I turned 30 this weekend, quietly and without fanfare. Rather than the laughing, sparkling gathering I had imagined, full of lovely friends and wonderful food and witty, heartfelt toasts, I spent the weekend at home with a feverish child and a cat who nibbled on my birthday bouquet then promptly vomited all over the kitchen floor. It was nothing like I had imagined it would be; but then again, nothing ever has been.
Ten years ago I was married with an infant daughter. We had recently purchased our first home, a nondescript beige box perched at the top of a ridge, overlooking a fertile farming valley. In the mornings, when our baby girl woke early with bright eyes and an enormous gummy smile, I’d dress her for the day and gaze out the window at the green pastures far below. I tried to imagine who she would grow up to be and I would picture her childhood that was stretched out before us, ripe with potential. The possibility of divorce, of single parenthood, never once occurred to me. I had no idea that within five years her father and I would no longer live together, that I would struggle to make a life on my own for her and her little sister.
Not only did my 20s turn out completely differently than I had expected, the “surprises” that decade brought were so thoroughly catastrophic that the woman who emerged from them would be wholly unrecognizable to the one who held that little baby and watched the tiny dots of cows grazing far below. So what, then, can I expect from this next decade? It may be safer to avoid this topic altogether.
Rather than set expectations, or even imagine the details of the next ten years, I have decided to make a pledge to the woman I will be at 40. I know that whoever she is, she will be stronger and wiser and much, much sexier than the woman I am today, and I know it will take some serious living to become her. So for the next ten years, with her in mind, I pledge to do the following:
I will be more forgiving of my failures. I know that these very failures are what will ultimately make me strong. As Leonard Cohen says, “There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
I will actively seek peace. Peace in my community, peace in my workplace, peace in my home, and peace within myself. Remember what the poet Rumi says: “What you seek is seeking you.”
I will not fight the changes. But I will also remember these wise words from the lionhearted Maya Angelou: “I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.”
I will love. In my words I will love, in my actions I will love, in my decisions I will love and in my thoughts (the most difficult of all) I will love. And when this is so difficult to do that it seems impossible to go on, I will remember what Anne Lamott’s Jesuit friend Tom says: “Left foot, right foot, left foot, breathe.” And then, “Right foot, left foot, right foot, breathe.”
Ten years from now, when I look back at the woman who wrote this piece, I know I will love her more than I do today. I will see that she was bravely forging ahead, tackling life with dignity and grace, even though it felt like stumbling at the time. I trust in my capacity to grow and evolve, and I trust in the woman I will become. I just have to make sure I give her room to show up.