I’ve been intending to write a blog post about turning 40 for months now, but every time I sat down to write it, I cringed. I mean, what could I possibly say that hasn’t already been said? Many of the lovely folks who are older than me say, oh 40 is so young! And some of the lovely people in my life who are not yet 40 seem to get this funny look in their eyes like they want to run away immediately, change the subject or go jump off a cliff or something. Anything to avoid talking about turning 40 (because, many young people think it isn’t really going to happen to them. I know, because I clung to 39 like Kanye West clings to his own self-importance. Side note: did you know Kanye also turned 40 this year?).
At dinner a few months ago, some friends asked me what my intentions were for the next decade. What a question! I wasn’t sure I had any intentions, but I did offer a reflection. And that is, I’ve come to believe that marriage and children, while they are totally and completely wonderful and fine, are not necessary for a happy life. I realize that statement could very well sound hollow and trite. But, having already gone through some of the gut-wrenching grief of not getting married and not having children, I can say it with sincerity and without the least bit of cynicism. Because there is also room in my life for marriage and children, should that come to pass. It’s not like I’m taking on some new identity that I want to declare to the world and that be it. I don’t feel the need to hold this reflection up as some ideal way to live, because it’s not for everyone. I do feel the need to say it though, because there is this myth going around in our culture that marriage and children are the end all be all of a happy existence, especially if you’re a woman (and a woman of a certain age, at that), and it’s just not true.
What people don’t tell you: both can be true. Marriage and children can enrich your life. Not being married and not having children can also enrich your life. One way of living does not negate the other. Why some people still insist that it has to be one way is beyond me, but maybe they are only speaking out of fear. Trust me, there are worse things in life than being alone.
What I’m more interested in as I enter my fourth decade on this planet: Can I be a compassionate human being? Can I accept that I am capable of harming others and still cultivate peace, in all my actions, as best I can? I would sincerely like to do this. I would like to learn how to be a fiercely compassionate human being above all else.
It doesn't interest me if there is one God
or many gods.
I want to know if you belong or feel
If you know despair or can see it in others.
I want to know
if you are prepared to live in the world
with its harsh need
to change you. If you can look back
with firm eyes
saying this is where I stand. I want to know
if you know
how to melt into that fierce heat of living
the center of your longing. I want to know
if you are willing
to live, day by day, with the consequence of love
and the bitter
unwanted passion of your sure defeat.
I have heard, in that fierce embrace, even
the gods speak of God.
- David Whyte, Fire in the Earth
(What I'm listening to right now: Naaz - Words)