As I creep up on 41, I have learned a few things in this first year of my forties.
To begin with, I am a half and half girl. No more playing with cream or skim or anything else. It’s half and half in my coffee or I walk. I know it’s a small thing but honestly it’s a big deal to me. It means I know solidly where I stand on something and I’m confident about it. The forties feels like the beginning of knowing more things about myself.
I have also learned that I like being small and feeling small in the world. For someone who writes a lot of things all of the time and shares this information with many people, this is a strange reflection, yet nonetheless true. Small moments have become impossibly huge and special to me. A truly great hug from my son. A perfectly blue sky. A really great line in Harry Potter. The perfectly cheesed nacho chip. Small moments that sneak up on you when you least expect it like a tiny gift from the universe and offer themselves up asking nothing in return and no promise they’ll stay. Just the knowledge that all you have is this one great moment. I have been learning to appreciate where I’m already at.
My 40th year, or at least the beginning of it, was largely defined by what my family did not do. In my 40th year, my family did not move across the country to California. We almost did. We did all the things we would do if were going to move. Phil resigned and accepted a new position, and we begun the process to put the house up for sale, we had realtors on two coasts and began looking at schools. We bought non-refundable plane tickets. We told the kids, their teachers, our families, and all of their friends.
And then we didn’t do it.
The specifics around the exact why of that are complicated and personal, but at the end of the day we could be well with our choices because we knew that it just didn’t feel right. And that sometimes even if you’ve planned everything and everything on paper is set up to make something happen, the fact that it just doesn’t feel right is enough to walk away.
Up until 40, most of our adult lives had been defined by all of the big choices we had made separately and together. The jobs and graduate degrees we hustled for, the kids we wanted, the house we bought, the next thing that we wanted to strive for, the next step that we took. So when we decided that we actually didn’t want to chase the next thing but instead get very small and very still and listen to our gut, it was really the most adult thing we’d ever done. It’s like when Dylan tells me that being half dead and half alive are actually the same thing. And I wonder if being mentally free and alive while you freeze every other piece of your life, is sort of the same thing.
Could we move forward without actually moving or changing?
Anyway, we decided the answer to that was yes.
In the end, our children learned an amazing lesson about learning to listen to that super quiet but important voice inside, that instinct that helps guide us toward love and possibility and whatever the next right thing is. It can be awkward and embarrassing and actually, it was all of those things because we had planned this whole thing and told everyone. And then we just didn’t do it. And they watched as their grown ups confidently explained over and over again that because it doesn't feel right is actually enough in this world, and that you owe no one anymore or less than to own and walk in your truth. Then we all moved on, not to a place, but to the next chapter. We healed. We made hard choices that involved not doing lots of stuff. We survived not doing all the things. And here we are and it’s a year later.
It was 80 today and it will be 60 tomorrow. Blazing hot sun one day and moody and brisk the next. September can never quite make up its mind and I so respect that. Its days are fickle but its nights are steady and cool. No matter what, September knows how it likes its coffee. So I’m inching into 41 and there is a lot I don’t know and I’m welcoming that. But I’m holding on tight to the few things I do know and living deeply and gratefully in every small moment I’m blessed with.
It’s a new year. A new school year, a new Jewish year, and for me soon, a birthday. I’ve spent the better part of the past year working and reflecting on the staying. I’m gazing up at a piece that hangs on my wall that I bought from Annie Flavin a few years back. It reads:
If I wait until
The water is warmer,
The skies are clearer,
The words flow easier,
My swimsuit fits better,
My house is cleaner,
My skin is smoother,
I’m skinnier, less tired more energy, more,
I’ll miss it all.
And that’s exactly what September is for. So I think that’s what I’ll do. I’ll wonder about what comes next. And then.