On Entering My Fourth Dozen

Here’s what I wrote six months after turning 33:

I’m 33 years old. Supposedly the age of Jesus when he was crucified and of Alexander the Great when he died. According to Wikipedia, 33 is also the atomic weight of arsenic and the largest positive integer that cannot be expressed as a sum of different triangular numbers. I have a degree in Engineering Physics, but I have absolutely no idea what that last bit means.

 Today I turn 36.

Three years ago — short years, eternal years — my sense of metaphysical ground had faded to mist. Through my late teens and twenties, I’d had a sense of Knowing. What I wanted to do, how I wanted to be seen, how I saw myself.

Then: Stage III cancer. Six months of chemo. One month of radiation. A long bout of chemo brain, anxiety, depression, confusion. Things began to dissolve. My marriage. My identity as a writer. My sense of sanity. My ability to foresee a future. Most unnerving to me: I lost the ability to daydream. When I tried to imagine things other than they were, to create a better (or even just different) vision of my world, I just saw… blank.

Also from the year I was 33, a post called “Fog”:

I tell myself that something will shift around the holidays. That I’ll have some clear indication of what comes next. What to do, where to go. That would be nice, but of course there’s not guarantee that a glorious sign will appear….

So I watch for signs. In the meantime, I sit in the fog and sip my tea, and take pleasure in not being able to see very far.

Slowly, my imagination is being restored to me, but it’s transformed. I used to be an escapist, could flee reality for hours at a stretch into my dream worlds. Now I feel more awake. Connected to myself. Interconnected with the world in which I move.

My own brush with death keeps mortality close at hand. My father’s battling cancer now, and the outlook is grim. It brings things into sharper focus.

Many of the dreams and aspirations I had in my twenties have faded, and deeper dreams arise. Instead of being important, to be useful. Instead of being successful, to be joyful. Instead of achieving goals, to release obstacles.

So here we go, 36. With a stock of curiosity and wide-eyed wonder to carry me through a year of days, and no guarantee of meeting 37. Into the wild blue yonder!