|That's my cake. 37 candles. Count 'em.|
I knew I was getting older when I had a come to Jesus moment with my dental hygienist; a few weeks shy of my 37th birthday I rededicated my life to flossing. Once upon a time my crucial decisions hinged upon song lyrics or lines from literature. Now they are tempered by a desire to remain intact.
Words and art and music still motivate me, but now living long enough to see what motivates my son plays a role, too. If you’d told me as a teenager that I’d be amongst the first of my friends to get married and have a baby I would have cut my own hair and eaten it, instead of just cutting, bleaching and dreading it. I not only wanted to grow up to be a writer, I wanted to grow up to be a bitter, detached, maybe alcoholic, perhaps starving writer with no strings attached and no obligations to anyone.
Just prior to my Dorothy Parker years when I was still in the single digits, my friends and I played a game called “Fresh out of College” in which we acted out glamorous lives involving high heels, convertibles, boyfriends and, most importantly, unchecked freedom. More often than “eat your vegetables” my mother said to me, “Don’t wish your life away,” encouraging me to slow down, breathe and enjoy the perks of childhood. I, however, wanted to manage my own life, one in which, if the spirit moved me, I could stay up all night eating candy. When I finally reached the magical age of Old Enough to Move Out, I didn’t stay up all night eating candy, but I did stay up all night doing everything else. Naturally, there was a price to pay—a debt I owed well into my twenties. Those experiences both shaped me and gave me a deep well to draw from. I don’t regret any of the detours I’ve taken along my path--- nor do I want to retrace them.
While my twenties were about taking the world apart, putting it back together, marrying a man, having a son and finding myself as a writer, my thirties have been about the marriage of writing and reality. But I’m not only uncovering the occasional pearl of wisdom, I’m unwinding sticky, tangled knots of red tape. A recent hallmark of maturity is my willingness to tackle tax returns, health insurance, a business license and the DMV--- God forbid all on the same day. My current goal is to dot the i’s and cross the t’s—while still trying to write a sentence worth reading.
I think it’s safe to say that integrating all of my selves will be a life long mission.
This week, my husband, excited that he remembered to take the trash to the curb on the right day was immediately besieged with shame for feeling excited that he remembered to take the trash out on the right day. Personally, I feel like Super Woman if I manage to return my library books on time. To be fair, early on, neither of us had overwhelming expectations for ourselves. By thirty, I thought I’d be divorced and homeless and he thought he’d be dead, so we’re in unimagined territory, accepting responsibility for lives we never thought we’d have. And it’s a beautiful, albeit, messy life.
I have younger friends that could run for president and older friends that could use a babysitter. Me, I’m both. I have a house, a family, a career and a beautiful community of friends and acquaintances but my husband didn’t give me the superhero name “Fatal Leap” for nothing. Ask me to balance my check book accurately or look at me funny and I need all the help I can get. In the midst of learning to balance the responsibility, the creativity, the beauty and the chaos, I still want to stay up all night eating candy. But before I go to bed, I’m going to brush—and floss-- my teeth.