Some birthdays are more special than others. Ever hear someone say, “This is the Big One?” when you wish them a happy birthday? A Big One is a birthday where it’s driven home that your life has Changed. We don’t get a lot of birthdays like this. Sometimes when you’re 7, or 10, or 13 you get that special birthday when you go from being an extension of your family to an individual person, and then there’s one around 16, 18, 21 or so that tells you you’re officially an adult. There’s another Big One that can hit anywhere from 30 to 50 where you realize you’re entering into your Life, Act Two.
For me, the Big One happened on this year’s Black Friday (my birthday). It was my 40th, and I’ve been gearing up for it for a whole year. I’ve never been obsessed with youth or overly worried that my face or body will succumb to the cosmetic signs of aging. Not when the physical signs of aging seem happy enough to make me grateful for a morning where I wake up and my knees don’t creak in protest. And thanks to modern women’s undergarment technology, my boobs don’t drag on the ground or on my mind. I worry a little about my mind, but I’ve been doing that since I was a teenager, so that’s par for the course. So while I’ve noticed my joints creaking and the laugh lines getting deep enough to divert waterways, I haven’t been freaking out about it. What I’ve been freaking out about is the way society seems to forget women exist once we’re old enough not to be confused with jailbait.
Now, I’ve been struggling with this ever since I had kids (oldest is 11). Moms tend to disappear anyway, unless we’re being patronized about diapers, minivans, and mom-jeans. But I noticed that more than just moms tend to fade into the woodwork when we hit that “certain age.” It happens to guys, too. Men’s fashion is a pretty narrow thing to begin with, and it gets worse as you get older. A woman who dresses too young is desperate, a man who dresses too young is a douchecanoe.
My current WIP attempts to address that. Life, Act Two is a chance to redefine yourself and your place in the world. Not all of us handle it gracefully–hence the mid-life crisis. The Big One presents us with a choice: Our life is either already half over, or only half over.
But since very little that I do remains untouched by magic, laughter, or both, the main characters in my current WIP aren’t just confronting the Big One to redefine their lives, they’re redefining their reality.
The book–which as of yet has no good working title (everything I come up with sounds just so lame, but I rarely do find titles to my stories until they’re done)–is very close to my heart, and close to the nerves, too. I started work on it around Thanksgiving of last year–right after I released Forever Material. In the year I’ve been plotting, brainstorming, and drafting, I’ve been constantly surprised to discover parallels in my own life as I confront my own Act Two. I know I’ll never be able to include it all in one story, and that makes me sad because these characters I love so very, very much. Of course, it also makes me want to turn it into a series, which is not sad, but dangerous.
So on this Winter Solstice night, not-so-coincidentally the 40th birthday night of my WIP’s main, Jack, I wish you all the restful contemplation of the season, along with the return of the sun and the light and the opening of the Way Forward for you. May the next act of your year be one of great joy, much love, and abundant creative energy.