As I edge ever closer to forty, I’m doing it with ease. Totally different from my approach to thirty, which I thought would be life ending (not literally.) I clearly remember nearing my twenty-fifth birthday and thinking the only good thing about it was lower car rental rates and the best years of my life were behind me. My twenties were spent measuring, comparing, earning approval, wanting, and yearning. It was exhausting. No wonder I didn’t want to have a number that started with a 3.
My husband and I share the exact same birthday. (I know it is weird. Even stranger is that the woman who issued our marriage license asked if we were twins. Seriously, gross. I digress.) We celebrated our thirtieth wrapped in affection and celebrating with those from our past and present. It was the way to start the fresh decade. I needed to be enveloped in love in a physical way. We knew our thirties would mean starting a family and closing a chapter on our carefree twenties. Had someone told me all the battles and challenges we would face, I think I would have been even more fearful. Instead, a wise friend told me that things only get better in your thirties and she couldn’t have been more correct. (Truth be told, she specified that the sex got better in one’s thirties… no comment.)
I learned to be a good friend in my thirties. Not to say I was a bad friend before that, but the comparisons and constant competition got in the way of being deeply connected to someone unrelated to me. Perhaps it was that our career paths started veering in different directions where the parallel of success wasn’t as clear. The similarity (or dissimilarity) of possessions became more opaque as styles and preferences diverged. In the splintering of everything that could be measured and compared, I learned to define for myself what success and happiness meant and appreciate that it was no longer a zero sum game, or perhaps never had been. I grew to love cheering on my friends in their own quests of contentment.
Finding that in every disappointment or defeat, a seed of hope and newness is planted has been my greatest discovery. My mother has always been a teacher of this, but I have been a defiant student. Her rose-colored glasses perspective turned me off and caused me to roll my eyes. I guess it is a lesson one must self-discover to be real. I couldn’t put my finger on what the first recognition was. Perhaps it was the weaving of a dear friendship that began as a result of my infertility and her unexpected loss. Our threads came together as we found ourselves happily and healthily pregnant only weeks apart… twice. From that small seed of despair, a mighty oak tree has grown. That oak stands as a beacon in my life, unaffected by the gusts of life’s storms. I pray that she stands in my garden for the next hundred years.
What the past year has taught me is that my garden is more like an ever-growing forest. While my strong oak tree is one among the most mature trees in my life, I have found beauty in the undergrowth of my forest too. While some of the vegetation is only in the earliest stages of growth, potential pervades. I’ve also reconnected with other plants that began earlier in my life and hold parts of my past. They have found newness as we come together to recognize that what brought us together long ago still exists in addition to all sorts of things that are more current.
It is with deep gratitude that I look around at the friendships that have formed in my life. It is a gift that keeps on giving and growing. I look at my mother and her friends who have weathered marriage, child-bearing, rearing, launching, empty-nesting, and grief and how the beauty of their friendships continue to endure and spring anew. I marvel at the oaks in her life, who give her shelter in a storm and bend their branches to help her play. These examples make me excited for what is to come.
I have a good feeling about thirty-seven.
Filled with wonder about what the year ahead holds.
Filled with peace that whatever the year has in store, I’m equipped to face it with courage.
Filled with gratitude for all the seeds that will be sewn.
Happy New Year to you and me!
Photo courtesy of Roger Smith