A little less than a month ago I turned forty eight. That morning I woke and lay in my bed as the dawn lit up my bedroom window and thought about nothing, just letting my breath draw in and release. I lay like that for a long time, until the town morning bell, which always sounded at 6:00, brought me back to this world and it was time to get up and head to work.
I hadn’t expected a memorable day. I had to work, after all, and most days at work left a lot to be desired in terms of getting through it with any sense of accomplishment. But for some reason my birthday seemed to shine this time, and by the time I got home later in the evening I couldn’t have asked for better time spent. All day students whom I hadn’t imagined thought twice about me outside of class dropped by to talk and wish me happy birthday, and two of them, who have started to become real friends, even asked me to join them for lunch and had a makeshift celebration waiting for me. All the well-wishes and casual greetings followed exactly the way I like interactions between people: simple and unpretentious.
It’s been a harrowing few months since I last wrote here. Harrowing and wonderful, all in one. Back in August, after the weeks of being bedridden with an infected leg I met a woman online who changed my life. Neither of us had expected it. One moment we were writing a few emails back and forth, the next minute we met and couldn’t stop talking with one another. It seemed everything clicked… our ability to open up to one another, our interests, our attraction as a man and a woman, our goals, even the way we laughed and got angry at one another… it all worked as if we were made for each other.
But like all these dreams, reality held its end of the bargain and we had to take a hard look at whether or not we really could make this work. She has a child and before anything else that is what we, especially she, had to consider. On top of that we lived a considerable distance apart and it wasn’t easy to both pay for and make the time for the journey as often as we wanted. More and more I felt that if we wanted the relationship to work then I had to take the plunge and head out to live near where she did, so we had enough time with one another, but also to make it possible to get to know her daughter.
Things didn’t work out that way, at least not yet. She wants time to think it over now and to decide whether to stay with me or not. We haven’t seen each other for more than a month now and for the past two weeks she asked me not to contact her. The waiting is absolute agony. While I perfectly understand why she needs to do that, the thought that the only woman in my life whom I, now 48, have ever been absolutely sure of might now slip out of my grasp just when I found her, hurts more than I can put into words. I have enough experience in life to know that there is nothing I can do but wait and hope, but I wonder what my life will be like afterwards if she leaves. I have never met a woman who made me feel this way before… so much so that for the first time I realize how much I’ve needed and wanted a family, even if the child is not my own, and, to my surprise, I’m not scared at all about dealing with the obstacles of living with a child. I even welcome the prospect of getting to know her daughter, with all the reactions the daughter will have… so the chance of my meeting another person like this is quite slim. And the truth is I just don’t want anyone else. I can’t imagine anyone else.
All my life until now my life has been about me. Even when I got married, it was mainly about me. I’ve always focused on what I wanted and put my money and time into pursuits that mainly interested me and often didn’t take into account what my partner needed or wanted. Though I’ve always been aware of and tried hard to work on my partners’ feelings, often I stopped short and hurt the people who were closest to me. It was only recently as I was forced to take a good, hard look at who I am and what I wanted, needed, and had to do for my and my partner’s future, that I suddenly came face-to-face with my own selfishness. It was like a big, scary ogre just sitting there waiting to ruin everything. And I realized that all my life I had never really held something that was more important to me than I was myself, that I would unreservedly give my life for. Now I have. And I’m shaking with rue and humility. How small I am. And how much a fool I have been.
Last week my wife and I made the final decision to get divorced. It’s been a very long time coming, especially with these last two years living apart, still not one hundred percent sure. We both still love each other very much and perhaps that is part of what has made it so difficult to face. Neither of us wants to hurt the other or see the other hurt. Probably if we hated one another breaking up would be so much easier. We don’t hate each other, though, and never could. But for so long now we have coexisted with no real communication and no sense of being a man and woman together and no plans or goals whatsoever, the breakup was inevitable. And probably better for both of us. When we sat talking together last weekend we both openly hoped the other would find a partner so that neither of us would end up alone. I guess this is a different kind of love, one that let’s one another go without jealously guarding the bond.
Reaching forty eight has opened my eyes to the passage of time. And little of it there is left. I realized on the morning of my birthday that there weren’t many breaths like that to go and that each one of them was precious from now on. Maybe that is why the whole birthday was so peaceful and full of joy, and for those moments I was very aware of how special every single detail of being alive was, that nothing was wasted or insignificant. It didn’t really matter if I was standing on top of a mountain or lying in a bed somewhere, all of the different manifestations of living held a complete mandala of time all its own, and it was perhaps my responsibility to recognize the preciousness in whatever situation I found myself in. As the younger years fall away behind me surely there must be value in what I have learned so far? Perhaps that being alive, loving someone, and being loved, are all that really matter.
I can wait. Wait for her, wait for a daughter’s trust to flower, wait through the night for the dawn to come, wait for whatever I thought I knew about myself. Even wait for my wife to gather up the courage to say good bye. It no longer matters what I think or what I want things to be, what matters is that the ones I love are safe, that I can see why the dawn is so beautiful, and that, when all is done, I can admit that I really didn’t matter at all, that none of it was ever about me.
21 replies on “I Am Forty Eight”
Oh, happy birthday, dear Butuki! I’ve been worrying about you and so was glad to see this post today, and especially to hear the news of the past few months. I wish all of you every happiness and hope things will work out with the woman you love, but mostly I wish you the peace that comes across in your last paragraph, knowing from my own experience how it comes and goes and how much I wish I could always feel that composed, serene, and grateful. A big birthday hug is winging your way from snowy Montreal!
I’ve been wondering, too. It’s good to hear your words and see your photos again. I am a little envious of your new-found love even though I know exactly how much heart-ache that can entail. I hope it works out.
Happy birthday, Butuki! So glad to read your words here and know how you are doing. Heart-ache and happiness do often seem to go hand in hand, so my wish for you is that all will work out well for both you and your new loved one.
Happy birthday, Miguel! I don’t know what else to say, other than to offer my very best wishes that the future brings what you most need. (And that it brings a visit to Aotearoa ;^))
Wow. This is beautiful. What everyone else said. Happy belated birthday – I hope this turns out to be a wonderful year.
Oh Miguel, I am happy for you on so many different levels. Bestest, most wonderfulest birthday hugs and wishes to you! I hope that love continues to flower for your.
First off Yumiko. and I finally spoke this evening. She asked me to call her at her office and we spoke for an hour. Everything worked out! We’re both going to try to coax this relationship into flowering and do what we can to develop a good, strong base of trust between us. I can’t tell you how relieved I am and how wonderful it feels and how beautiful she sounded on the phone! I still can hardly believe it! She really wants me! And life really does sometimes turn where you hoped it would…
It’s good to see all my good old friends here. I missed all of you. I’m so sorry for my long (again) absence.
Beth, it is good to see you again, too. Though we have never met I still feel that you and the others here are some of my best friends. Sometimes I don’t show it as well as I should. But I do think of you often. The last paragraph I was able to write because that’s how Y. makes me feel.
Dave, I’m envious of you almost all the time, so I was surprised to hear you say you were envious of me. I met Yumiko online, you know, on “JapanCupid.com”. I never would have expected to meet anyone online, but there were some really wonderful women there with a lot of intelligent conversation and when I saw Yumiko somehow I knew she was the one and she knew I was the one. A lot of the women there live in the States. Why don’t you give it a try?
Marja-Leena, sometimes I wish the heartache wasn’t quite so harsh! Though I guess if it didn’t hurt so much the love wouldn’t grow quite as large, right?
Pete, I will most definitely go to New Zealand to visit… hopefully Yumiko will join me. She’s fallen in love with hiking, so you never know!
Leslee, I really hope so, too. I could really use a break right about now…
Rana, your coming back for this visit makes me feel that this old blog has got some mighty fine old friends! I have to get back to you about the collaboration project. Don’t want to waste too much time procrastinating, yes?
Shawna! I think this is the first time you’ve commented here. So good to see you where I am myself. I miss you. How are the pooches? (^J^)/”
Glad to hear from you, and Happy Birthday!
I hope all works out well for you…
Happy Birthday, mate. Glad to hear the students are capable of some compassion and warmth once in a while. Not all of them mouth-breathing, bottom-feeders.
Life over here has been great since the great è„±å‡º from the ã‚¤ãƒ³ãƒã‚å¤§å¦.
Pascale, Great to hear from you, too. Thanks for the birthday wishes.
Ab Normal, I can only assume this is either J.P. or J. the former ã‚¤ãƒ³ãƒã‚å¤§å¦ student. I’ve been finding that the students are quite compassionate on a personal level, even some of the ones you feel may have given up on being human. I’m getting ready for my own great è„±å‡ºã€sooner than most would think.
Dear Miguel, wishing you a belated birthday and all happiness with your new love! Miss you and was a bit worried not hearing anything of you. sending warm hugs you way!
Butuki, peace and big hugs to you. You deserve happiness and I’m glad to hear it is coming your way.
Good to read you again.
hello, have been holding off on commenting, because it was such a personal posting but really hope that things will go well for you from here.
Hi Lisa, I really miss you, too. I wish we could see each other now and again. It’s too bad that all my closest and oldest friends live so far away…
Pica, thanks for that. It’s been too many years of things not going right. I’m exhausted. Just hope that Yumiko can hang in there… she’s having a hard time.
J. A. (Sarsparilla) I figured that was you the other day. Who else would know about the ã‚¤ãƒ³ãƒã‚å¤§å¦ï¼Ÿ Hope your holiday season is warm and enjoyable.
Catofstripes, welcome. I’m always torn between writing about personal things or keeping it more detached. One of the reasons I didn’t write for such a long time is because so much of what I was seeing and feeling were intensely personal and emotional and I just wasn’t up to sharing that with the big, wide world. On the other hand some of the people who read here and whose blogs I read have, over the years, become important friends whom I wouldn’t hesitate to spend time with in real life. So I feel bad about not posting for long periods. The friendships are more important, in some ways, than the posts themselves.
Belated Happy Birthday and Happy Holidays! I’ve been a bit worried about you after seeing no more posts and it’s great to see that you are doing well. It sounds like new doors are opening in your life as old ones are closing, so Good Luck and All The Best for 2009!
About the age thing… yeah, I think we all realize how few breaths are left at some point in our lives, usually way later than we should have. But for me at the end it’s all good. We live, we learn, we move on.
Enjoying every day and seeing the opportunities where other people only see problems are the two things I’ve learned up to now to be truths. Doesn’t sound like much, but I see it as progress. 🙂
Thomas, it is always good to see you and hear your wise words and way of looking at life. Your advice to enjoy every day and see opportunities where other people see only problems is something to keep reminding myself of. Like what a friend keeps reminding me of: “If you don’t ask, the answer is always ‘No.’ ”
Happy Holidays and all the best for 2009 for you, too!
Omedeto gozaimasu for both things. I agree that family life will be a real blessing for you and hope it all leads to bliss. And wishes for a fun New Year now and a happy and healthy year ahead.
Somehow I missed this post first time round – the danger of relying too much on an RSS reader and having posts scroll off the bottom of the list. Now your more recent post fits into place. Would it make sense to you if I say I get a feeling of your homecoming from reading both of these posts? Anyway, an extremely belated Happy Birthday to you!
As I’m catching up with old friends, let me add my belated Happy Birthday to the mix. Again, your writing stirs memories of excellence, with such simple phrases as “reality held its end of the bargain” and “living held a complete mandala of time” and “gather up the courage to say good bye”. These little bits and pieces of perfection wind their way into my brain and sit and stay awhile. Today as I navigate an otherwise-mundane work day, I’ll be noticing when reality is set upon keeping its end of the bargain, or how every moment includes a complete mandala of time, and I’ll especially try gathering up my own courage to say goodbye.
Thanks for leaving these jewels in my path. You and your 48 years will be in my thoughts today. With my 50 years behind me, and my eye on how others are using their time, it is a real boost to have your fresh perspective as my focus today.
Mandala of time. How beautiful. What colors will I blend today, and what pattern will emerge?