acute awareness

Today was a long day. Ten hours of working on clients with no break. The body is angry with me. And, as you know, I’m self-employed, so I have only myself to blame.

This is a fairly new phenomenon – having my body reject the things it once did naturally – and I’m disappointed, sad, and scared. 

I have an older client with memory issues and confusion. Her daughter brings her to me every month for a haircut and a chat. Yesterday she was not in a good mood and was not treating her daughter kindly. As we talked, she said, “When I was the mama, I was more patient. Now that she’s the mama, she needs to be patient with me.” 

“I think she’s very patient, and I know she loves you very much.”

“What she doesn’t know is that I miss my words, and I wish she would understand that!”

“I understand that. It’s frustrating when your words used to work for you, and now they don’t.”

“I miss them. I miss being me.”

“I think she misses you and your words, too. I think it’s hard for both of you that things are changing. You still need to be patient with her. She still needs you.”

The conversation went on like that. This woman is amazing. Even on the hard days, she brings me such wisdom. She might not have all the words, but those she still grasps teach me so much. 

“It’s hard when you’re old. People used to listen, and you were important. Then, when you’re old, you’re invisible unless you make people uncomfortable. You talk and talk, hoping that someone will understand your new words.”

I know I’m half her age, but I get it. Aging is overwhelming. You look in the mirror and there’s a stranger there. You work ten hours, once your norm, and the pain is excruciating. You don’t attract the same attention, and it takes longer to recover from added responsibility. It’s heartbreaking, and it’s not really new, at least in the general sense. For me, personally, though…

Is this my new norm?

45.

Wow, 45 years on this planet. Incredible. I’m grateful for the time I’ve been allowed.

Facebook has this wonderful way of reminding you of what your recent years have brought with its “On This Day” memory feed. It brings me a lot of laughter and even a bit of sadness. It’s bittersweet to see past birthday wishes from friends who¬†have moved on to whatever comes next for us. I am now older than some of them when I was born many years after they were…It’s a good reminder, though, to sit with gratitude for my extended time.

And I’m old enough now to sit with my memories without regret. I can think about the thousands of experiences I’ve had, the people that have come and gone, the dreams that never came true and the many that have. Hindsight and all that, right? I can fully appreciate it now.

Those old posts also remind me of goals I’ve had along the way. Where those unfinished plans once brought heightened anxiety, today I thought about the things that did get done, and I reflected on the obstacles that kept me from accomplishing the others. Instead of being upset that I still haven’t finished a novel, I cut myself some slack. I’ve written thousands of words through the years, after all. I’ve been published in magazines and newspapers. I have four novels fleshed-out and have been concentrating on one for the last few weeks. Tens of thousands of words. I know they’ll all get done.

I have time.

Besides, the kids are having their own pre-teen adventures, and they need their space, so I get a few extra minutes every day to write and create. The time they need from me is concentrated with the really good stuff, too, and I’m grateful they share what they do with me. One shares every detail; one tells me what he can. It’s not always easy. People never are. Luckily, I can read both of them without the words, even if some days it’s like picking apart a poem to get to the truth. They’re complex creatures, my kids. I love that most.

They’ve had their first heartaches (!). They have opinions separate from mine (we actually encourage it). They know how to do things that others can’t (Rhiannon’s starting her fourth year of piano and has written short songs! Sebastian creates board games to rival Parker Brothers!). They’re proud of those things. And they are becoming – every day – more solidly themselves. I know they’re both excited and scared about that. We’re closer and closer to adolescence…

Tony and I are at the point where we let them make decisions. We expect the truth from them, and – while we’re still guiding them – we’re evolving more and more into a support system instead of being the puppet masters. We have high expectations, but at the end of the day the most important thing is that they know they’re loved.

They are excellent huggers, too.

I love their friendship. They’ll talk, and I realize they have conversations we didn’t hear. They have inside jokes. They fight less and less, and we’re a talkative house, so arguments are inevitable. I know that they’ll always have each other, even once Tony and I are gone. I’m glad for that.

Rhiannon is my heart. She’s kind and smart and beautiful. She’s more than I ever expected. I look at her with awe that I ever had a life before she existed. It seems impossible that she’s so new to this world! I am truly privileged to be her mother. And she loves me more than I knew anyone ever could. Sometimes I cry thinking about how lucky I am.

Romance through the years? Ugh. I didn’t know what I was doing! I’m finally figuring it out. Tony is my best friend. God, can he infuriate me. He pushes, and I push back. Our past relationships have made it impossible for us to keep things bottled up, so everything bubbles over. All of that raw beauty. All of this intense beautiful love. I’ve never had a man love me like he does. He loves me, not some construct he created in his mind. He wants to know me. It’s such a gift.

He’s a great man. He works hard. He loves his son and wants to raise him to be a good man. He’s stepped up for my daughter and wants to raise her to trust that people keep promises. He loves her as his own. He is like a fierce warrior who would die protecting us.

It’s amazing.

So, yeah, 45.

There are some leftover goals to tackle, along with, you know, being a mom and wife, running a business, being a community leader, being on a theater board, and still being available to deal with my parents and brother. It’s busy.

And I love it. I’m grateful to be here.