Hey, hey….It’s my BIRTHDAY!
Today is my 39th birthday. I woke up at 6:15 and couldn’t go back to sleep, which is unusual for me because I am decidedly NOT a morning person. Like, at all. The rest of my family is still asleep. I’m drinking a large cup of coffee and the only sound in the house is the soft tapping of keys and the dog across the street that will not stop barking. For the love of all that is holy, please stop barking. Repetitive noises are one thing that will eventually land me on an episode of that show “Snapped”.
I wasn’t sure how I would feel about my birthday today. I’ve never had a huge problem with birthdays or getting older. When I was younger, I was just CERTAIN that I wasn’t going to be a woman that was obsessed with getting older and trying to turn back the clock. I decided I was going to be one of those of those hip older women that grew old gracefully and rocked my grey hair. Mind you, that was when I was 20. It’s so much easier to be cool and carefree about getting older when your face has no lines and your hair has no grey. Your chill about your age is harder to maintain when you’re standing in the parking lot of a Mexican restaurant and your best friend is pulling out your grey hairs because your husband has just pointed out how many you have.
For me, the things that are harder about getting older are not so much about how I look, which that part sucks too, but more about how I feel. There are the physical things, like random body parts hurting and popping when you try to stand. I had back surgery when I was 29 and there is always some level of creakiness in the surrounding joints from arthritis and disc disease. I’ve been dealing with that since I was 20, so that’s not really a new issue. But my shoulder hurting from hanging laundry up is both hilarious and annoying. My weight has crept up over the years from a lovely combo of hormone issues, a whole lot of infertility treatments, PCOS, and not eating as well as I could and not exercising as much as I should.
What I mean about how I feel is not really about the physical, but about the mental. My big sister always calls me her “hip little sister”. I used to feel cool and young and carefree. When Jon and I met, I was such a free spirit. Guys….it is SO much easier to be a free spirit when your parents are paying for pretty much everything. Nothing will break that free spirit like two kids, a mortgage, student loan debt, and homeschooling two kids. Jon and I went to high school together and when we reconnected I was the hippy living next door. I went over to borrow his phone because my best friend Leslie and I were too broke to have our own. I had on a long flowing skirt, one of those gauzy shirts that only had string ties in the back, and my amazing (totally not amazing) lower back tribal tattoo showing. Because nothing says upper middle class white girl like a tribal tattoo “tramp stamp” on your lower back. Not one of my finer decisions. I was always going to see live music and would dance until the wee hours of the morning to any jam band I could go see. Now, at 39, I still enjoy a reasonable amount of jam band music. The difference now is that repetitive noise and overly drawn out “jamming” gets on my nerves and I’m like, “move along, Gregg Allman, we get the point. Melissa is very sweet. Please don’t make me skip to the next song.”
The hardest thing is that I know, without a doubt, that I am not very much like the girl that Jon met and married. I’m not carefree. I’m not as fearless. I know he doesn’t see me the same. Some of that is a good thing. I was super carefree when he met me. I was also extremely irresponsible. He had to teach me how to balance a checkbook and budget because I was a pro at writing bad checks and getting, what Leslie and I affectionately deemed, “Love Letters from the Bank”.
There’s a song Sara Bareilles wrote for the Broadway musical “Waitress” that I love and the lyrics resonate with me as I inch closer to 40. It’s called “She Used to Be Mine”. Here are some of the lyrics:
“It’s not simple to say, most days I don’t recognize me. That these shoes and this apron, that place and its patrons, have taken more than I gave them. It’s not easy to know I’m not anything like I used to be, although it’s true I was never attention’s sweet center, I still remember that girl. She’s imperfect, but she tries. She is good, but she lies. She is hard on herself. She is broken and won’t ask for help. She is messy, but she’s kind. She is lonely most of the time. She is all of this mixed up and baked in beautiful pie. She is gone, but she used to be mine.”
I am attempting to reconcile this girl I always thought I was, to the reality of the woman I am at thirty-nine. I may not be carefree, but I am deeply caring. I may not be a free spirt, but I have a spirit of discernment. I still have the tribal tattoo, but now that tattoo has a scar down the middle of it from the back surgery that changed my life and gave it back to me. I may not have that long hippy skirt I was wearing when I met Jon, but I gave it to my amazing niece so she can dance in it. I no longer get “Love Letters from the Bank”, but I can budget like nobody’s business (Thank you Jon and Dave Ramsey). I may no longer be as skinny as I was, but my body has birthed two children I never thought I would have and it can snuggle and hold them. Jon may no longer see the girl he originally fell in love with, but I do hope that he sees, every day, that I love and adore him in a way I never thought was possible when I was 20 years old. I have gone from being a girl who was always up for a good time with her friends, to a woman who can hold space with a grieving friend in the room with her as she births her precious, sleeping son. And I am proud of who I am now. I am more secure in my womanhood than I ever was in my girlhood. I know the kind of person I want to be, the kind of friend I want to be, and the kind of woman I want to be. The kind of woman who loves with every single ounce of her being and shows her girls that softness does not equate to weakness. That you can be both vulnerable and strong. That those two traits are, in no way, mutually exclusive.
So if you are in your twenties, enjoy them. Be wild and free, but know that there is something so much better to come. It may not look like you expected it to and YOU may not look like you expected to, but that’s ok. But girl…..enjoy wearing a good cat eye, because it’s a lot harder to rock a cat eye when the cat wants to take a nap in your crow’s feet.
Come on 39. Let’s do this!