I turned forty on Saturday. I spent the day with my family and received flowers. Jon made me a gin and tonic and we sat outside in the afternoon sunshine and then on Sunday the boys washed the cars.
I'm not that into birthdays or any special occasion for that matter. I can remember mourning my birthday when I was a child. I remember standing in the kitchen close to tears at the age of 15 or 16 lamenting to my parents that we all get robbed of the first ten years or so of life because we don't remember very much of it. So, yes. I've always been like this. I like sad existential questions.
So now I'm forty. And on Saturday I fly to Chicago to start recording for my new album project. Hopefully life starts at forty. Or at least, it keeps going.
It keeps going despite my own best efforts to railroad it with my own sadness and depression. I get real close to the edge and then something pulls me back and I get back up and keep going. In one moment I hate all my songs and wonder if I can write 12 good ones before Saturday. In the next moment I remind myself of how these songs are worth honoring. Some days I think this is my only shot at showing the world what I can do. Other days it feels like I've got all the time the world. And this, all while doing the work of the here and now in my small town.
Mamas don't like seeing their kids fall down. They don't like seeing their kids storm into the kitchen, slam the door and throw their backpacks down by the sofa eyes full of tears and rage. Mamas want to hold their babies just like when they were babies. It's written into us.
Daddies see Mamas want to run to their kiddos and daddies gently hold them back. Daddies understand the need for space and time and doing nothing. I get a sense it's written into them.
And so I let them run off and slam their bedroom doors. I leave them be. And I think about my own falling down and my own getting back up.
No book is going to tell you the age and date of when kids need to be left to manage their own battles, but I can tell you that years of trial and error and trial and then error again, of the sin and the sacred, of the rebellion and the redemption, I can see how daddies help their babies get back up over and over again.
Mamas are always there to be the safe place and refuge after the war, but I can't take up arms for a life that ain't mine.
I'm forty and far away from my mom and dad, but I've got the lessons they taught me right here close to me. I go to church on Sundays, I share what I have with others, I try to welcome the stranger, seek forgiveness and give forgiveness, and I get up and keep going just like they did. My own darkness never disappears completely, but I've learned how to fight it.
I hope I can give that gift to my kids. I hope I let them learn the hard way and then hug them when it's over. I hope they learn that imperfect love is everywhere. We care for each other and we care for one another imperfectly. We move forward even if it's two steps forward and one step back and we keep going. I hope that when they're forty they go record their album if that's where they're at. I hope they see the possibilities and are unafraid of the falling down. And I hope they know I'll be there with arms open and a pep talk ready to go.
Chicago: here I come.