How did I get here?

by Pari

A friend of mine is going to turn 60 in April. I asked her how she felt about that and she said, "Pari, I’ve survived ovarian cancer for seven years now. I’m just glad I’ve made it this far."

But I’m feeling like David Byrne right now. You know the song, Once in a lifetime, with its famous question (it’s the title of this post).

And then there’s the cartoon on p. 52 of The New Yorker today. The one with the mayfly looking at himself in the bathroom mirror, despair writ large on his little face. He says, "I’ve got a wife, kids, a career — Jesus! I’m twelve hours old! How did this happen to me?"

Boy, can I relate. For the last few months, I’ve been staring mortality in the face. She’s got too many wrinkles, a hairy wart on her left cheek, and a wicked grin.

Yeah, sure, we never really know when we’re gong to die (unless we take it into our own hands). Still most of us avoid looking into that mirror unless we’re forced.

Enter birthdays that end in 0 . . .

When I turned 40, I could double the number of years I’d lived and imagine that an equal number awaited me. Or more! (Even though genetics aren’t in my favor in that regard . . . )

This week, in spite of the power of positive thinking, the math doesn’t work as nicely. When I face my age head-on, I get this lowdown, nasty, cramp-the-gut feeling. Damnit! I’m not gonna be here forever.

Enter distractions . . .

The day after tomorrow, I start a two-week period where I’ll be on the road 80% of the time. San Francisco, here I come! Denver, you’re looking mighty fine!

But a person can’t run forever; this birthday feels critical.

I want to take advantage of it, to live more intentionally.

What’s important? What isn’t?

I’m becoming lighter somehow, more willing to shed those activities, thoughts, goals, definitions and people that don’t deserve the mental/emotional real estate they’ve occupied in the past.

I’m redefining "success." Not "settling for less," but looking at the real value — at least for me, in my life. Fan letters suddenly mean more than reviews; there’s incredible satisfaction in knowing I’ve created a satisfying read.

I’m not as desperate to go traipsing around the country for every potential promotional opportunity; real relationships are the goal now. The old quality vs quantity question is a no-brainer.

I’m writing more than I ever have before, taking risks . . .

Who knows where any of our lives are heading? With this birthday, I’m finally old enough to realize that I don’t.

And, because of that, I’m paying more attention to today, to every day.


Next Monday, Steve Brewer will be guest blogging here at Murderati. He’s got a great post and I hope all y’all will make him feel welcome. 

21 thoughts on “How did I get here?

  1. Louise Ure

    Pari, you know how the French approach it?

    After a certain number of years it’s no longer a birthday (un jour de naissance); it’s a renaissance. And it sounds like you’re coming into yours.

    See you soon.

  2. JDRhoades

    4 coming up on 5. I just act like a twenty year old, which is not always a good thing. I believe the term is “arrested adolescent.”

    I like Louise’s idea. Next year, I’ll have a “renaissance.”

  3. Allison Brennan

    Okay, don’t hit me. I’m coming up to the 4. I know, I’m young, but not THAT young. Not with five kids.

    When I attend school events for my oldest daughter (14), I feel young. All the parents seem older than me (I had her when I was 24, certainly not TOO young!)

    When I attend school events or drop-off my youngest (3), I feel very, very old. ALL the moms are younger than me. I think, am I the only one who dyes their hair to cover the gray?

    One of my closest friends, who is a bit older than me, went to Disneyland when she turned 40. Brought her sisters and all their kids, got a big suite in the Disneyland Hotel, and just had fun. Since then, I look at the big changes as adventures.

    After I turned 30, I had a brief bout of depression. I had two kids, was pregnant with my third, was in a job I no longer loved, and hadn’t accomplished anything I had planned to. That’s when I seriously started writing.

    I’m looking forward to my next ephiphany at 40! (Which will probably be–why do I have teenagers when I still feel like a kid myself? Is God punishing me for something I don’t remember doing?)

  4. B.G. Ritts

    Ah, yes, those ‘0’ birthdays — but that’s only because we use a decimal numbering system. If we switched to hex, we’d only ‘worry’ about it every 16 years. At least as we get older, we acquire insight that we lacked when we were younger. But as a 6 (just passed), I notice that I don’t really think any differently, just understand some things that went unnoticed before.

    Have a lovely, happy birthday tomorrow, Pari!

  5. Fran

    Pari, we’ll raise a glass in Denver – along with Cornelia – and I’ll tell you both from the other side of 50 that life gets better, because we don’t have youthful hubris mucking things up, but the knowledge that “now” is to be enjoyed and savored! I’m loving being over 50, and I had a blast in my 40’s, so that’s no small thing!

  6. pari noskin taichert

    Allison,I’ve got my TKD punches ready!

    I can tell you that 40 is different from 50. As I say in the post, I was fine with the math then. But . . .

    So much of this is your mental age anyway. I’m stuck in my mid 30s with that and happily so.

  7. pari noskin taichert

    B.G.I like that hex approach. Thinking in terms of 16s. Wow.

    Thank you for the kind birthday wishes. They mean a lot.

    Tomorrow I’ll be so busy trying to get ready for my trip to the Bay area that I won’t have time to feel sorry for myself.

  8. a Paperback Writer

    Oh yes, bravo. A Renaissance. I like that one.I liked 40 much better than 35. My 35th b-day came one month after my husband had left a 14-year marriage to find a younger woman. My 40th came just as I was finishing up my masters degree and living in Scotland. No contest.I hope I’m doing something even better when I get to 45.Happy birthday, Pari. 🙂

  9. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Beeg has the perfect solution.

    Pari, of course you’re a Pisces! I knew that. Happy Birthday!!!

    I was stuck in airport hell on mine but with four conventions coming up I will be able to do more celebrating than I can handle. We can have a Piscean drink in Denver.

  10. D.A. Davenport

    Pari, Happy Birthday! I’d love to buy you a drink in Denver as well.Each decade just gets better and hitting the 50’s means freedom. From the things that drained you when you are younger like PMS and convention.Trust me, you are going to love them. Those crowsfeet and silver strands are a passport to getting away with murder.

  11. Zoe Sharp

    Pari – please accept birthday wishes no less sincere for being slightly belated.

    Just remember that while growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional.

    At the supermarket I still jump on the empty shopping cart to ride it back to the stack. I hope I’m still doing so for many years.

    Health, luck and happiness!

  12. pari noskin taichert

    Paperback,Thank you for the birthday wishes.

    Actually 45 was good for me, but my sister turned 50 then — and, as she reminded me last night — I started flipping out about my current bday then. So, it’s good to be here and be done with it.

  13. runliarun

    It is too late for a happy birthday, but the right time you wish you a wonderful year, full of adventure and authenticity. It is our culture that fosters angst about mortality, defining death as scary and old age as undesirable. Societies we call primitive have a deeper understanding of plenitude by accepting death and aging as part of life.

    The earth evolved around the sun fifty times since you were born – it’s cause for celebration. I wish I could have bought you that drink in Denver too.


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