Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Virtual Coffee II: The Birthday Edition

join me for coffee!

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....


Corinne said...

Happy birthday :)
Wishing you luck with your goals - can't wait to hear all about them!

lonek8 said...

Happy Birthday! And if we were really having coffee, I'd tell you that my offer still stands.

Good luck with all your goals!

Abra said...

Well, my gift was well timed. Happy Birthday!

Virginia said...

Happy birthday!

I would love love love to wander Chinatown with you! How awesome would that be?!

I liked this coffee. Can't wait to hear how your goals are being met! :)

{Amy} said...

Sarah- If we were really meeting for coffee today we would probably both end up crying because i can completely relate to you and your infertility struggles. i love friends and I remember Phoebe's birthday --too funny : ) I hope you had a greta birthday and look forward to reading updates on your list! thanks for meeting up for coffee this week!

Sue said...

Happy Belated Birthday, Sarah!

Anonymous said...

u may already know about ravelry ,but if u want to learn knitting, search for wool and the gang videos on google .Knitting made my life much more better ,so I hope it does that to you too
Happy Birthyday to you :)

Sarah said...

Oh I wish we were having coffee! I hope you had a lovely birthday with your beautiful family.

Amy said...

Hope your birthday was fab!

gringa said...

I would love the walk in Chinatown and can totally relate to the gardening desire but I'll probably never do it, at least not here where the only patch of earth with all day sun in the summer is like a waterfall when it rains!

Oh and professional photographers usually only get one good shot from 100 or so-- so even without knowing what the knobs are for you have a good batting average!

Hope it was a great day.


Anonymous said...

Happy birthday! If we were meeting today I'd be glad to listen to you ramble. I'm not a fan of small talk either. And did someone say pumpkin scone? Yummmmm . . . :)

Anonymous said...

hi sarah, stopping in for a cup from amy's.

i think we should be friends.

there, i said it.

i am so on board with everything you said - from skipping the small talk to friends references to struggling with which female cliche i want to embrace - i'm with you. we haven't started trying for kids, but my heart is heavy with the stories of friends who have.

i'm excited about this year for you and will be following along! especially looking forward to seeing how the novel goes!


cicadalady said...

if we were really having coffee, we wouldn't be having coffee because, c'mon! it's your birthday. let's go open a bottle of wine. plus jane would be there too so we'd have ourselves some awesome cake.

and over wine i would say, i love your goals and i truly can't wait to read your novel. thanks for the shout out on mine :)

and i would also tell you in response to your comment that "I shoot about 150 pictures each time I take my camera anywhere, and I'm lucky that I get 15-20 decent pictures", my good friend (who is a photographer) told me the key to it is taking lots and lots of pictures! not that there isn't always room to improve or more to it than that, but i'm just saying, taking all those pictures is the right start. the pros don't get it right every time. and? i'm always super impressed with your photos.

then i'd tell you about how i once knit a scarf for my boyfriend in college and i loved it but haven't done it since. then the next time we'd meet up for wine & knitting.

miss you!!!

Hyacynth said...

Oh, I'm sorry I'm late to the game -- happy belated birthday!

On turning close to the age you said you were going to put aside any hope of having another -- I wish you peace. I imagine it is a mourning process ... I kind of understand. Hubby isn't totally sure he wants a last baby, so sometimes I often think about how sad it would be to be done with the whole baby stage and not be
pregnant again. {hugs, friend.}

I don't like small talk either. I prefer this any day.