|Picture courtesy of Dan Cloake, an Officer of the Law|
And so it was that the fourth decade ended and the fifth began!
Yesterday was my birthday. It wasn't just any old birthday - oh no. It was my fortieth birthday. Some say that life begins. Others would say that it is all downhill (if the cards are anything to go by).
These 'big birthdays' are a timely moment for pause and reflection. I stopped to think what I was doing as I lurched into my thirties - a day that felt like it was a week ago. Then I was peddling my wares in a West London carpet shop and doing alright with that. I was already married (and had been for five years by then) to the Fragrant Yet Rarely Smelly Mrs Acular (whom I saw a day a fortnight due to working arrangements). We were living as a couple in Sussex and I trudged to work daily through a ninety-minute-plus commute. All my hair was brown, I was in debt up to my nostrils, drove a fast car that I didn't own, in a house I borrowed and with as much sleep as I needed on my days off. Priestly ministry was a pipe-dream-calling that seemed an unlikely matter never destined to be fulfilled. I had stopped going to church because of the work I did and the hours it demanded of me.
This time around, I am forty and the browns are giving way to the whites and the silver. I am the good side of the lengthy process that means I am undertaking the ministry I was created and born to do. I am a priest in God's Church. I am working in such a good parish setting that I truly wouldn't wish to be anywhere else right now (sincerely). I am blessed with two perfect and wonderful children who do more to make me happy than any humans could ever hope to do - and they don't even try. My amazing soul-mate and wife is still by my side and we now even manage to get a day together in the week. I have gathered more wonderful and generous friends. I feel like I have settled in to my own life for the first time and can, for the first time since I started working, not worry about the next house move, job move, or role-shift. I can finally dedicate myself to what I am and to what I do, and do justice to the short moments that I call my life.
So, I am forty. I am a decade light of life compared to that moment what I flicked thirty. However, I busked my way through that decade hoping for something more at every stage. I was on my way to a place I didn't know and couldn't see and I spent more of that decade wishing myself away from where I was than to remain where I found myself. Now, I have it all. I lack for nothing. I can truly and honestly say, without pathos or drama, that if it came to an end for me tomorrow I could not ache for the things I didn't have or do. The only ache would be for not having more of the same.
Happy birthday to me.