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
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.
different dog, same boy.
Two years ago, we let our 12 year-old lab, Cassidy, go. She made it clear that day when she laid down on the cold, snowy sidewalk and refused to get up, that it was time and she was ready. To this day, I so appreciate that she clearly communicated her need to be done to me. Just like the decision of when to have a baby, the right time to say goodbye to her probably would never have arrived for me. I still miss her and sometimes find myself calling our “new” lab by her name despite the fact that she was a she, and black, and Jeter is all boy and nearly white.
Jeter will be two next week. We celebrate his birthday on Christmas Day although we’re not 100% certain if he was actually born on the 24th or the 25th. His mom delivered 16 puppies and having a litter of that size was a bit chaotic and exhausting for all involved. Regardless of which day he was born, he was a true gift to our family and we love him dearly.
Those couple of months between losing Cassidy and bringing Jeter home, were uncomfortably quiet around here. On the days, and especially the nights, when the boys were at their dad’s house, my house echoed with their absence. I didn’t like it and can’t imagine the day when my house will feel like home without the presence of my children and a dog. Since the plan is for my boys to eventually move on and out, it looks like I’ll always need to have a dog. I hope I get to keep the one I have now for a good long time.
It can be music to a person’s ears.
What a week! As I anticipated sitting still for an hour or so to have my nails attended to, I finally had some time to reflect upon what has transpired in the last 7 days. Taking a few moments to consider all that has happened felt like a wonderful luxury – even more so than soaking my feet in a hot bath and having the pedicure chair’s magic fingers digging into my spine. Time is truly life’s greatest gift.
Following closely behind the present of time, are the countless people who have encouraged, supported and advised me during the months-long process of becoming a restaurant owner. I know that the intensity of this last week would never have been realized, or survived, without the presence of friends who I have felt in my court during each and every moment.
If you know me, or have read me, you’re aware that I am not an overly emotional woman. Sure, pictures of animals and people suffering in poverty always make me tear up, but, generally I’m a pretty cool character. Unless, you tell me you’re proud of me. Hearing that sentiment directed towards me is guaranteed to penetrate my reserved exterior faster than Superman falls to kryptonite.
Never in my life have so many friends expressed their pride in me. I am overwhelmed, and occasionally overcome, by the outpouring of respect and pleasure for this wonderful adventure, Lark + Lily, on which my brother and I have embarked. Thank you, so very much. It means more than you will ever know.
I’ve been going through a Stevie Nicks/Fleetwood Mac phase. It was prompted by the book I’m currently reading, a Stevie Nicks biography. The book is no where near the quality of the music I’ve been listening to on my Fleetwood Mac Pandora station, but I have learned a few new things about one of my teenaged music heroines.
My fondness for Stevie and “The Mac’, as the author insists upon calling them, isn’t a recent thing. Rumours was my very first favorite album and I recall both Bella Donna and Wild Heart getting a lot of play on my Walkman. It was definitely about the music initially but over the years, the lyrics have made an equally strong impression upon me.
Running today, the songs went directly to a place deep inside me. I thought about what’s going on in my life and how sometimes we need to hear that it’s ok to go your own way. Time keeps moving and sometimes we need to change directions. Love is only one fine star away.
During last night’s
mental therapy run, I was thinking about potential and how long it takes for some to accept the challenge and make the effort required to embody their own unrealized possibility. Self actualization – it isn’t necessarily an easy thing to accomplish.
Change and growth can be scary. There’s an inherent risk involved when we let go of what we know to reach for something new. I see this hesitation, this lack of movement, at times in myself as well as in (other) important people in my life and it can be maddeningly frustrating. It’s hard to feel, it’s equally hard to witness.
Possessing potential is great but over the years I’ve learned that a central core of ability is nothing, unless it comes coupled with the capacity to work hard. Without drive and determination, being full of potential can closely resemble being full of sh*t.
A couple of songs which hammered home what I was thinking and feeling during those five miles. Thank you, Fiona and Aimee for the wisdom.
As an undergraduate, I fell in love with Ernest Hemingway. My major in English trumped my minor in Women’s Studies when it came to his mysogynistic ways. After reading a number of biographical works about him I forgave him. He was damaged goods.
His writing impressed me and I have repeatedly heard his voice in my head when I struggle to express myself. “All you have to do is write one true sentence,” he said. Seems simple enough in theory, right? In practice it can be more challenging than you’d expect, but it is a good place to start.
Last year, I reread A Moveable Feast for the first time in many years. I was so taken by his voice and the stories he told of his time in Paris, and other parts of Europe, during the years between the two wars. His love for life – his Hadley, his child, his adopted home, his friends and his writing, radiated from the pages.
There was something else present though, a current of sadness and dissatisfaction. All that he loved was not enough and he took risks and sought out new experiences and stimulations. He was not content.
In many ways Ernest and I are alike. He and I each needed to write. We both loved to be in Europe, to sit in a cafe with a bottle of wine and observe all around us. Perhaps if I had written a book such as A Moveable Feast during my marriage, I would have revealed a discontent similar to Ernest’s.
I picked up a new copy of my favorite Hemingway book the other afternoon from the store where he would go for a drink and a few francs when he was in need. The book of my life I’m writing right now has a much happier ending than Ernest ever could have imagined for himself.