Recycled Candles from When My Brother Turned 50

Happy Birthday

Taking in the platitudes that come at 50 and seizing the day.

I’m 50 today. I had lunch at a Jewish deli with my whole family. I surprised my kids and took them out of school. My brother, who’s two years older, asked me what I was doing for my birthday. I said, “Bagels with the family!” When my brother turned 50, he had a family dinner at the Forge, which is as expensive as it sounds. He also had three or four parties. I’m not sure the exact number because I wasn’t invited to all of them.

So many people asked me what I was doing for my 50th, it took all my wits not to panic. Your 50th comes with more pressure than New Year’s Eve. All New Year’s Eves. At least mine did. I get it, I’m half a century old. I should celebrate. Or should I write my will?

Three people reminded me today that I have less life ahead of me than behind. Apparently, one of those uplifting guru people, I think it’s Marianne Williamson is famous for saying something about how at 50 we’re closer to death.

How is this uplifting?

I went to her website to figure it out and right there on her homepage is a giant quote that says, “youth is over…you have one last chance to get it right…you might be feeling a bit depressed…”

I appreciate this hard truth approach. I have trouble with other guru types because the advice always comes off like a stupid and obnoxious platitude. Like,You’ll never be this young again. No duh. Or, Age is wisdom. It is. Or, Age is just a number. Right. But for me that number is 50, which is half a century.

I know I’m a lot younger than say, my mom, who I really felt for this afternoon when it occurred to me that her baby is 50. What a mind fuck. I know my mom is not hip on ageing. Get her started and she’ll go on about the bullshit double standards for older men verses women; the invisibility of older women; and her personal struggle with buying green bananas.

The author with her mom.

But today she seemed cool with her baby being 50. At least on the outside. At least, unlike several of my friends who beat me to 50, she didn’t mention the colonoscopy.

Here’s what I’m feeling. Old. Well, older. Of course, because I am older. Last year, on my birthday I felt older too, and older too, the year before.

But this year is a little different.

I got caught up on Twitter a few days ago and came across a quote by Ray Bradbury. “Write a short story every week. It’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.” This nugget is not a platitude.

I’m a slow writer. I want to write better. I want to write faster. And like Marianne Williamson says, I have one last chance to get it right. Because there’s no time like the present; because turning 50 is better than the alternative; and because you only live once, I’m going for it. This year, the year I turned 50, I’m going to write 50 essays in 50 weeks. (Gives me two weeks off.)

One down.