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The Backward Life

“The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.” —Philip Roth

Starting a new decade of your  life is tough, at least for me. I had a hard time with 30 and now that 40 is almost here, I feel deflated. We all have an idea of how we want things to go in our life--where we'll be, what we will be doing, who we will become--but it hits kind of hard when you get to a milestone and realize you have either bypassed those things, or haven't quite gotten to them yet.

At work this week, as I was cleaning out some files, I found some papers from an Anger Management group we used to run. One of them is the Checklist for Hidden Anger. There are a lot of things on this list that describe me and how I feel right now. I have crossed out those that are not relevant to me, but it may as well be renamed-- Checklist for Turning 40.

How do you handle big birthdays? Do you have hidden anger too?


Tonight we attended a Winter Solstice celebration. I was the youngest one there. Our hosts made lamb stew and cornbread, offered tours of their amazing home and let us sit quietly as the bonfire was lit and glasses were raised in toast to those who were not in attendance this year. Our host has lost two friends this year—one just a few weeks back. One gentleman had buried his wife recently. The couple to my right talked to their friends about the recovery from his recent heart attack and heart surgery. One couple both walk with canes, and the wife has a pretty hard time getting around without assistance. They helped each other, and so did everyone else.

Don't get me wrong— I know I have made it sound like a rather somber affair, but it was exactly the opposite. There was so much laughter and good conversation. Our host, who is quite proud of his fire-making abilities, explained to everyone how he had built up the wood into a stovepipe, and he clapped his hands in delight when the fire began to "sing". I heard stories of grandkids and gardens, holiday plans and food. A lot of people did not know one another, but there were no awkward silences. No one felt excluded from conversation, and I bet no one left regretting having spent their evening with this particular group of people.

I left feeling a little guilty for complaining about turning 40 next month, but most of all I left with a little bit of excitement for all the years after 40. This doesn't mean the idea of my next birthday doesn't still give me a twinge of dread, but it does seem a little less scary.
Today I found the following on an old, faded index card:
William- not Bill & certainly not "Dick"

I often find bits of paper around the house with scribbled notes on them. Sometimes it's a corner of an envelope or a grocery receipt. Other times it's the back of an old postcard or half a Post-It note. Whatever it is, it is often unclear what I was trying to remember. If it has the name of some food item, than it could be part of a grocery list (or not), but more often than not, the paper has a short phrase or one word underlined several times.

I find these bits of memory in old purses, shoved in my checkbook, sticking out of books I've read, or am in the middle of reading, in my shower caddy, my side table, lying on the floor and sometimes, even stuck to my clothes. I'll share a few of them here:

Letter with bits of sand in the envelope.
Boston's south side
Miss Hargreaves frank baket (at least that's what it looks like)
Ribbon for Anne's jar
Tap the clock at top
It's a beard

It's hard to see why I'm not a member of Mensa, isn't it?