46, a day late

I look at my life and find myself calculating that, if my own life stretches as long as my great-grandmother’s did, I’m not even middle-aged yet. If I go by actuarial tables, I’m well into middle age. And if I accept the realities of the unpredicability of the universe, it could all be over tomorrow.

I enjoyed the scuppernongs this year, and the Concord grapes, though the watermelons completely passed me by. I found my way to good tomatoes and asparagus in season, and apple pie. I have enjoyed the comfort of the movement of light through my office window, and have found the value of faith in watching my adult children struggling with their lives, experiencing in the last year both their first real, independent failures, and their first real, independent triumphs. I have enjoyed the companionship and growth of my younger child, and have grown to appreciate more than ever my husband.

I found as much comfort and help in mowing the lawn as ever—the sweet scent of cut grass and the endless back-and-forth rhythm of the mowing continues to provide me with inspiration for both writing and life.

I started my own little private-enterprise bookstore, and am pleased at how well it has been received.

I said goodbye to one genre, and hello to a new one.

I dissected my processes of creating characters and creating languages, both challenging intellectual exercises. I rediscovered knitting, and struggled from dreadfully unacceptable work to creating pieces that I’m not embarrassed to give away.

I got news that I’ll be a grandmother, though actually being a grandmother is going to take some time yet.

I’ve watched the larger world moving in ugly directions, too; I cannot say that the year has been a comforting one, because I read history and I watch the present, and I see the future. Or at least one future, and one that looks ever less possible to avert.

At forty-six, I am much less willing to see the virtues in universal and unquestioning tolerance, and much more willing to fight for the right to use intelligence and facts to be discriminating in what I tolerate. Not everyone is good, not everyone means well, and while I still believe that most people are decent most of the time, I’m warier than I was when I was younger. Life has demonstrated to me that wariness has great survival value.

But in the end, I return to a truth that even in the midst of gathering darkness gives me direction:

Know that joy is rarer, more difficult, and more beautiful than sadness. Once you make this all-important discovery, you must embrace joy as a moral obligation. — André Gide

I will be joyful. There is still good in the world.

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About the author: Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and indie-publish my new ones.

19 comments… add one
  • Gabriele Oct 11, 2006 @ 11:03

    Argh, that should be: may many good years lie ahead.

    *switches brain into English mode*

  • Gabriele Oct 11, 2006 @ 10:59

    Zum Geburtstag viel Glück …

    Which is sung to the melody, Happy Birthday to You -if you don’t get a knot in your tongue, that is. *grin*

    May many good years lie before you.

  • Jim Oct 10, 2006 @ 14:54


    I had somehow missed that you shared my grandmother’s birthday, only a day before my mothers. 🙂

    May you have (OK, have had) a happy birthday and many returns of the day. May you always meet your goals!


  • Debbie Oct 10, 2006 @ 9:21

    Happy birthday!

  • JeriT Oct 10, 2006 @ 4:34

    Happy belated Birthday, Holly! It’s wonderful to read you so introspective and relaxed. Here’s wishing you many more of those birthdays!

  • Cuyler Oct 9, 2006 @ 23:54

    Happy Birthday Holly!

    Only 17 here, 18 in May. I have a long life ahead of me, as long as WW3 holds off a little longer that is. Hope to fill it with writing, writing, and well, whatever fits my fancy.

    Happy birthday, and don’t think you old yet. You could be alot older.

  • joela Oct 9, 2006 @ 23:26

    Happy b-day! “Life would be perfect without people” 🙂

  • Rick Oct 9, 2006 @ 22:33

    Happy belated, Holly. I’m glad to hear that you’re doing well.

  • Jaye Patrick Oct 9, 2006 @ 20:33

    “True happiness is of a retired nature, and an enemy to pomp and noise; it arises, in the first place, from the enjoyment of one’s self, and in the next from the friendship and conversation of a few select companions.”
    Joseph Addison

    Thank you for another year of sharing your observations, thought-provoking arguments and ongoing assistance. May the next year be just as fruitful. Happy Birthday!

  • zette Oct 9, 2006 @ 17:01

    Ack. Missed your birthday!

    It sounds as though you haven’t had a bad year. There are things none of us can control going on out there — but for the rest, you seemed to have done well!

    Good luck with the next year!

  • hollylisle Oct 9, 2006 @ 15:22

    In the Allegory Contest, the books gotten right so far were Talyn and Fire in the Mist.

  • Chassit Oct 9, 2006 @ 14:32

    Happy Birthday, Holly! I’m glad you had a nice time with your guys.

  • shawna Oct 9, 2006 @ 13:33

    Oh, just out of curiousity… will you share which book(s) were gotten right by the people in the allegory contest? I know it doesn’t rule them out for the contest… but I’m curious.

  • S William Shaw Oct 9, 2006 @ 11:42

    Oncce I hit 40, I began to marvel at all of the things that have occured over the last 20 years.

  • shawna Oct 9, 2006 @ 11:34

    Happy Birthday!

    Didn’t realize your little guy was still so young— though I’m sure he doesn’t think so— funny how time seems to fly. I’d thought he was just a bit older then my oldest.

    Wondered where you were this weekend— quiet here— and hoped all was well… sounds like it was better then well, and I’m glad. 🙂 You deserve it.

  • PolarBear Oct 9, 2006 @ 11:21

    I’m more morally corrupt than I knew. Sigh. Happy birthday.

  • hollylisle Oct 9, 2006 @ 11:01

    It was yesterday, and a very nice birthday. Thanks. I took the entire weekend off and spent it with my guys.

    I do my birthday posts as numbers. 45 was a birthday no-show—I posted on the blog, but I didn’t do a birthday post. 44 was meh as posts go. 43, so-so. 42 made my favorite posts list. And I hadn’t yet started the blog in time for 41.

  • Monica Oct 9, 2006 @ 10:51

    I just turned 47 a couple of weeks ago and still marvel at the big number. Dang. Grandkids are decades away for me, and I only have one, so who knows what she’ll decide to do with her life. If I get them, I hope I won’t be too old to enjoy them.

  • The English Rose Oct 9, 2006 @ 10:29

    … happy birthday? 🙂

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