Tuesday, January 19, 2010

One Year Shy of the Meaning of Life

Forty One, eh?

I am not, even by Presbyterian standards, a youngling any more. This strikes me as peculiar. Now and again, I'll be sitting around with a group of adults, and will suddenly realize that people who seem very much grown up and responsible are actually considerably younger than I am. Or I'll be talking with a grownup about a subject on which I'm apparently expected to know something. I'll listen to myself speak, and think, "Wow! I really do seem to know what I'm talking about. How did that happen?" I'm not sure if this happens to other people.

Shouldn't I feel different? I realize, when I think about it, that the array of data that underlies my awareness of the world around me is rather more deeply layered than it was when I was seven.

I know how to do a whole variety of things that would have baffled myself thirty-four years ago. I now know how to type, for example, which is making posting this a whole bunch easier. I'm married, which has contributed a whole bunch of of highly entertaining memories that my seven-year old self probably shouldn't be exposed to. I've got the boys, and a modest house in the burbs, which I apparently own. My body is larger, and increasingly creakier. I've been through all manner of joys and experienced some pretty impressive pain. Yet though those experiences add some...complexity of flavor...to my self, the awareness that I'd describe as "me" really is the same "me" that it has always been.

I'm always a bit confused when I encounter people I used to know who have been radically changed by the process of life. I find myself wondering, who are you? What happened to that person I knew? Sometimes that new person is actually rather nicer than the old one, which is a good thing. Sometimes, that new person is closed and embittered and more selfish, which usually makes me really miss the person I knew before.

But I remain, at least to my own discernment, basically me. Which is what I plan to be for as long as I am.

It makes aging seem sort of irrelevant, or at a bare minimum, not something worth worrying about. Then again, it's nice to have the birthday wishes and the cake and the presents.