My Fiftieth Birthday – A Reflection

Today I celebrate my semi-centennial birthday. I’m really old. This is a fact. But I also have lived a life, so far, that is rich in experiences, and full of hilariously stupid stories, and filled with just fantastic friends and acquaintances. I’m truly blessed.

Flipping back through my life, I see flash bulbs going off, and there are my friends and I running around at Disneyland, which was right in our backyard. I see the Mexican desert, where friends taught me how to ride my first dirt bike. Then later zipping through the trees in Maryland on a much more powerful 450 as we reenacted the speeder bike chases in Return of the Jedi, trees zipping by just inches from our face. Cow-tipping. Toilet-papering friends houses with over 500 rolls of toilet paper. (It’s beyond a logistical nightmare transporting it… where do you put it all? Well, inside of course… you just need to know how to get in.) Meeting friends at camp at day one, and then getting busted together the next day for being out together after lights out.

Then heading out to England for school, and all the amazing people I got to meet, and the experiences of the continent I was lucky enough to experience. Traveling from the Lake District to Athens and back was fun, but it was the numerous walks in the rain among the British sheep farms, with a beautiful girl named Carolynne, that I met there at school that really turned my world upside down.

On a walk yesterday...
On a walk yesterday with Carolynne and the puppers.

And while we have created an amazing life together, with three unbelievably smart children, and two unbelievably stupid Pomeranians, it has not been easy by any means. I thought I had life all figured out, and all I needed everyone in the world to do is to let me have my way and everything would be perfect as I manhandled reality to my whims. I had to learn that I, in fact, didn’t have life figured out.

In fact, I’m the last person on the planet to say I have this life figured out. I just don’t. I’ve probably logged well over five years in counseling. I’ve dealt with intense issues of addiction, issues of deep psychological depression, and doubt. I’ve had to physically manhandle my psyche and wrangle it into submission to keep myself from jumping off of extraordinarily high places. And while I am that annoyingly loud guy in your circles that always figured out how to bring people together, and get them to laugh, I also fought a tendencies to darkly brood after the laughter was over.

Worse, something I haven’t talked about at all here on the blog is the fact that while Carolynne and I spent 10 years of our lives adopting two boys out of Haiti, we ultimately had to dissolve the adoption as it was exploding our family from the inside out. (I’ve honestly considered writing a book on the topic, so no, I’m not going to get into the details here. Suffice it to say that if we had stayed on that course it would have been a very very bad outcome for those two boys and also for my three biological children.)

This is the chief thing that I’ve learned in my fifty years on planet Earth. Life is extremely messy. My love for God has not wavered, but my doubts about myself, my cleverness, or my own abilities have only increased. But I have come to value the really important things in my life, the first of which is Carolynne. Thank you C for putting up with my shit. You are an angel and deserve piles of awards and trophies. Our kids, who are annoyingly intelligent, and I’m sure will go on to do fantastic things. I’m lucky to be able to watch them go conquer the world. My friends in the real world, who put up with my constant requests for movie night fun, lunches and laughter. And my friends here on the blog… the gang of you I’ve gotten to know in the comments over the years, in the Discord discussions the last few years, and I’ve had the pleasure of talking to over Skype… and even interviewing. It’s these encounters, and friendships that I see as the true mark of a really successful life.

And to those of you that I have hurt over the years – and there are many of you – I am sorry. It’s your birthday, don’t celebrate with an apology! My apologies are a celebration of a life lived and mistakes made, and mainly amendments attempted. So, if I have wronged you in any way somewhere along my last fifty years, please reach out to me so I can apologize to you personally. I would love to make it right with you. I can think of hundreds of small infractions (stupid jokes I’ve made, insensitive things I shouldn’t have said) and Marianas trench type deep gouges I’ve caused with a handful of people… (There were moments in my life where I have been known to be extraordinarily hurtful when I want to be, and I’m not proud of that tendency at all.)

So here’s to that 16th birthday when I gave away prizes to the person who could chug the most goldfish. Here’s to that night in Paris when I thought it would be a great idea to break up with you, Carolynne. (I’m the only idiot that has ever broken up with someone in the City of Light. Guaranteed. Let alone someone as special as you.) And here’s to that one Chrysalis weekend a hundred years ago when I learned so much about the infinite Grace of God and His love for us in spite of all these numerous and massive mistakes we do with such delft dexterity. And here’s to fifty years of joy, laughter, heartbreak, and suicidal madness. Here’s to the love of friends even in spite of chaos. And here’s to forgiveness and grace for each other, and for ourselves.

Edited by: CY