I’ve got a big birthday coming up at the end of summer…fifty…half a century…the golden anniversary of my birth…the point in my life when I just might have to begin behaving a tad more adult. I think I’m ready.
It could be just me, but these decade birthdays began taking on more significance as I aged and I can remember each of them vividly. At 20, I was on the verge of independence and living completely on my own for the first time. For my 30th birthday, I was married and thrilled to be pregnant with my first child. When I turned 40 I thought I had it all, only to realize that maybe it wasn’t enough. And now, as 50 approaches, I find myself excited to flip a page to a new chapter in my life despite not really knowing what may come next.
I’ve learned so many things during my years alive, yet I’m still not sure what the future holds for me. Is that lack of certainty, that acceptance that what happens tomorrow is eternally a mysterious surprise, a sign of growing up? Maybe.
What do I know now that I didn’t know 10 years ago?
- I know that I can outrun cancer and the fear of being alone.
- I know that I can juggle a lot and that, even though I now wear a nightguard because I seem to be grinding my teeth, I am more satisfied with a full life and schedule than with one that lacks challenge and stimulation.
- I know that there will be days that nearly overwhelm me with minutia and situations which demand immediate and close attention, but I’ve also learned that they pass.
- I know that I am utterly blessed to have three healthy children and a positive relationship with their father that is based upon our mutual focus on what is best for them.
- I know that the lines on my face and the grey in my hair are evidence of the length of my life and that I’m lucky to have both of them – and access to quality skincare products and a good colorist.
- I know that life is about give and take and trying to remain cognizant of the balance between the two.
- I know that I’m ready for what comes next.
I’m ready, ready for the laughing gas
I’m ready, I’m ready for what’s next
I’m ready to duck, I’m ready to dive
I’m ready to say ‘I’m glad to be alive’ – U2
Soccer season is nearly over and, for the first time in a long time, it felt like it went by really fast. That’s probably because I’m guilty for making it to too few games for my son who plays travel, and the rec season is actually fairly short with only 6 or 7 weeks games. Either way, when it’s over I will enjoy my Saturday mornings and Tuesday evenings, but they will be lacking in structure without a game to work into the schedule.
Quinn’s spring season was memorable because this was the year that he wore a hand me down keeper’s jersey. Liam and I had brought it back from Germany 3 years ago for my middle son. It was still a bit generous in the sleeve length for my 11 year-old but he insisted upon wearing it each game, regardless of temperature. One week, it was close to 85 degrees and still he wore it – underneath his team t-shirt in case he got called up to play keeper. It was the cutest thing ever.
I swear I don’t know how that jersey can be even close to fitting him. I mean, the shirt looked so big three years ago when my boys were three years smaller. Now, only one son is still to grow into it while the other two are already grown beyond. Just like that. *snap*
As I was mulling over this curious case of time passing quickly and folks growing, I reached for a pair of shorts I bought a few years. They’re blue and white gingham, which, I think, epitomizes summer just like madras and pink lemonade. I pulled them on and up, nervous as always that they would no longer fit for one reason or another. They did. Sort of.
Somehow over the last winter, I grew, too. Not taller or wider or heavier, but a wee bit older. Old enough, actually, to now be too old to wear the checked short shorts that still fit me perfectly – other than the length. I felt absolutely exposed in them in a way that made me uncomfortable. Somehow they had grown too young for me – just like that. *snap.*
Growing up and growing older, that’s the long and short of it.
As I get close to wrapping up my 20th year as a librarian, I’ve been thinking about the future. I’ve always just assumed that I would invest thirty years in my chosen (and mostly beloved) career, but the last few years have been challenging with ridiculous teacher evaluations handed down by
Governor Cuomo State Ed and tight school budgets causing the elimination of positions. It’s been a little disheartening, to be honest, and I think I just might need to have a new plan…
In a little more than five years I will be 55 years old and should have 25 years into the NYS Teacher’s Retirement System. That seems like a substantial amount of time to devote to a profession and I think that may be the perfect threshold to my relationship with teaching. Maybe 30 years isn’t really in the cards for me…
Writing those words caused my stomach to buzz with nerves…and excitement. Walking away from my steady paycheck will be a leap of faith that gets my heart beating a little fast. Mt first response to letting go of financial security is to think about all the reasons why I shouldn’t retire “early.” You know things like the fact that my youngest child will only be 16 years-old with college still to come and my house won’t be quite paid off and I’ll be paying increased out-of-pocket cost related to maintaining the excellent health insurance I presently have. And, really, who knows what the future holds in terms of income from Lark + Lily. Do you think I may actually see some income from this labor of love project?
But, something changed this week, almost as if a coin flipped to the other side and I began considering all the ways my life might improve should I retire in another 5 or 6 years. Instead of focusing on what I may not have available in terms of financial flexibility, I started thinking about the freedom that retirement will offer me. I’ll be able to spend more time with my youngest child. Travel plans can be made based upon when I want to get away rather than dates that are dictated by a school calendar. I’ll have opportunities to pursue other interests – maybe writing, photography or perhaps a position that involves promoting or supporting one of the organizations about which I feel so strongly. I’m feeling recommitted to my teaching job (after summer vacation) and curious to learn what the future may hold in store for me. I think I’ve got a plan.
I grew up during a time when house parties were the rage. Going out was something rare, but adults gathering for cocktails, pinochle and televised boxing matches was a big part of my childhood. I loved those nights filled with Lipton onion soup mix dip and chips with a side of ginger ale and grown up laughter. Knowing my place as a child among adults was incredibly comforting and I was careful to never misbehave and threaten my admission to an evening that I could only interpret as being sophisticated.
I have one particular memory of watching a heavyweight boxing match, the Thrila in Manila. Manila, naturally, being a place I had never ever heard of prior to the bout. We were at a home that I also don’t think I ever had been in before. The house and the enclosed front porch were made from big cold looking stones but it was cozy in a way that a new place doesn’t often feel.
The television everyone gathered around was big for the time, probably 27″, and color, something that was not necessarily a given during my youngest years. In my mind’s eye, I see rabbit ears, but I may be embellishing after 40 years and a collection of memories too large to properly sort. What I know for certain is that I fell in love with boxing that night.
The hype for the match was nothing compared to the media blitzes to which we’ve all grown accustomed, but I know I was aware of the fight, even as an elementary school student, because it was going to be an event. And it was. Ali was swagger before the word existed. He fascinated me with his larger than life persona and I was spellbound. He won – the match and my eternal interest.
When I learned more about him, about his radical anti-war activities and steadfast conviction to his beliefs, I could only admire Ali more. He and Jimmy Carter will always somehow go together in my mind – the era, I suppose. Like Carter, Ali was an ambassador to worlds not yet in existence, peaceful places where priorities were more about taking care of people than taking people down and out. It sounds like a nice place. I hope the Louisville Lip is enjoying it as we speak.
While the most apparent similarity between the three words in the title is that they all begin with the letter L, I’m beginning to believe that their connection is something a bit less obvious. It seems to me that they’re all things that we often just find as we bumble through life.
Walking through the parking lot this morning I spied a penny on the ground. It was by no means a shiny copper coin and it took me a moment to determine whether it was heads up or down. After concluding that it was in fact heads up, I put it in my pocket. You see, I’m hoping for a little luck. It’s been an exhausting week and I’m just not feeling on top of my game. Having a talisman as a tangible reminder that luck can appear out of nowhere was a welcome start to my day.
Lies are often discovered in a similar fashion as a lost coin – we simply stumble upon them. Unfortunately, it isn’t as easy as simply placing an item in one’s pocket and carrying it around because, unlike random coins, when we discover a lie we can’t help but speculate about how many others there may be out there. Especially when an uncovered lie causes one to search internally and examine their own level of honesty and find it also lacking in transparency.
And love? Does anyone ever really leave the house in the morning with a plan to find love? Of course, not. I know, from experience, that love can be sought online but finding it there or in any other expected places has never been my fortune. Love is rarer than a penny face up or a series of lies that have suddenly unraveled like a skein of yarn. Although it can be a amulet like a lucky penny, love certainly isn’t currency but when love is corrupted by lies it can be challenged in previously unimagined ways that may prompt us to consider its emotional cost.
I’ve learned (another L word) a lot in the years since my marriage ended, things about being a human being with flaws and needs and regrets. I think I understand better than ever before that there are things that demand a closer look and perhaps, a good polishing, and that lies will get in the way of love. And that, my friend, is life.
An article in the Sunday TU caught my eye. It’s about
speculators folks collecting art and storing it in shipping containers in Geneva, motivated by a wish to inflate the value, rather than to display and enjoy. That’s seriously f ucked up. How beautiful is something that is hidden expressly to manipulate its worth? Maybe I’m naive, but I imagine that artists create their work for it to be viewed and appreciated. The actions described in the story just feel soul-less to me.
How do so many people move away from a path of humanness?
It’s impossible to read the paper without seeing a story about political corruption and lack of ethics. Lately, it seems as if every single day provides another example of the apparent separation of financial success and sense of humanity. I can’t decide if it is more sad or disturbing. Either way, I don’t like it.
The common thread I perceive in the two examples above is a lack of appreciation for what they have in life. Having the means to possess a great and tremendous piece of artwork is such a gift. Why would one not celebrate that by feasting one’s eyes on a Miro or Warhol instead of locking it away in a shipping container?
Who are these people who find money more beautiful than art?
As for the political nonsense that we’re subjected to currently, it’s incredibly disheartening. The combination of arrogance and selfish is astounding. How do these people ever believe that their actions – the bids and the contracts resulting in the accumulation of personal wealth, are permissible? When did the moral disconnect occur?
Why are there so many people who find money more valuable than trust and honesty?
I’m voting for Bernie.
I can see June around the corner and she looks beautiful. Only a few more weeks and I’ll be enjoying 10 weeks of summer vacation – more time with loved ones, late nights, somewhat unstructured days and actual free time. As you might imagine, I’m really looking forward to that. My front garden is a bit of a disaster and the rear one is currently nonexistent. My wardrobe is a disorganized mess of winter and summer clothing haphazardly hanging and in drawers and I have yet to pull out any shorts or t-shirts for my youngest son. It’s a good thing he’s going through a flannel shirt phase.
Next weekend is Mountain Jam and I’m planning to take two nights off and head south to one of the best annual music festivals to grace our area. As of now, those are the only concerts I have on my calendar and I’m excited for the opportunity to indulge in one of my other interests, photography – I’ll be taking pictures for the Times Union. For the first time ever, though, my eagerness to get to the mountain is being tempered by my guilt about being away from Lark + Lily. Sigh.
How do you deal with the struggle between responsibilities and fun? Is there a secret formula to achieving some semblance of comfort when it comes to allocating finite time towards family, work and recreation? Do you have a rationalization method you might care to share with me?
Until I hear from you, here’s my approach – I can delegate more of the household chores to my children, who honestly, have a pretty cushy life and might benefit from getting their hands a little dirty. I’ll make sure the restaurant is adequately staffed and imagine that guests will understand my need to take the occasional Friday or Saturday off, especially when Beck and Wilco are playing close by. Rather than bemoan the multi-seasonal state of my wardrobe, I’ll try to celebrate the fact that my clothing is washed, dried and put away. And, I’ll heed this wisdom from Albert Einstein:
Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.