There is a sign that lives above my desk that reads “Celebrate the Successes.” It’s something my sister once told me as I related to her how I was struggling with feelings of inadequacy and stagnation. About how life sometimes just feels so hard and how everything feels like just one long series of failures.
We had that conversation long ago, maybe last year, maybe the year before. I can’t remember, but the paper the sign is printed on is pretty tattered, so it certainly wasn’t recently.
And yet, today I need it more than ever.
Because life is hard, yo. It’s a constant struggle. And, yes, it still feels like one long series of failures.
I was going to come here to whine about just how hard it all is and how low I feel right now, but then the sign caught my eyes and I realized that maybe, just maybe what I need today is a moment celebrating the successes instead of going over the list of failures one more time.
I have work. I even enjoy some of it.
I’m successfully working from home.
The kids are having great years.
I’ve started working on a new novel.
I’m making time to make more family meals.
I’m making more time to walk and take care of myself.
I’ve cultivated and nurtured some amazing friendships.
When I stop to think about the successes in my life, both big and little, it’s like a weight lifts from my shoulders and the dark clouds over my head get a little less heavy.
It’s been a rough few weeks. So much angst and worry and sadness. So many burdens to shoulder. I know I’m not the only one struggling this month. I see it all over Facebook and among my friends. January is hard. Brutally, unapologetically hard. It’s good to stop and remember that finding a little light to make the darkness more bearable is within our reach.
The other day when I was organizing my office, I moved the signs on my wall around. I think I need to move this one sign back to where I can see it easily so I keep reminding myself that success lies everywhere and it’s up to me to look for it.
I have this vision of myself, later at some indistinct time in my future, in a house with a yard. It’s a cozy house with lots of snug areas to sit, with a warm comforting kitchen that is more welcoming than functional.
The me that I imagine I’ll be then isn’t lithe, nor is she overweight, she’s an indistinct somewhere in between. She’s somewhat inspired by the maternal figure in Trixie Belden, or at least as I remember her, portly, busy baking pies and cooking for anyone who might be over, and also by other literary figures who have charmed me over the years.
The thing about this me of the future is that she’s secure in the knowledge that people love her exactly for who she is and how she makes them feel, and not because she’s dressed in a particular style, or looks a particular way. She’s just very comfortable being herself.
She putters. She wears flowy colorful clothing clearly designed for comfort and not for looks. She brews tea at all hours of the day. She hand-writes quotes and hangs them all over the place. She has notebooks stashed everywhere in case inspiration strikes.
She’s always ready to have people drop by for a treat, a cup of something warm to drink, a chat in the yard or in the cozy kitchen.
She’s got advice if it’s wanted and an ear if it’s needed.
I like to think that she’s a safe haven because she’s so secure in her acceptance of herself as she is.
Occasionally I see glimpses of this me I hope to someday become.
The handwritten notes are already populating my office walls. The tea is already a fixture.
It’s the rest that still eludes me. That feeling that I could wear anything that makes my soul feel at peace and not worry about what others might think or say.
Once in a while I spot an item and think, “I need that. I must have that. Because one day that’s who I’ll be.” Usually I demure. And sometimes I don’t.
Which is how I ended up ordering the one piece romper jumper thing that everyone was talking about one day on Facebook. It’s utterly ridiculous, and yet my soul cried out for it and my wallet didn’t balk at the $14 price tag.
The package arrived and sat untouched for over a month. I couldn’t bring myself to face the ridicule, knowing how much I would love having it on.
The other day, I finally found the courage to try it on. I swooshed around the house, loving the feel of the fabric flowing around my legs, relishing the utter freedom of the endless comforting material.
Then I saw my daughter’s face, half smiling/half afraid that her nutty mother might actually wear this thing out in public, and I changed out of my romper and tucked it away.
It’s ok. I get it, I really do. And I’m not entirely ready to be that person anyway.
So, for now, I’m happy to let it sit there, in my closet, waiting for the day that I’ll finally be that person whose self-assurance shines through so brightly that what she drapes over her body isn’t what people will see first.
And maybe on quiet days, it’ll come out to play.
In the meantime, I’ll smile at the knowledge that I’m not the only one who bought the romper while it was on sale. The Facebook frenzy about it is enough to tell me that I’m not the only one who dreams of one day being that self-assured woman.
I look forward to sharing a cup of tea with them in the not so distant future.
Please note, in the interest of full disclosure, you should know that the links above include my Amazon affiliate link. Should you click on them and purchase something like maybe a book to treat your inner child or a romper to tempt your future self, I’ll earn a teensy tiny portion of the sale and I will be endlessly grateful.
I’ve had a nice big patch of white hair over my right temple since our tumultuous 2011 experiences, but until recently, only a few others would appear here and there, easily ripped out and dismissed as mere annoyances. These days however, new white hairs appear with devastating frequency. And they’re no longer happy to let themselves be contained in an area that can somewhat easily be masked. Oh no. They’re popping up everywhere.
And then there’s this weird thing happening on my chest. As in, when I wake up I have these disgustingly deep wrinkles all down my cleavage. They fade as the day progresses, but man is that a hard thing to see first thing in the morning. It’s like I’m getting old or something.
Or rather, it’s like my body is trying to tell me something.
It’s like it’s trying to hint at the fact that I’m turning 40 in just three months.
4. 0. In. 3. Months.
And how is that even possible?
I thought I was going to be young forever.
Or, rather, I thought I was still young.
Because young is a mindset, right? I’m sure I saw a poster on Pinterest that said something to that effect. And if it’s on Pinterest, it must be true. Right? RIGHT?
And I really thought I was still hip, and cool, and with it. I mean, I have a stripe of bluish green mermaid hair for crying out loud, if that doesn’t scream hip, I don’t know what does.
And then we went to Las Vegas, and spotted a young woman dressed in a show-girl outfit, posing in the street with people delighted to spend a couple dollars to have their picture taken with her. All she was wearing in lieu of a bra were two pretty little flower shaped pasties.
When M pointed her out to me, I gasped.
“Oh, that poor girl’s mother…” I whimpered.
M gave me a look, which made me whimper even louder.
Because cool, young, hip people don’t look at scantily clad girls and wonder if their mom knows what they do for a living. Ergo, I am clearly not cool, young, or hip.
The next day, while lounging by the pool in my no nonsense tummy control bathing suit from Lands End, I actually googled “how old is middle aged?”
Good news, apparently, it’s not an age, it’s a state of mind.
Bad news, I might be heading that way on a runaway train fueled by un-hip Mom thoughts and tummy control bathing suits.
Of course, ever since then, I’ve been dreaming up tattoos that would prove to the world once and for all that I was still very much hip and cool.
At least, I did that until this morning, when I was in the shower having the kinds of deep thoughts you can only have when not being interrupted by kids, dogs, social media messages, or anything else that constantly interrupt my thoughts during the day.
As I lathered up my hair and wondered if there was some magic shampoo that could make my white hair a little less brittle, I asked myself why I was so terrified at the thought of getting older.
I thought about all of the things I have accomplished in the last ahem – 40 – ahem years.
I have nothing to be ashamed of. I have filled those years well. I have tried and tested lots. I have learned even more. I have been daring and bold. I have lived life fully. And I’m not even close to done living life fully.
I may no longer have a chest that won’t quit, or the kinds of looks that help me get ahead in life. But I have smarts I’ve honed carefully for many years. Hard won experience I can put to good use. And it’s so much more satisfying to know I’m landing jobs because I’m good at what I do, rather than because I look cute in a suit.
Yes, I’m still freaking out about the big birthday. Yes, I’m still googling tattoos. But I think I’m starting to get a grip on the whole thing. 40 is a major benchmark, but it would be more worrisome if I had nothing to show for all those spent years.
I get to spend the next 40 putting into effect what I spent the first 40 learning and practicing. So, maybe it’s time to accept that wisdom and experience have youth beat in all the ways that matter. But, if I’m brutally honest, and why wouldn’t I be at this point, now that you know all about the weird cleavage wrinkles…, I might have to sit with that thought for a while. It might take a long while to start feeling like a truth rather than something I’m trying to trick myself into believing.
And then, of course, there’s this…. The brutal reminder that I’m damn lucky to be struggling with these feelings at all.
I turned the corner, driving that fine line between driving the speed limit and going fast enough to get to school in time to collect the kid getting out of her after-school activity. I snarled at the rain starting again, at my broken windshield wiper I didn’t even know was broken until this morning, at the blister forming in the rain boot that only gets worn once or twice a season.
And then I saw it. And I gasped.
A rainbow. A silly, stupid, glorious rainbow, stretching clear across the sky. A perfect shining rainbow.
And then I laughed.
Because for a minute I couldn’t fathom what I was seeing.
I’d forgotten about rainbows.
What can I say? It doesn’t rain very often in California.
So, I’d forgotten about rainbows.
Rainbows in all their magical, improbable selves. A thing that children color, because they’re so darn pretty and shiny and irresistible.
Rainbows, reminding us that there’s beauty and magic to be found in even the dreariest of days.
I seriously can’t believe I’d forgotten about rainbows.
Just how grown-up and jaded have I become?
What happened to the girl who always looked for the silver lining in every situation? Who always tried to tease the fun out of every moment?
2011 was a brutal year of unending big catastrophes that kept knocking me off my feet.
This year has been less obvious in its relentless sly attacks, and yet, apparently no less draining.
I keep trying to pull myself up from my bootstraps, keep trying to jolly myself out of the gray area I seem to wallow in most often these days, but it’s hard. There are constant reminders about my father. Constant little challenges to overcome. Constant reasons not to smile, but to, instead, force a grin on my face a bear another day.
It’s not how I want to be, not who I want to be.
I want to be the girl who looks for rainbows, not the one who forgets they even exist.