The eve of 38.
It is to me, when I try to imagine it; when I'm lying in bed, thinking of all that I want to do with my life and the goals that I have, drawn fresh on the chalkboard of my mind. And then I go to rise and my knees ache and the mirror reminds me that no, this is not an innocent fresh-faced woman standing, looking out on the world.
And I smile softly and say a silent prayer of thanks that I have this day, this life.
I recall being a child, looking at the adults around me and thinking how easy it must be, how there must be a day that it all falls together and your life hums softly along and you are happy with you and your insecurities vanish and you become a grown person, that it all must somehow work out.
Now, of course, on the eve of 38, I see things differently. I can see the strains that didn't make a blip on my radar; I can hear whispers outside, a hot summer night, cousins sprawled across one another indoors as a marriage was breaking right outside the rainbows on the ceiling of our youth; we were all oblivious. It's hard, I know now, to compose yourself enough to walk into a house and put on a smile and carry on. But you do.
I remember longing for things that I didn't understand.
I remember thinking that if I were a better person, if I were smarter, if I were faster, if I were something more, then I would matter and there would be a magical moment when suddenly all of the bottled up ache and frustration and sorrow disappeared and was replaced with love.
It's hard for me that I still think these things; it would enrage me, I believe, if rage were still buried within me. Time does that, I suppose; takes the rough edges and sands them down, little by little, until you become very careful, very suddenly aware, that with all the whittling away, there are very few breaks that you can withstand much more. And you begin to let go of the things that break you.
I think of those that I love and I wonder if our children look at us and believe this myth; this lie of perfection and I would express wholeheartedly with all that is left in me, "I hope not."
It's not what Big A wants to hear, I know, when I tell her that I'm sorry for this ever-increasing ocean between us; that I am not perfect, that I am flawed and that I do not know the answers and that I'm just trying the best that I can. Who wants their parents to be riddled with confusion when you are so riddled with it yourself? I remember the brink of 13, where she stands now, and that makes me feel older than my knees and my wrinkles and the realization that all of the songs that I sincerely love are two decades old.
Here, on the eve of 38, I can tell you that what I've learned is probably so much of a lesser thing than all that I don't know. I can tell you that I've lived through days that I could not have ever imagined living through, that there are wounds that are still as fresh as the day they were born, that there are miracles and sunrises and that there is so much beauty around me that it makes me weep, nearly on a daily basis.
I can tell you that there are people that I've met in an instant that I've known for a lifetime and people that I've known for a lifetime that I've never even known.
I can tell you that in my carefully crafted plans, 38 looked like a white picket fence and an accomplished writing career and an SUV with smiling children. It didn't look like this; what 38 really is.
And for that, I am so, so grateful.
It is the eve of 38, and for the first time in my life, I can sincerely tell you that I'm good with me. I wouldn't want to be younger; I wouldn't want to go back.
And that makes me happy and makes me sad and makes me wish that I could take what I finally know and bottle it up and give it away to all of the people, children and adults, that right now are waiting for that moment when it all makes sense. I would tell them, "The time is now" and hug them and send them out into a brighter day.
But it is the eve of 38, and I know where those silly little hopes and dreams belong. And I am smiling as I tell you that knowing that they reside within me still is by far one of the greatest gifts I've ever received.
Oh, 38. You've got nothing on me.