The month proceeding my ninth birthday I was quite sure I would never actually turn the magical age of nine. I was too small, too short, too little. (I also was thoroughly convinced I was going to die from hic-ups, and I desperately feared I was in dire need of dreaded braces, neither of which came to fruition.)
This month, proceeding my 39th birthday, I have had a similar feel of the dreaded edge of reality: it is too big, to old, to far in life to not have accomplished more. (Now, I am thoroughly convinced, there is not enough time in the day for sleep, and why, oh why, do my children pine for braces!)
Nine, the last step before the new decade, the time to wrap it all up and start over again fresh with a zero, the edge of the precipice, of the next leg of our journey through life. It is not quite as monumental as the big 10, or giant 40, of the next coming year, but still carries an immense amount of weight and pressure.
Back when I was a kid, 40 was OLD, really OLD, well not grandparent old, but really truly an adult old. Somebody at 40 was halfway to the end of their life, 40 was well into a career and heading toward retirement. Forty was gray beards, wrinkles knees, and boring clothes. Those were the responsible adults, doing boring things like reading chapter books or playing cards in the evening by lamp light, after I went to bed.
Now, I am not the kid and 40 is not the end, or anywhere near. Forty is an adult making choices and decision that are good for the family as well as for the individual. It is no longer the crazy reckless 20s or the finding your self 30s, 40 is an adult with adult responsibilities like mortgage and car payments, jobs and children’s sporting practice schedules.
Without really meaning to this past month, I have been making these adult lists in my head of what I have or haven’t accomplished in my previous 38.11 journeys round the sun. I have regressed to the eight year old mind and found myself lacking something needed to turn 39. I cannot quite put my finger on it yet, but there is a nagging feeling that this, this year is a big birthday (or it SHOULD be at least).
Thirty-nine is too big, and I have not done enough, accomplished enough, saved enough, travelled enough. What do I have to show for the last 30 years? Have I lived up to my nine year old dreams of what an adult is and does? No. I have not. But, were those dreams and imaginings too far fetched, perhsps. Do I have my dream career, well underway and turning the corner towards retirement? Do I have 2 children, a dog and a cat, and live in a beautiful house with a big yard, beautiful garden and white picket fence. No. No, I do not.
What I do have, is a wonderful family full of love and laughter, as well as our share of frustrations and fights (and more than enough eye rolling and heavy sighing, these days). Our house is a home, and well lived in at that (perhaps we could do with less laundry and junk piles). We have a good boat that runs,and cute little camper for excursions, and everyone at least, has their own space in the small house.
But there still is something nagging me, something tugging at my psyche in the wee hours of the night. I have accomplished college, and a career or two, and gone in many directions. I have as Miss Rumphius taught “gone to far away places and come back to live by the sea…and I have made the world a more beautiful place.” So what, what is it I am afraid of, what is the sadness, the fear, the unrest about?
Today was a particularly rough day with raging emotions (from most of the females in the house). And in the guise of shutting the chickens for the evening, I sat to contemplate this vast question at the edge of my garden and yard. (Perhaps it was the rain sprinkling or allergies acting up, as I when I returned to the house I had a red blotchy face, wet cuffs on my sweater and a salty taste upon my lip.) Coming into my house on the hill, I found two out of three children setting the table, stirring the dinner, straightening the living room, and hanging up their wet towels from tubing. The cat was fed and purring at my feet, and the bunnies were happily munching fresh grass. Things were not perfect (‘nobody is perfect’ say my three little parrots) but they were okay. There was tension, but there was life and there was love. At grace we said thank you for the love, thank you for the family, thank you for the food grown with love and prepared with love. There were still eye rolls and deep sighs, and a few tense thoughts held on back burners. But there was love.
And as we sat for a (most of the family) family game, I got it. I knew what the question was I had been asking myself. And even better, I knew the answer.
Do I know what I am doing and why? No. No, I do not. And that is okay.
Happy birthday to me.