photo cred Hannah Toldt
It was my birthday yesterday and nothing gets my reflect-o-meter going more than a birthday.
This birthday has been a bit different than most; it’s not a “big birthday” but nonetheless, I do feel a bit melancholy about the whole thing. Remember when we were kids and the first thing you told people about yourself was your name, your favorite color and how old you are? Sigh. It’s a bit harder to talk about that as the years go by.
Greg and I went out for a date last night which wasn’t really so much of a date as it was a counseling appointment. I told him all the things I’m worried about and overwhelmed with and he listened and reminded me what’s true. He’s a good friend to me.
Anyway, this birthday feels different because this is the year Marielle goes to school. This will be the year that I have the most freedom I’ve had in in my adult life and I want to use it well. The years of newborns and graduate school and potty training and working through my identity crises are over (well, maybe not the identity crises). And now that the dust has settled, I look around and see other people who are much more established in their career; those who are more well-known and influential; people who seem to have conquered their insecurities and are just going for it. And as much as I admire and love those people, it does make me feel like I’m coming in late to the game.
I’ve been momming for 12.5 years with kids who are kind of the worst clients ever. They’re demanding and impatient and nothing is ever good enough, fast enough or enough enough for them. While changing diapers, cleaning house, wiping noses and scrubbing pee off the floor, I’ve had to remind myself (as a single indigent tear drips off the end of my nose) that I have a masters degree and actual talents that don’t include scrubbing bodily fluids and dealing with small, intolerable clients. And once I’m finished scrubbing, my children remind me I was supposed to cut their sandwich into two rectangles–not triangles–roll their eyes and sigh at their simpleton mom.
But I was able to stay home with them and I’m thankful I did. It’s a privilege and I don’t take it for granted. My kids are still little and still require a lot of time and energy, but this year feels like a new chapter and I’m trying to wrap my mind around what it will look like.
Greg reminded me that I’m not late to the game; I’ve been in the game and I’ve already won.
Won? What is he even talking about?
I’ve been thinking about what he said and I think he’s right. Here’s what I mean: I’ve noticed this past year that my girls’ primary transportation is….skipping. That’s how they prefer to get from point A to point B (unless they’re being intolerable clients). They’re happy kids. They’re loved and warm and fed and protected and surrounded by people who care about them. I look at my girls and their skipping ways and I know it–I won.
I think about my relationship with Greg. He loves and respects me and we truly are best friends who cheer each other on. I won. I have friends and family who know how horrible and anxious and neurotic I can be and love me anyway. I won. I’ve been able to create a culture in our home and in a pocket of this city that’s crazy beautiful. I’ve been in hard, awkward conversations with people and have matured in my perspective and as a person because of it. I won. I was able to renovate the ugliest house I’ve ever seen into a place where we can host birthday parties and house concerts and Wednesday dinners and a whole lot of little girls’ tea parties. I won.
As it turns out, maybe I’m not arriving late to the game. Maybe I’m here right on time. And here’s the best part: playing well doesn’t hinge on me trying to look amazing. It hinges on the community of people who challenge my perspective, who teach me how to think well and who push me into awkward conversations, just for kicks.
This community doesn’t settle for looking perfect, and doesn’t expect me to be perfect. Instead, it reminds me that being real and emotionally healthy is more substantive (and honest) than looking perfect. So I want to say thank you. Thank you for the good and noble work you do for this world. Thank you for your help to make me better, wiser, kinder.
Even the small, intolerable clients.