Start where you are, they say. Today is my birthday. I am 40. I'll start there.
I don't want to shuffle woefully and delicately through the aging process. Don't bring out the black armbands. I want every year to be "Hot damn and High five!" Because you know what? The alternative to aging is to drop dead; and 40 is too young for that.
With embarrassingly little effort on my part, I have woken up every single day for 40 years. Every single one. And yet, just because you're awake, doesn't mean you're awake, you know? Just because you're alive, doesn't mean you're alive. I spent a lot of time living only half of my life just because I was afraid of what would happen if I lived all of it.
I don't think it was one thing in particular that blasted me awake. At the risk of being morose, it was the steady tick tock of mortality. Innocent enough at the start....tick tick tick. Then louder...Tick Tick Tick... No really...TICK TICK TICK. Then, boom. TOCK: Oh shit! I could die any second! How did this not occur to me before?
Hearts burst; vessels rupture; cars collide; planes fall. My God! And even if it doesn't come that quickly, news does. Diagnoses slam into you half naked on an exam table, and then you fade slowly while fighting some terrible thing that lives right there inside of you like you're Calamity's own private bungalow.
It's so insane and terrifying that it's actually a little bit funny. Every now and then I have a day that is not so much bad as it is just kind of puny and pathetic, and I think "Please don't let this be my last day on the planet." Please don't let going to the grocery store in my sweat pants be the last thing I ever do.
Skydiving or saving somebody from a burning vehicle seems like such a cooler last day. But you can't jump out of a plane or into a flaming Toyota every day. And at some point, you will need to go to the grocery store, because people who are alive need food. Even Buddha needed some rice now and then. You can, however, jump out of a plane once or twice. (But please don't jump into a burning vehicle. That was a terrible example to use.)
Maybe every time you willingly do something that scares your pants off or makes you sweat a lot, you get points. Maybe the degree of terror and the amount of sweat determines how many points. Maybe it doesn't matter what you're wearing or doing the day you peace out; maybe it's just that final tally that determines how much living you did.
So that's really all I'm doing here. I'm trying to score points.
I've always wanted to publish a book. I have drafts of novels. I have disjointed essay collections. Everything sits in various stages of decay in hard drives and zip drives. I never make it past rewrites. I get overwhelmed and complacent, and then I quit. I'm 40 now. Enough of that.
I have always wanted to publish a book, because I have always known that I could. I've never doubted my writing skills. I only doubted whether or not anyone wanted to read what I had to say. I have since come to care less. My goal is to write it. And that is where my goal ends. Whether or not anyone buys it, reads it, or likes it, is no longer the point (...she says, hoping you'll buy it, read it, and like it, anyway).
I have not always wanted to record a CD, however, because I never believed that I could. It was only a few years ago that I realized I had a knack for writing songs and singing them. More importantly, I realized that even if I didn't have a knack for it, I at least had a joy for it; and frankly, that joy is enough. The only goal I have ever really had for music was to get over my fear of making it. That's done (for the most part), so now I'm just making gravy.
In my 40th year, I will finish up this CD (currently in progress) of 10 original songs. And I will publish a book of essays about the songs (also currently in progress). And I will send them out into the world like barely grown children who I hope will make good choices. In this blog, and throughout this website, I'll track the progress of the project; and I'll probably talk about my big dumb feelings. Sorry.
It makes sense to me to unleash this project on my 40th birthday. That big zero is an empty bucket. Time to fill it with new stuff. Courage, joy, creativity, gratitude, wild leaps, music, words... yes, please. All of that.