Saturday, March 8, 2008


I turned 50 years old yesterday.
Half a century.
Officially not-young.
Old fart.
Closer to death than birth.
Supposed to be wise by now.
Full of remorse for choices made and not made.
Feeling like I should be more grateful because I'm not dead, imprisoned, infirm or insane.

For most of the day I just wanted to bang two heads together, 3-Stooges style, and I wasn't particular who they belonged to. My family knew enough to soft-pedal the whole celebration thing. After all, I didn't have much to do with being born on this particular day, and lots of hoopla about it feels like one of those "participation trophies" my kids get for playing on a sports team.

So we went to dinner and I remained melancholy. Afterwards I figured the best thing would be to "get outside of myself" so I decided to go to a National Peace Witness prayer service and peace vigil being held at a nearby church that I had read about. However, I dicked around and got there after the prayer service had already ended. A group of about 25 people were standing at the corner of Scott Boulevard and Medlock Road holding candles that kept blowing out in the sharp wind gusts that kept whipping up, milling about in the dark while holding a basically unreadable sign pointed toward the direction of a stop light.

After mulling around at the back of this earnest but ultimately pitiful group for a couple of minutes I sidled away and slipped into the church itself. Nobody else was around so I had about 15 minutes by myself to hold my own peace vigil. I reflected on Lao Tzu's dictum that:

“If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.

If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.

If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbors.

If there is to be peace between neighbors,
There must be peace in the home.

If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.”
How could I feel peace amid the personal turmoil of my narcissistic ego? I began crying. I went through despair, shame, self-loathing, sadness, sorrow, remorse, anger. I found myself staying with the word "appalled". I'm appalled at this world. I was thinking of the deplorable condition in Gaza and reflecting that I could just as well be thinking of Iraq, Kenya, Darfur, and on and on, and how I do so very little about any of man's deplorable inhumanity to man. This makes me complicit, which appalls me further. I sat wishing I could devote the rest of my life to peace, but I know that dedication would ultimately prove to be idle words.

Then people started wandering back into the church and I turned myself invisible and floated unseen across the room and through the walls to re-assume form on the sidewalk outside, then into my car to get juice for the kids from the store.

Throughout the day I'd left messages with various friends checking in my complex and essentially negative feelings. A few returned my calls: nobody judged my feelings, everybody offered support in the ways they knew how, and I felt comforted. I came home, climbed into bed and watched the 1957 French film "A Man Escaped", the "true tale of a French prisoner and his single-minded determination to escape from a Nazi prison cell in occupied France during World War II." I guess there's something highly symbolic about me deciding on my 50th birthday to watch a film about a prison break told a language I don't understand and brought into the world at almost exactly the same time I was. I'll leave it to my biographers to decipher the meaning in that.

Happy birthday to me.
I live in a tree.
I guess I'll keep going.
There's nowhere to flee.


Angela said...

50 things to love about my friend Billy.
He is:
a good friend
a good father
a good husband
insightful--you're reading the blog, right?
a lover of quotes
creative--ask him about what they did with their old house before it was torn down
an advocate--every girl or boy would want him in their corner
an animal lover
a cowboy--"come and get your shoe, I dare ya"
a counselor
simple--in all the good ways, not playing a banjo in the woods ways
lucky--every heard about lost in the wilderness in 1979?
one who gives back
an environmentalist
tall, well he is
a reader
thoughtful--love my reggae floyd
non judgemental
full of whimsy
a nature lover
not afraid to wear a kilt
a halloween prankster
a good listener

see, 50 can be good. happy birthday.

Anonymous said...

"I sat wishing I could devote the rest of my life to peace, but I know that dedication would ultimately prove to be idle words."

Oh how wrong you are. Your devotion to your craft has lead to my personal peace and I know that I am not alone. I would hate to have tackled my demons without your guidance and know that I am a better person because of my chance encounter and then long relationship with you. You are a true healer and friend and all the other wonderful things shared by Angela. God truly knew what he was doing when you were made. Jannet

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday

Anonymous said...

Bill - you've touched so many lives in ways you don't even know. Kinda like that pebble that plunks into the water and sends out all those rings. A whole bunch of us have been changed (like we're still on the planet) because you were born 50 years ago. Besides, knowing you gives me the chance to drop into conversation every way I know how that I personally know a guy who wears a kilt. Happy Birthday...Billy. Dale