My fingers are starting to twitch, and the sun is warming the doorway of my cave, softening the edges of my hibernation. It’s been a long rest by all outward appearances, but the turmoil and unseasonal quiet in my secret heart has honed a restless edge to my dreams, while I circle between the moon and New York City.
The other day I was talking with a friend, and I realized I’ve been not only writing for the better part of a decade, but I’ve also been living very close to the edge for almost as long. She kindly pointed out, in all gentleness, that perhaps hibernation might have been needed after all that time. But I think I’m ready again to open up and walk back in the sunshine.
My life is not extraordinary. My upbringing was normal, my parents are good people, my siblings are great, my rebellion as a teenager consisted of piercing my ear with a needle and ice cube at a girlfriends house, which yielded me stunned disapproval from my mother which was more effective a punishment then anything else ever. Ever.
I cruised along, working, going to school off and on through my young adulthood, got a pretty decent job doing work I loved, traveled a bit professionally and for fun, I bought a convertible and drove down the Pacific Coast Highway and I wondered what would happen to my life. I wondered if I would get married, if I would have the kids I really wanted. It all seems so sweet and innocent looking back.
Of course we know how that part of the story went. I did get married, and I was ridiculously happy for a while. I had a baby. I had another baby. Autism entered my life. I started writing. I peed on a stick at my mom’s house and found out another baby was coming. It still felt terribly ordinary. After the worst pregnancy known to any human woman, I had a lovely healthy baby #3, and shortly thereafter, the bottom dropped out of our world.
It’s all in the archives, if anyone wants to know. It’s still hard for me to go over some of it. While I simply adore that tableaus and stories of my children’s young lives are preserved, there is so much pain just beneath the surface. It was impossible to keep hidden, at least given how I write, and it burst forth in a hail of broken shards: what drugs can do to lives, hopes and dreams. Stay away, kids. It’s bad news.
It’s been almost nine years since I first let my thoughts spill out onto the softly flickering screen.
And where are we now? Nowhere I ever could have imagined. And isn’t that fantastic? It is, when its not utterly terrifying. Quite often they’re the same thing. My friend Kate shared a quote by Ann Lamott recently that really struck me:
“What if you wake up some day, and you’re 65, or 75, and you never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen. Repent just means to change direction — and NOT to be said by someone who is waggling their forefinger at you. Repentance is a blessing. Pick a new direction, one you wouldn’t mind ending up at, and aim for that. Shoot the moon.”
So far, I think I’ve done a decent job. Staring my 40’s in the face though, I’m fairly confident I can do a better job at really living. At this point, there is so little be afraid of. One of the benefits of living life on the edge, of losing so much, is that you know— soul deep know— that your losses aren’t you. That even when all seems lost, there is hope, and there is redemption, and there is love, and that life is beautiful. While I have no desire to repeat some of the things that taught me those lessons, I am profoundly grateful for a life that allowed me that grace and the challenges that forged me into who I am today.
I’m taking Ann Lamott’s words to heart. I will not have a life full of “I wish I had”, but will strive for a life overflowing with creativity and fearlessness, that speak with effervescent love of “I’m so glad I did…” Onward, jiggly thighs and all.