The big day is here at last! Today, I am 54 years old. I don’t feel any older, but the calendar indicates that I have to acknowledge another year has passed in my life. Time always has its way with us, no matter how we measure it.
I reflect on this day. I see vaguely into my past and never thought about what it would be like to be 54 years old. It always seemed that things like this were sometime in the far distant future, and yet here I sit writing about it as it is happening to me. I am not sad about this birthday; it signals that I have made it through another year.
Today also marks a milestone in my relationship with Hal. Since we just celebrated our 18th anniversary two weeks ago, I realize that I have been with Hal for 1/3 of my life. Knowing this comforts me more than anything else. I don’t know where I would be without Hal. I don’t know if I would still be alive without Hal. He is the most wonderful gift that I ever received.
When I thought of my 36th birthday in 2000, I was in a tough spot in my life. I had just met Hal, but there was no real indication that our relationship would last this long. I had my hopes that it would, tempered with a huge dose of cynicism about relationships in general. I remember drinking heavily to escape the loneliness that I felt at that time. For the first months of our time together, I felt like I needed alcohol to deal with the inevitable breakup that was bound to happen.
Something strange took place inside of me. I began to feel positive emotions again. I started to see opportunities rather than obstacles in my life. I began to be comfortable in my own skin, and my confidence returned. This was the confidence that came from within and not the false bravado that I wore like a shield for so long. I dared to feel happy and calm and relaxed. I accepted that someone loved me for who I was.
By the summer of 2000, I was a different and better man. I had stopped continually drinking without ever noticing it. Hal never bugged me about it. I was changing because I wanted to, not because I was forced. My unconscious choice to stop drinking saved my life, and I thank Hal. I found the joy of living again and have never let it go.
The years since then have been fantastic and empowering for me. Hal and I have gone through rough times, but we have never given up on one another. He is my soulmate.
Today I am 54 years old. Today I am here because of love and friendship from the most important person in the world.