Saturday, April 14, 2012

Day 105: One Month From 50: Don't Pop My Red Balloon

Today is April 14, yet again, my calendar reading skills are impressive I know. What that means is that my 50th birthday is now exactly one month away. And, as it gets closer, I still find it hard to believe that this milestone is happening, even though I am writing about it almost every day.

I know it is just a number, but as with each birthday I have had in the past, it is the biggest number I have ever faced. There's that, and there's also what happens to me when people say, "oh, you are going to be half a century." There's really no way that people can convince me that doesn't sound old. When I hear that, it's like they have popped my Red Balloon. For those who know me really well, you know how much the Red Balloon means to me.

Pascal and his one true friend, Le Ballon rouge
I also think it's because when you are young, say 18, 21, 25 and even 30, you have this preconceived notion of what somebody at 50 should be like, or what your life will be like at 50. Even writing that sentence makes me realize how ridiculous that sounds. How the hell can you even begin to think you will know that? Ah, the arrogance of youth. Sometimes I miss it in myself, always thinking you know what's best, always thinking you know what's going to happen or that you can control it, and thinking you are immortal.

The thing that I find the most surprising is how wrong my ideas about myself at age 50 were. Not just a little wrong, but big time wrong. And, I was wrong in a good way. That's not to say that some really horrible things haven't happened to me, some that I could never have imagined happening. But, what I was wrong about is that in spite of them happening to me, I am still not only here, but I still have hope for the future and my passion for life is not gone, far from it. There are still so many things I am learning, I am discovering, and I still can't wait each day to find out what they will be.

To me, this surprise reminds me of the lesson of the Red Balloon. First, for those who haven't seen this gem of a movie, see it! It is an incredibly moving story, at only about 30 minutes long, with virtually no dialogue. It tells the story of French schoolboy, Pascal, who finds a red balloon and soon, he realizes the balloon seems to have a mind of its own. It follows Pascal everywhere he goes through the streets of Paris, and they become inseparable. The balloon becomes his friend and he becomes a virtual outcast as he stands by his friend when he finds places and people who don't welcome his "friend." Throughout the film, other children want to steal the balloon and ultimately a gang of boys destroys the red balloon and leaves Pascal broken hearted, until the end of the film, when he is literally lifted up and carried away by a huge and colorful bouquet of pastel balloons of all colors and sizes.

Because there's really no dialogue, each person who sees it, interprets its story in their own way, but the main themes include friendship, love, tragedy and loss, death, comedy, redemption and renewal, hope, and even prejudice and jealousy.

For me, the main message is that even though it is frightening and hard, you can overcome tragedy and disaster, you can start over, and that there is always hope. It also speaks to me about the love between the two friends, and how, even though you can be heart-broken, you can find love again.

And, it was this movie (seeing it first at age 7 in the Anza Elementary School cafeteria) that made me want to go to Paris, which also speaks to me about the power of reaching your dreams no matter how long it takes. I finally got to Paris at age 32.

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