Tuesday, February 14, 2012

On Thirty. A Valentine's Repost.

Here is my full post from last week's My Thirty Spot Project. Read all the essays here.

Part of me would love to be thirty again. (Specifically, my ass would love to be thirty again.)

But then the rest of me remembers how exhausting it was.

Your twenties are often spent searching and second-guessing. And your thirties? Finding, nesting, populating. Perfecting. It’s the perfecting I wish I could do over. (Irony: I want to fix my perfectionism because that would be soooo perfect.)

By the time I hit forty, I knew that Christmas cards couldn’t compete with Christmas mornings. That having the right furniture meant nothing unless you had the right friends. All those years I worried people might laugh at me? I should have been looking for people to laugh with me.

I want a do-over on all the hours I went shopping for things to hold other things. If I could be issued a refund, please, for the days spent pondering paint chips, I would use them to go out and consider the colors of the stormy sky and bending pines.

Light matters. Scent matters. Fresh flowers. Fresh air. All the rest just has to be replaced every five years.

And the kids, the school drama, the herding cats days. Sigh.

If I could get back all the time I spent trying to make my daughters smile simultaneously for the camera, or sit still in their color-coordinated clothes, I would use it to tickle them. To hula-hoop. And to fingerpaint under the shade of a tree. I would stop trying to keep them clean, and just keep them happy.

I know now it doesn’t matter what you wear to back-to-school night. And . . .shhhhh . . . don’t tell anyone, but . . . .it doesn’t matter if you go to back-to-school night.

For years, I avoided valet parking at restaurants because I was worried sippy cups and petrified french fries would fly out when they opened the door. Now, I let them sail and tip accordingly.

There is so much pressure now. Ways to live, eat, cultivate. Virtuous paths that require more of women, at a time when other things are scarce. We cling to jobs we can’t afford to lose. We learn to plant vegetables and when we get too good at it, we have to learn to can. We get up early to ride pretend bicycles up pretend hills. In addition to jumper cables and quarters. . . we have to remember to have a dozen freaking re-usable grocery bags in our cars.

It’s too much. It’s too much. These are not the years to dig in. These are the years to let go of the rope. To let the potato chips fall where they may. To let the organic cookies crumble in your happily un-made beds.

Nap, I say. Read a book. Take a walk. Hold a hand. The light is waning, always. Curl into it.


leis said...

beautiful and so true.

DonnaGalanti said...

Kelly, as one well past 40 I get this post in so many ways. Friends who moan to me about turning 35 or 40...I tell them 40s is the BEST. You know what's real by then, what's important...and what's not and have the confidence to live it. Thanks for putting it all out there!

Don Lafferty said...

It's a little different for boys, as I'm sure you know.

When a man transitions through the epiphany you describe, it's characterized as a midlife crisis. A departure from his sanity. An Abandonment that risks destabilizing everything his wife has built while he's been going along for the ride.

Until she too realizes, as you so beautifully describe, that happiness doesn't come WITH the McMansion, but from the family within.

And if they're really lucky, and their marriage has somehow managed to survive their separate journies to this discovery - this growing up - then their best years are certainly yet to come.

kelly said...

I think for some men it takes buying the little red sports car to realize the contents of the minivan are more important. . .and for some women, a lot of decorating to realize it's just window dressing.

(And those who know me know I gave up on decorating at approximately age 37.)

Kathryn Craft said...

I enjoyed this, Kelly. I just finished re-reading Dreiser's Jennie Gerhardt, in which he says that the pace of modern life is so intense it could drive one mad. He's writing that in 1911, when the modern conveniences included the telegraph and the train! I think we can forgive ourselves for feeling overwhelmed by the need to do it all and have it all in the age of the internet.

kelly said...

It's interesting, Kathryn, how everything is relative! I'm reading Rin Tin Tin and the trials of the movie/TV business in the 40s and 50s are no different than today.