In a few days I’ll turn 41. While turning 40 was, obviously, a notable deal (and something I wrote about a few times in the past 12 months, most recently here) 41 seems an absolute non-event. I’m happy to leave it at that.
This year, though, 2018, when I was 40, was decidedly eventful. We moved into a new house in a new neighborhood, and sold the first house we owned. It was financially stressful, and stressful in general. I started full-time freelance writing, a slightly confusing job title that sometimes means having no work at all. Nora and Gabriel went to a new school. Our crazy dog ran away a number of times, due to her uncanny skill at identifying what seem like too-small spaces in fences and swiftly-closing doors and shimmying her skinny body through them, and leading me to almost die of sheer terror every time because, of course, she doesn’t look both ways before crossing the street. We joined a pool and the kids got used to ordering and paying for their own stuff at the snack bar; we had many related talks about whether or not we were going to have a Sponge Bob popsicle this close to dinner time. I finished writing a book, a sentence it is very, very difficult for me to write without adding the emoji with its teeth showing in an angsty expression. I learned to bake sourdough bread. I reconnected with a bunch of friends I’d made when we first moved to New Haven ten years ago and got to hang out with friends a lot in general, locally at concerts and over drinks and coffee and at the exercise classes I started going to again. I reunited with high school BFFs in Utah to celebrate this important year of birthdays, where I rode a high zipwire and an innertube down a steep slope, both super fun and horrifying, then had long, intense talks over wine in the hot tub and laughed-til-it-hurt over ALL THOSE MEMORIES, which is much more my speed. I went to the hospital for what was most likely a panic attack, and realized that I’d been having them pretty regularly.
Nationally, internationally? Politically, culturally? Oh my lord.
I can’t properly catalog all the personal and other events, but I can attest that some of the most mundane made as much of an impact as any. Taking the dog out and staring at the vast, dark sky in Maine over a frigid Thanksgiving break, while my friends and family chattered, warm inside; a yellow glow pouring from the kitchen window, previewing our return from the icy yard.
I don’t need to keep going. I mean, you all have been kind enough to stick around listening to my random thoughts until now and there’s no need to go over every last detail, am I right? I just wanted to mention, briefly - where “briefly” is very specific to my brand of “brief,” aka not brief at all - how much I’ve enjoyed this eventful year.
How, I think, one of the hallmarks of being 40 (of getting older in general, I guess) seems to be fretting less about the moments occurring right before our eyes. The “not caring as much” that people kept assuring me would happen.
I still fret plenty. Actually, I have two 2019 resolutions. One is to be calmer. The other is to travel. Travel far away from home, if we can, but to visit new places closer to home, too. To see and experience the unfamiliar.
As for the former goal, however, this past year, in addition to delivering a fair amount of stress, has provided some true moments of peace, more frequent than I’ve had in the past. Some contemplating of the universe - some meditativeness - that I want to see and share more of.
Right now I’m looking out the large window of my mom’s house in Maryland, where we’ve been relaxing with her and others for the past few days, having long talks over extended morning coffee and lots of time throwing sticks to the dog by the water, learning that, while she’ll run away - fearless, in a heartbeat - she will not, is terrified of, swimming. Experiencing expected fights over the new Magnatiles, although Aidy and Gabe are, unbelievably, playing nicely together this morning (when I recall tales of their youth in the future, there are going to be a lot of stories about my two youngest children that begin, “Well. You two didn’t like each other very much.”) Tonight we’ll ring in the new year with good friends and a houseful of joyful, wild children.
Yesterday me and my sister-in-law Audrey stole Nora for a getaway at a local nail salon, after I explained to my oldest that under no circumstances was she to tell her princess, glitter, unicorn, makeup, jewel and gem-loving little sister that we had done this. Nora already knew, naturally. I choose bright pink and Nora chose a dark teal, kind of like the color J recently painted her room.
We gave Audrey hugs and kisses at the door, since she was headed back home, and Nora and I drove the twenty or so minutes back to my mom’s listening to music, staring out at the flat expanses of seagrass and regular grass, at barns and houses decorated for the holidays. I could have launched into a speech about how much I’d loved spending some quality time with just her, or what a memorable year it had been, or how much that nail color fit her personality and style. But Nora loves listening to music in the car. She goes into a kind of music-coma, we always joke, sinking into the seat, losing track of everything else. When I turn down the music to interject with some insight I feel it is crucial to impart right at that very moment, she often objects. Understandably so.
So I didn’t, and we rode on immersed in the pleasant communion of melody plus movement. The year’s end, bright colors at our fingertips, quiet for a moment before reconnecting with all the movement and noise and excitement that lay just ahead.