Today I'm participating in Amy's Virtual Coffee. If you get a chance, pop over to her blog; I love her thoughtful writing, and her photography always makes me smile.
If we were really meeting for coffee today, I'd go ahead and splurge on a venti no water, extra hot, soy chai tea latte (and maybe a pumpkin scone) because it is my birthday today. My 39th. And I might be tempted to joke about it being the 10th anniversary of my 29th birthday, but I'd take a deep breath and tell you how I am trying really hard to embrace this birthday for what it is.
I'd tell you that I've been thinking a lot about how to approach this last year before the closing of a decade-long chapter of my life. Knowing that I can come at it from a place of angst, fear and perhaps even a bit of disappointment, I'm working hard to approach it with a sense of gratitude, open-heartedness and hope. The past decade has been filled with tremendous happinesses and opportunities--marriage, motherhood, relocation (twice!) and rediscovering, at least to some degree, my creative self. But it's also brought with it its share of disappointments, primarily infertility, and to a somewhat lesser degree, at least in terms of my own sense of self and self-worth, leaving friends and family behind as we followed our fortunes West.
As I near 39, which brings me closer to 40, the age I said I was officially going to forever be done with the hope of another child, I am finding it hard to let go, to say goodbye to the dreams of that child I will never carry, never hold. I am spending a lot of time lately trying to find the middle ground between honoring the empty space left behind in the wake of infertility and walking away from it without regrets. It's a work in progress, but I feel like I'm finding the space I need to be in to be able to look back gently on those years of trying to conceive another child while at the same time turn my face to the future and see the possibilities that lie ahead. For the past two years, I have seen my inability to conceive as a flaw in my being, a reflection of my self-worth and I know as I move into the part of my life where the idea of becoming a mother again will simply be off the table, I have to let go of that. This year will be, in some small part at least, about that healing.
Naturally, if we were really having coffee, at this point I'd apologize for being such a Debbie Downer, but if we were having coffee, you'd know me well enough to know I'm incapable of small talk and if we're going to invest an hour together sharing a cuppa, I want us to know what's really going on inside of our minds. I'd ask you how you have found ways to heal from difficult experiences in your life, things that have happened to make you feel less complete, less yourself. While I'd hope you've never dealt with such a challenge, if you have, I'd want to hear about it.
Because I'm a ginormous Friends nerd, I'd probably joke about how this year I'm pulling a Phoebe. Remember "The One Where They All Turn Thirty," and Phoebe has her list of all the things she wants to do before she hits the big 3-0? While I don't want to go to sniper school or ride a hippity hop for a mile (even though Phoebe claims that had some unexpected perks to it, ladies....), I really do have a list of things I want to do this year, and rather than wallowing in the woe-is-me-I'm-almost-40 cliche that would be so easy to dive into, I want to spend my year embracing the "before I'm 40 to-do" list:
1. Complete a novel. (I'll be starting next week w/ NaNoWriMo and hopefully will be done w/ 50,000 words by Nov. 30, after that? Who knows. I would like to send out a big WHOOO-HOOO! AND CONGRATS to my friend Kita, whose NaNoWriMo from last year will be published at the end of this month--so very happy for you, Kita and so inspired!)
2. Learn to knit. I tried this years ago and ended up giving my ball of yarn to the cats, but for some reason, it is just something my mind keeps coming back to--something in me wants to learn how to do this, so I guess I am going to have to invest time and energy in getting my inner grandma on and rocking the knitting needles.
3. Garden. Like, build a raised garden bed, plant stuff like cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, squash, and actually have it grow, produce fruit and provide for the family. I'd also like to keep some house plants alive--that would be nice, too. Husbands lucky we rent, because I really want chickens, too.
4. Learn to use my camera for real. Right now, I shoot about 150 pictures each time I take my camera anywhere, and I'm lucky that I get 15-20 decent pictures. That's great, but it would be fantastic to actually know what all those knobs and buttons on my camera are about and how to use them to raise the likelihood of more good pictures.
It's not entirely ambitious; its nothing that's going to set me apart from eleventy billion other suburban housewives who have novel-writing-farm-living-yarn-store-owning-professional-photographer alter egos. Believe me, we are out there. In droves. I'd laugh that all of this probably seems like the "I'll take a ceramics class and pop a Mother's Little Helper!" of the '50's and '60's, and who knows, maybe I am trading one cliche for another, but given the option, I am happy to take the cliche that celebrates learning, creativity and validation of self over the one that invites self-pity, woe and inertia.
After I'd rambled on about my goals for my 39th year (for probably what felt like a year to you--sorry!) I'd want to know what some of your goals are for yourself--are there things you want to accomplish before you get to a certain age? Things you want to let go of? Emotional baggage that isn't welcome on the next leg of the journey?
If we were having coffee today, I'd tell you that since its my birthday, I think I'll take my camera with me and go up to the city to walk through Chinatown. I've been wanting to do that for such a long time, just wandering through the streets there taking pictures of signs and people, and ducking down little alleys to find the hidden temples, camouflaged in between all the other brightly decorated buildings. I'd ask if you wanted to join me, to take pictures of your own, or just to keep me company. I'm sure we could find a nice pot of jasmine tea somewhere....