I remember when you turned 200.  It wasn’t all that long ago.  237 doesn’t look bad on you.  Okay, it’s not 200 but the last three and a half decades have been quite the roller coaster ride for you. You sure do live life at a frenzied, passionate pace don’t you!

I am writing as a Canadian but not as a critical Canadian.  I have lived next door for 57 years so I have seen you at your best over the years.  You really are a wonderful neighbour.  My daughter married one of your citizens and now resides with you and is raising one of our grandchildren in your country.  (He’s a born Tennessean but carries a dual identity through his mom.  At given times he’s a proud American but in the hot days of July when he visits us in Canada for sake of heat relief, he likes the idea of being a Canadian).  I went to graduate school in your country and received one of the finest educations a person could receive.  No regrets.

So, congrats on your birthday.

How are you feeling about the day? Birthdays are great celebrations.  Usually they are times of looking back and smiling about all the stuff that has gone on.  Cards pour in and make statements about how “old you are”.  Or they point out “the perils of getting older”.  If you were a kid, there’d be balloons and cake and fireworks.   What’s that you say?  There will be balloons and cards and fireworks?  Okay, well, good on you for not losing your childhood completely!

How about the days ahead?  Sometimes at key birthdays the emphasis is on the days ahead.  Getting ready for college?  Thinking about being a “mature person”.  Getting closer to retirement.  A lot of those designations don’t fit very well with a nation, but it is still a good thing to do.

I don’t see you going away in the next 100 years.  Things may change from a divine perspective but unless the Second Coming intervenes, I think there will be a United States of America in the years ahead.  But you are in an awkward spot aren’t you…not really young, and not really old either.  If anything, I think you could build a case for being “middle aged” as a  nation.

I work with people a lot and you’d be surprised at the number of people I talk with who are just like you.  They are not young any more, but they are not old either.  Middle aged is a wobbly zone.  I usually give them some advice and encourage them to “keep going”.  We work through things like—

1.  figure out who you are, and be strong in it.  I say things like –“You aren’t a kid, and you aren’t a senior citizen.  Right now is when you are most alive and solid.  Be who you are.”  Don’t be foolish in thinking you are still not there yet.  You are there!   Be strong in it.

2.  Live in your areas of strength and be careful of getting caught in your zones of weakness.  We all have them–strengths and weakness.  Life is too short and energy is too limited to fight to master everything.  Figure out your strengths and weakness and try to live at least 75-80% of life in areas you are good at.  And when you are in a weak zone, admit it.  We all know it about ourselves we are just afraid to admit it.

3.  Realize that life has changed from when you were a child/teenager.  Yes, it has.  It won’t go back there.  But at the same time, it’s still changing.  And the pace will actually accelerate.  Ouch.  So, learn to live with the slight level of instability that change seems to bring.  Be strong on the inside and flexible on the outside.

4.  Friends are really important.  I hope you have a few.  By friends I mean 2 or 3 or 4 mates that you can sit down with, talk about everything, get good feedback from, help them…and just enjoy the time without worrying “if they have my back”.  Good friends are good things.  Bad friends are…well, you can fill that in.

5.  Don’t neglect your soul.  It’s that piece of you that is connected to everything and often neglected in everything.  It’s the part that houses your feelings and emotions.  Your deep beliefs.  Check in on it everyonce in a while.  Find a good church and attend there.  It’s therapeutic.  Don’t let anger or reactivity over rule what you know to be true in your soul.

6.  Be strong, and be gentle.  I think we get the two opposite poles either confused or intermingled and it becomes confusing to us and to others around us.  It’s a discipline but that’s okay, you are at an age and stage in life when you can actually be self-disciplined.   Self discipline is the last virtue to be attained and often the first to go when stress hits us.  But you can do it.

I’ve enjoyed having you as my neighbour over the last half century.  We are better off having you there than any other nation in the world.  I know you’ve had some stressful times in the last 20 years or so and as a result it’s a bit tighter getting into your country.  Thanks for still letting me in!  You could get really anxious and just shut everybody out but that wouldn’t be good for anyone in the long run.

At the same time, feel free to come on up and visit us.  We are your half siblings to the north.  We share the same mom. We are a little different than you are but different isn’t better, it isn’t worse.  It’s just different.  You’ll need to leave your firearms at home.  You’ll have to figure out the metric system for speed and climate.  But we use dollars, and for the most part, “a dollar is a dollar” right now.  We’ve got some of the finest scenery you’ll ever see…and I think you’ll find Canadians to be some very nice people.  Treat us how you’d like to be treated and I think you’ll find we’ll treat you quite nicely.

Happy birthday Uncle Sam!