Yesterday was my fortieth birthday. This perhaps explains my restlessness and vague melancholy over the last few weeks. A quiet alarm at four decades gone, mingled with frustration that at forty years into life, almost a dozen into mothering, I’m still skinning my knees and asking elementary questions and chasing my tail around some of the same trees.
I’m finding that a milestone birthday is acting on me a lot like New Year’s Day or the beginning of the school year. There is the urge to make a list and DO, DO, DO. An exercise schedule, a writing schedule. Whipping into shape everything within range of busy hands. Inside my chest there’s an inner coach who looks a lot like me, whistle around her neck, barking, “Let’s make something HAPPEN people.”
But there’s another voice, softer but more insistent, saying that this is not the way, this is not what to make of these emotional and reflective days. Last week I dove again into the humor and wisdom and relentless faith of Anne Lamott, who assured me that help is always on the way.
I’ve found it to be true.
Yesterday my friend Jill took me out for coffee for my birthday. Time with her is always gift, with good conversation and laughter and lots to think about afterward. Yesterday was no exception. It helps that she shares my ambivalence about this particular number of candles on the birthday cake, and it helps that she asks good questions of her life and is making peace with waiting for the answers to emerge.
When I unwrapped my birthday package from her, she gave me more than she planned to. She knew I loved the lockets Liz Lamoreux makes, with messages, reminders, precious words pounded into them. Her thoughtfulness in remembering something I’d mentioned in passing and tracking it down in the wonders of etsy touched this often-bruised heart.
But as I wore the locket yesterday, I knew she’d given me more than a token of our friendship. She had given me an answer to what to do with this moment in life that feels precipitous, that feels like a weighted new beginning. Or rather, the right question to ask.
Inside the old brass are the words “whole heart.” We’d watched Brene Brown’s TED talk together, and I’d felt stirring a desire for that kind of bravery, that really could give up the nursing of old hurts and insecurities and shame for the open-handedness of living vulnerable and free.
Jill’s gift has me taking a deep breath. In asking “What’s next, please?” I’m really asking, “What would it look like to live my forties with my whole heart?”
Love with my whole heart?
Mother with my whole heart?
Be daughter, sister, friend, with my whole heart?
Serve with my whole heart?
Create and write with my whole heart?
This is only a different way of asking the questions I’m always asking, about living the one-piece life. About how to be all real all here, looking and writing through the lens of a redemptive story without slapping a trite homily over pain and loss and grief. Remembering that faith requires, well, faith. Resisting the urge to jump to the “right” answers when what I need to do is to sit in the questions.
So I’m asking?
What does it look like to dwell in and live from, my whole heart?