Well, it happened. I woke up yesterday morning and I was 40 years old. And I felt, exactly the same. Exactly the same as I have always felt completely and entirely, Marianna.There was no profound shift, no sense of increase in my adulthood status, my maturity, or my wisdom. Simply another day, alive and in my body.
I made my coffee, as I always do. And searched through the cupboards at the beach house I was renting to see if I could find something larger then an 8 ounce mug, as 8 ounces is terribly unsatisfying for me when it comes to coffee. I settled on a glass beer stein, and filled it full of dark strong liquid, and generous pour of organic cream. Settling down with my Journal and my pen, as I do almost every morning.
And as I sat there reflecting on my life, the soft sound of the waves on the beach in the distance, my own breath moving in and out of my body, gentle creaks of an old house shifting, and the felt sense of my daughter sleeping in the room downstairs, I was completely content.
As I began to write, reflecting on this shift in my age, and the things I wish to have happen this year, I had a realization. Every birthday since I have been a young teen, my birthday has been partially a celebration and also, the day of the year that I hatch my personal “fix Marianna” campaign. So, my birthday has become my own New Year’s Eve shitshow, where I make resolutions that I don’t keep, and look at all the things that are wrong with me and worry about how desperately I want to change but never seem to be able to.
I am always planning to be more dedicated, more focused, to do more writing, to exercise more, it’s exhausting even to think about it, it’s exhausting to write about it, and it certainly is exhausting to live it. I realized yesterday, and it sounds like a simple a-ha moment, but it felt like a lightning strike, that what I really want is to be less. Less of a perfectionist, less self-punishing, less of a people pleaser, less worry, less shame… The only thing I truly want more of is courage.
I have always loved the word courage, heart, to speak the truth of the heart. It seems in our current time of social media, and outward presentations taking the forefront, it takes special dedication and bravery to speak the truth of our hearts. To step out from behind the veil of “I’m OK and everything is great”, and to admit that we have pain, that we are suffering, that I am suffering. But this is what courage requires, it requires the truth.
Sometimes I doubt myself, no, scratch that I doubt myself all the time, well frequently anyway. I doubt that I am good enough, that I have anything original to say at all, that anyone wants to hear anything from me in this world full of scholars and eloquent beings, and artists, and people with college degrees. I doubt that there is a place for me in the world, in the world of humans anyway. I am quite certain of my place in the natural and more than human world. But the doubt is heavy, it hangs like a cloak and it colors all my days.
I think this is deeply tied to perfectionism. To trying to be something other than what I simply am, and sometimes, what I am is a god damned mess. How does the dance between being and doing become so complex? How can I allow my complexity to be exactly what it is and as it is, and still move towards simplicity? Simplicity and purpose are where joy lives, I believe.
I have this recurring realization that it is only possible for things to be different when I am aware. Awareness, and allowing the light of awareness to shine into the dark crevices of my life, into the frightening and broken places, into the places I have purposefully cloaked in shadow. This is the way healing can happen, not by making birthday resolutions to become a better person. That whole “become a better person thing” reeks of bullshit to me.
This year, instead of making that birthday resolution list all of the things about myself that I want to change. I made a different kind of list entirely. I made a list of all the ways I want to be brave. And wouldn’t you know? Not really a surprise, to find out that most of the things that scare me involve deeply revealing myself and being brave and vulnerable in my body. I want to swim naked in the daylight, and learn to rollerblade again, and kiss a man who is not the man I was partnered with for the last 19 years…. Sounds fun, right? Fun and completely terrifying!
I have had a lot of magic in my life. I have had years a great growth, beauty, harmony, and community. I have had years of heartbreak, of loss, of my world falling apart around me. I have held in my hands the pieces of all I held dear, kissed them tenderly and set them down forever to step on to a new path of truth. I am not averse to challenge, I am not easily broken, but I am afraid. Yes, there is a lot of fear running in this system. But one thing I know is that I can learn new things. I can learn new ways of seeing and perceiving. And I can become more courageous.
So, here I go. Off into my 40th spin around the sun, with a small list of things I fear, written on a sheet of folded paper… Some actions seem small and some larger, but all of them I believe will lead me in the direction of true authenticity in myself. And who knows, I might just have a lot of fun along the way…