Montage of photos of the number 56.

A montage of photos of the number 56, from the Flickr group No. 56

I turn 56 years old today. Two times twenty-eight.

If I live as long as my great-great-grandfather Than–97–then I still have 41 years left.

If I live as long as my father–84–then it’s just 28 years. Not tomorrow, but closer to the end than the beginning.

(It’s also the 20th anniversary of the first time I wrote about my birthday here).

Back in November, I posted this:

I’ve realized recently that the process of supporting Catherine through 6 years of living with, and ultimately dying from, cancer made me feel like I was 75 years old: all that time in hospitals and hospice, all that fragility, all that ever-closer end.

But I’m not 75 years old, I’m 55 years old. And getting a handle on that, and remembering how to do that, that’s a thing.

Now, 150 days later, I’m 56 years old, and I find myself in a lovely new relationship, I’m meeting new people, experiencing new things, I have a new spring in my step.

I’m looking forward more than backward, toward more than inward or outward.

At the same time, as I write, I feel surrounded by COVID, with new reports of positive cases marching ever-closer to home, and nary a day going by without a friend, or friend of a friend, declaring they’re isolating. Add that to the foot of snow that fell out of nowhere yesterday, to say nothing of the ongoing war in Ukraine, home to one quarter of my ancestors, and it’s a stressful, chaotic context to get a year older in.

In the midst of this, an insightful blog post from Rebecca Toh showed up in my feedreader:

These days I’ve been trying to change, but I’m also trying to be as gentle about it as possible.

Self-improvement can be insidious and a source of stress, because for many people, self-improvement is actually self-dislike in disguise. If we’re not careful, we can spend years on the self-improvement treadmill trying to reach our goals but feel utterly, utterly empty at the end.

There is simply no imaginary day in the bright future ahead when we’d wake up in the morning transformed, an ideal version of ourselves.

There is only transforming in the here and the now.

Which also means we have to do the work NOW and not tomorrow, but for us to truly transform, we have to do it with an attitude of non-striving, of not wanting to control the outcome exactly.

This is what I mean by trying to change, but also trying to be as gentle about it as possible.

I woke up this morning feeling groggy and a little out of sorts. The day was made brighter by the ones I love, and by friends old and new. 

There is simply no imaginary day in the bright future ahead when we’d wake up in the morning transformed, an ideal version of ourselves.

Today is the day.


Lisa's picture
Lisa on April 5, 2022 - 17:14 Permalink

Today IS the day. 🌺❤️

Krista-Lee Christensen's picture
Krista-Lee Chri... on April 5, 2022 - 18:38 Permalink

Happy birthday! Here's to getting better at doing life every day we keep doing it.

Thelma's picture
Thelma on April 5, 2022 - 19:09 Permalink

Happy Birthday, Peter! Best wishes for peace and happiness today and all the todays to come!

Andrea's picture
Andrea on April 5, 2022 - 20:43 Permalink

As always, wise words. Happy birthday to you, Peter! And many wishes for brighter days in the years ahead for you and yours.

Erin's picture
Erin on April 5, 2022 - 21:31 Permalink

Happiest of birthdays, Peter! So glad to hear that good things are afoot.❤️

Laurie Murphy 's picture
Laurie Murphy on April 5, 2022 - 21:48 Permalink

Happy birthday, Peter. I hope you had an amazingly wonderful day full of love. Ta, Laurie

Pedro Custodio's picture
Pedro Custodio on April 6, 2022 - 08:33 Permalink

Happy B'day my dear Peter, a strong hug from this far away corner! Hope you had a lovely day and that the year ahead been even more surprising :)

Remember to keep looking to the world with that own wonder, amazement, embracing the serendipity of the peculiar that you so well teach us:)