The morning of my birthday I woke up to swirling clouds of tiny white flakes against the soft yellow glow of the street light across our street. It was beautiful. I now know where the cliched image of blanketed with new fallen snow comes from and it is as peaceful as it sounds. I also now know what it looks like snow up. That’s right folks, Mama got a blizzard for her birthday.
The tiny goth pre-teen (we didn’t have “emo” or “tween” back in my day, kids) inside me instantly recognized this as some otherworldly metaphor for aging and the struggles of being in the middle of so many things. It is a tumultuous storm that can be exciting, beautiful, and terrifying.
Since my birthday is so close to the holidays and just after the New Year, I tend to save my time of personal reflection for the whole of January leading up to my birthday when finally I take stock. It just seems like a natural opportunity to remember what I’m grateful for and determine what I’d like to focus on going forward.
It seems all the more appropriate to me now that it’s taken a full week to write this post. I woke again this morning to another swirling snowstorm and realized I hadn’t finished my thoughts from the week before. In a Sisyphian struggle, I keep thinking the thoughts, but never releasing them onto the digital page so I may finally be free of them. My husband points out that our neighbor, chugging along with his snowblower at 9 am, reminded him of the same image since it’s been five hours since then and that guy is clearly going be out again. And there go the thoughts again…
So here I sit, contemplating the choices we make every day and wondering how any of us manage to actually accomplish anything at all. Even as I write now, I am watching Miss O nap on the video monitor, knowing that this time I have all to myself to do whatever I want is fraught with sacrifice and panic. Rarely is it the calm moment of peace I long for. It’s usually a harried time of weighing my options and hoping I can get at least most of something done before she wakes up or Hubs needs something. Do I spend that precious time doing laundry, cleaning the house, paying bills, writing, reading, or some other project I can’t even remember I have waiting. One of my favorites is the question of sitting down to figure out what I have to do that week or just start chipping away and hope I catch them all in time. This is not the woman I used to be.
I used to be organized. I’m talking color-coded organized. I used to be on time, if not early, for everything. I used to accessorize my outfits. Hell, I used to have outfits. I used to wear eyeliner. Sometimes I don’t even recognize myself. I know a lot of women lament letting themselves go. Believe it or not, I am not one of them. I don’t actually miss putting on eyeliner and I now have a streamlined wardrobe of about ten seasonally appropriate outfits that I know work and look good on me. I just sort of laugh at how much my life has changed. I still have my favorite brown Coach satchel, but it has a standby granola bar and little pink plastic aviators in it now.
I don’t feel like that woman is lost in any way, but I do wonder what she would think of me. I am mostly where I wanted to be, though I certainly did not get here the way I thought I would. We’ve had a few more downs than ups, but we keep getting up and that’s what matters. We also tend to take longer than others to get where we want to be, but we get there, eventually.
I suppose that’s the biggest point for me. I’m still comparing myself and my situation to others’. We all do it, right? How can you not? It’s almost impossible to go through a day without thinking of something. Just this past weekend we got a break from the snow and visited my sister-in-law and her family. We got to talking about grad school and next careers (possibly my third and her second or third depending on how you look at it). She got me all fired up ready to take the GRE or GMAT and plunge onward into bigger and better things. Then our kids started bickering over a Thomas toy and I was shaken back into reality.
My Sister-in-law is a Doer. Once she gets an idea in her head it’s basically done. She’s amazing that way. I’m an Eventually-I-Will-Do-It-When-I-Run-Out-Of-Excuseser. Maybe I will surprise myself this time, but I can already feel the self-doubt and comparing monologue going in my head to talk me out of it. I’m not as motivated as she is. She already has one Masters. She has a stronger support system than I do. (This is where I start to seriously stretch the truth to myself.) I think clinically I’m a self-defeatist with low self-esteem. I’ve never asked, but I’ve watched years of sitcoms and crime dramas, so I feel I’m qualified to self-diagnose in this area.
I do know that I have been thinking about honestly making a go for it ever since we talked about it. I also know, that I am capable of doing it if I can ignore the naysayers in my head. Wouldn’t it be lovely to take stock next year and be able to compare myself to myself?