just the right way, and right there in the midst of one of my lower moments, I just decided to accept all of the holes in my heart and brain as they were, to “not judge” them as a dear friend recently encouraged me to do. I just let them sit there and crush me, and for just a few minutes they felt like down blankets on a cold winter night, protecting me, embracing me, listening to me, accompanying me. Then I wanted to kick the blankets off again, but it felt like a healthy moment in the midst of a really bad afternoon. On the whole, we might as well try to become friends with Death because he’s a fairly insistent, stalker sort of “friend” whether we like it or not. I do not recommend becoming Facebook friends, though, as his page is really, really disturbing. I unfriended him a few weeks ago
- Parental love is the closest thing to truly Unconditional Love that exists. Some parents reject their children, of course, but if there is justice, those people will someday receive the worst punishment imaginable – which is unconditional love from someone else, which will graciously but horribly illuminate for them what they’ve missed out on by not providing this sort of love for their children. But good parents can love just about anyone who they helped create: Jeffrey Dahmer’s dad loved him to his dying day (see some previous post that I’m too lazy to link to here); Dylan Klebold’s (one of the two Columbine killers from 1999) said she’d ask him to forgive her for not knowing how badly he was hurting, and she said she’d forgive him even though no one else would (listen to the Ted Talk called “Love No Matter What” for this account); Ted Bundy’s mom said he’d always be her baby boy…Point being, parental love is well nigh truly unconditional. I’m pretty damn sure I’d still love my kids no matter what they did, though a not-so-small part of me hopes they won’t test this by becoming like any of the people I’ve just listed.
- All that matters is people…relationships. This one might be a cliché, but it’s also a cliché to say that something is “easy as pie.” If you’ve seen American Pie, you know that this is completely true: pies are easy (mom and dad, that is an extremely dirty joke, and I hope you don’t get it. I also hope you don’t blame yourselves for how much of a degenerate I’ve become. Like Lady Gaga, I was born this way. You don’t get that either, but just move on. And I love you. And thanks for your support!). But back to relationships. If you’ve been reading this blog for very long, you probably are aware that I’ve been in some pretty deep holes lately. Holes that feel like going cave (scuba) diving and realizing you’ve become disconnected from the rope that’s supposed to lead you back out of the cave…you know, so you can live. But what always keeps me swimming for dear life back out of the cave is the people in my life. My kids are at the top of the list, with apologies to anyone else who’d like to be there (see #6). Not trophies or gold watches from promotions or paychecks or 2nd homes or the latest technology, but people. Sounds simple, but for some reason, it’s VERY not simple. People come out of the womb messy and die messy and even create some unnecessary messes along the way. But despite that inevitability, I do know that relationships are the only thing truly worth staking your life’s meaning on.
- Finally, here’s what I know after 39 stupid-fast years on earth. Drumroll, please: Almost nothing. I will post again in 39 years and hope to have 16 things on the list by then, but for now, you only get 8. Okay 7, if you count 1 and 8 as the same. Which they are.
Have a great day celebrating my birthday!
PS. After receiving a few responses to this that made me realize how negative it sounded, I feel the need to offer this afterword:
I actually wrote this post from a pretty good “place.” Indeed, I’ve had a rough stretch over the past few weeks, but before that, I had one of the longer good stretches I’ve had in a long time. Also, every one of the points above has actually been a very GOOD revelation for me, even the one about death. Learning to come to terms with unanswerable questions, the pinnacle of which is the death question(s), has been a major part of growing and healing for me over the past six months. I don’t think I’m usually guilty of being tone-deaf to my posts, but I was to this one. It sounds very negative for sure. But it’s not. You might just have to take my word for it, though.
*The idea for this post was stolen from Anne Lamott, who recently wrote a similar post about turning 61: https://www.facebook.com/AnneLamott/posts/662177577245222
*My Sad Songs Playlist (well, part of it and forgive the annoying format that I’m too lazy to fix from copying and pasting from Word):
David Wilcox (A folksy, guy-and-a-guitar, North Carolina-cult-following musician who had more influence on my college years than my penis.)
o All the Roots Grow Deeper
o Common as the Rain
o Language of the Heart
o Last Chance Waltz
John Mayer (You’ve probably heard of him, either because of his music or his inability to decide where his own penis belongs.)
o The Heart of Life
o Stop this Train
Tim McGraw (I know nothing about his penis. Sorry!).
o Red Ragtop
o Heart of the World
o Need You Now
Johnny Cash (originally Trent Reznor/Nine Inch Nails):
Fleetwood Mac (or Dixie Chicks)
o Nightswimming (there’s nothing particularly sad about this song except the sound of Michael Stipe’s voice, which means you could replace this with just about any R.E.M. song).
o Tears in Heaven (almost too sad to listen to most of the time, at least for those of us whose greatest fear is losing a child).
o The Walk
Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss
o Whiskey Lullaby
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