It has stopped now. It was set to count down the last months, days, hours, minutes and seconds before my 41st year of life had ended. It was set to remind me that "this too shall pass," all the trials in frailty and frustration combined in the year would ebb away as it reached 0000 00 00 00.
Now I'm 41. And, it has stopped. This year of my life has ended. There were times in this year that I felt like my life were ending. The pain was so excruciating at times that if the doctor had said I was dying, I would have been less than surprised. Pain's paradox is its intensity in the moment and the brevity of memory it carries. The suffering I felt is lost in abstraction, like describing the flu to the healthy.
Nothing changed on my 41st birthday. The heavens didn't open, I received no revelation, and a persistent cold actually made the day less--rather than more--clarifying. If anything, it was startling how unremarkable January 14th was. The clock was the only change of that day; I stared at it, ten zeroes long, as meaningless as the day itself.
The clock has stopped and I'm stuck at zero. What would it mean to leave it there at zero? It might remind me that ultimately my own life is a zero sum outcome. Alan Turing died in his 41st year, and maybe leaving it at zero is some odd homage to a life accomplished.
Is there a new date to set? Setting it a year away feels ominous, like the expectation that I will have once again looked for and not found something I simultaneously am sure I should seek and yet have no idea what it actually is. At 41, I occasionally find myself in a room, having forgotten what I was there to remember. A year at this age is a simple snap of the fingers; it's a blur of pseudo-memories in the speed lane of the forties.
Five years--age 45-- feels like some cliche where I'll have to buy a new car, a mistress, and maybe a dog. Age forty-five is unremarkable, an unnecessary layover on what should have been a nonstop flight, the journey more closely at its end than beginning.
Fifty, well fifty is an unfathomable distance. Can one really expect to make plans for ten years of life, an eighth of a typical lifetime? Even if I managed to make a ten year plan, I couldn't exactly chastise myself if I failed because it would be arriving late in the game and expecting it to start over in the 4th quarter. In full disclosure, fifty has a dread to it that feels slippery and dangerous. At 41, I can argue that my life is possibly half over. At fifty, it's undeniably closer to all zeroes.
Thus for now, the clock ceases its counting, unmoving, using up energy while useless. It is a part of this world, but its effect is nominal. It was designed with so much potential and hope; it's waiting to see its meaning realized.
Maybe the clock, maybe it should count up, rather than down.