Today I’m 50 – Now What? Maybe Write a Book!

I recall as a kid being really excited about birthdays. What was not to love? My friends and family made a big deal out the fact that on that date some number of years before, I made my exit from one environment into another. I was the center of attention on that day each year. There were presents, there was cash, there were games, there was singing, and best of all, there was cake. Let them eat cake! What a great thing.

At some point in my adolescence I stopped getting so excited about birthdays. As an adult I observed the annual ritual with indifference as the various milestones clicked past like so many center stripes on a long road trip.

  • At 30 I remember feeling like a “real” adult.
  • At 40 I felt like I had gained some wisdom.
  • Now that I am 50, what do I think? What am I feeling?

According to the United Nations, the average life expectancy of an American male is 75.6 years. What does this mean to me?

  • The hypochondriac in me says that there are a lot of things that will probably get me well before 75.6.
  • The optimist in me says that I will live to be 100.
  • The realist in me says that this means I only have around 25.6 years left. Unless, of course, the Mayans are right (but that’s another story).

Which will it be? I have no crystal ball, so I have no idea. I am not losing sleep over it, either.

I began this blog on July 20,2010 with an initial post on narrative. Before now I have never promoted the blog. I have told a few people about it, and a few more have stumbled upon it, but I have not sought widespread readership. In the past 20 months I have written on a variety of topics all revolving around the idea that all people should be working on a story that looks forward, into the future. I call it a Forward Story.

As I celebrate my half century on the planet today I am taking the wraps off my plan to publish my first book in 2012 entitled Forward Story. While I have been sporadically writing the blog, I have also been working on the book. In writing style the book will be specifically targeted to young people up to their mid-20s, but it will have something to say to all of us, including those 50 and above. The fact is that regardless of your age, you need to have a story for where you are headed. Writing the book Forward Story has been a part of my personal Forward Story for a while now. This is the year to launch it.

This website will be the primary place to keep informed about the book. Feel free to subscribe to the RSS feed or otherwise bookmark forwardstory.com. You can also follow us on twitter at www.twitter.com/forward_story The exact timeframe for publication is not set, but I am committed to publication before the end of the year. In the meantime, feel free to poke around the site and join in the conversation.

Regardless of how many candles you will find on your cake this year, I hope you are writing a beautiful and meaningful Forward Story. Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.

An Update: It took a lot longer than I hoped, but the book has arrived. You can get your copy here:


Forward Story: Write the Future You Desire

 

The King and the Pawn

Before the game is over there are a lot of differences between the king and the pawn, but as the old Italian proverb says:

And once the game is over, the king and the pawn go back in the same box.

That is some philosophical fodder to contemplate on this day that Prince William and Catherine Middleton marry in an amazing spectacle. Their wedding was very different from mine. William’s life is very different from mine. However, when it is all over, we both go into the box.

What I take from this fact is that both William and I can matter on this side of the box if we live in a way that makes a difference. How should we then live?

Exactly.

That is what having a Forward Story is all about.

Best wishes to the royal couple and to all of the pawns who will bind their lives together this weekend.

Terminal

Today my son gave me the crushing news that one of his best friends just learned that his father has been diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gherig’s Disease). This news hit me like a ton of bricks. I know his father. I admire his father. I really like his father. He has two kids in college and two younger kids that really rely on their father. This news was different than the news of cancer or other diseases because of the prognosis. Cancer and heart disease carry with them a certain measure of hope. ALS is always fatal, ultimately.

In other words, he has a “terminal illness.” I started thinking about that phrase: TERMINAL ILLNESS. We treat that phrase with so much trepidation because we dread the idea of having an illness that is terminal. Surely we realize, though, that we all have a terminal condition. It is called humanness. None of us are getting out of this thing alive. We are mortal.

In this blog we are focused on the future and on developing a powerful forward story. How do you develop a forward story when ALS is the diagnosis? Let me rephrase the question: How do you develop a forward story when you have a terminal condition?

Don’t forget, we all do.

Some illnesses carry with them a generally accepted range of life expectancy. A person with ALS has a better idea of how much time they may have left. Those of us with the terminal illness of humanness just live like we are not terminal and like we are not dying. I am really not trying to be morbid, but I am trying to be realistic.

The task before all of us is to develop a forward story while knowing we have a terminal condition. We don’t like to look our mortality in the face. We find ways to avoid the topic. One of the responsibilities we all have is to grow up and to embrace adulthood. Living with the understanding that we are mortal and terminal is a requirement of adulthood. Becoming an adult requires honesty. Honesty demands that we face the fact that we will die.

Each six months or so I update my personal Forward Story. Some call this a Life Plan. It is a look at what I plan for my future to include and be. In order to remind myself of my own mortality, I begin each new version of my Forward Story with the following disclaimer:

The purpose of this Forward Story is not to predict the future. I have lived long enough now to understand that the future cannot be predicted. Part of the excitement and challenge of life is responding to unforeseen events. The various time horizons detailed here are not intended to imply that I believe that my life will continue for any specific length. I am aware of the fact that life is “even a mist” and that my life could end at any time. This is a fact of life. I also trust in God’s providence and plan for me. Hopefully my plans are consistent with His will for my life. This story is a snapshot of my vision for the future at this particular point in time. By definition it will change with the seasons of life and the circumstances I encounter. My reason for maintaining a Forward Story is to ensure that I do not simply wander through life aimlessly and look back one day as an old man disappointed in my lack of purpose and contribution to my family and to my world.

As we go along I will further develop some of the ideas expressed in this disclaimer. For now, the main point is that I do not know how long I will live. The fact that I write a Forward Story doesn’t mean that I have any idea how long I will live. It simply means that I plan to live in a purposeful way.

My friend with ALS has a Forward Story. He planned well for his family with life insurance, and he has provided for them in other important ways. He will continue to enjoy his life and his family as he faces his disease and his future. He is also a person of faith who has a Forward Story he is relying on that extends beyond this human reality.

As I write and maintain my personal Forward Story, I will always remember that I am terminal. How about you?