I turned thirty May thirteenth. Big deal and not a big deal. I'd already started to think of myself as being thirty probably sometime during my twenty-eighth year to heaven, and furthermore thirty was never my Scary Year (thirty-five, SATC-style, may have been, though really I don't want to have any overburdened age). Rama turned forty about a month before I hit my own milestone, and as I kept saying, because I'm an asshole, "Rama's turning forty reeaallly takes the edge off my turning thirty." So douche, and also true--being with someone a little older really helps you feel like a whippersnapper wood nymph PYT. But here's the thing I've mainly been mulling over before my birthday and since: how much does Rama's simply being in my life (ages irregardless) mitigate the weight of this potentially millstone-y marker? And existential ego terror in general?
Holidays (particularly Christmas and Valentine's) can, as we all bemoaningly know, dredge up The Big Lonely, and New Year's and birthdays can too, but these latter two observances especially induce one to take stock. Because I am on one level a fusspot OCD perfectionist, I have always loved fresh starts, and I've eagerly grabbed at the chance to Begin Again Anew, enthusiastically enumerated New Year's and Birthday Resolutions (and now there's Hıdırellez too--thanks Flayv!). Never mind for years and years my lists maddeningly consisted of the 'zact same undone bullshit, and while I've still got a lot of those same malingering bullet-pointed goals (learn the banjo: looking at you), I don’t feel like I’m treading water anymore. Meeting Rama was a sea change. I got a tug, and now I’m unstuck and coasting along at my own (slow) pace.
I've written about some of this stuff before, and I still don't feel like I have a handle on it. Rama's and my encountering each other was a huge crazy boon from the universe that I feel uneasy even thinking, much less writing too much about, because #hubris, and also it makes me wildly uncomfortable to be vulnerable to/receive too much from another person, to allow myself to be energetically "held like a big ol' baby." Life is long (if we're lucky--please let us be lucky) and people change and fucked-up unpredictable stuff happens, so it's really scary for me to have any kind of "love of my life" narrative.
It's never been part of the story of myself I've told myself. I've always wanted to be my own godhead, the free-wheeling protagonist, even if I've been "free" mostly in the internal Dickinsonian sense (bless this house and its heart so savage), as opposed to the world-devouring roving Whitman way. I'm not a big actor--I'm not a pioneer. I don't make a lot of moves--the ones I do are rigorously considered and personally meaningful, but the big ones are few and far between. There is in my life a fair amount of bill-paying, house-cleaning day-to-day, and while I am building I hope toward as my dad says "making play work," finding a way to love what it is I do to live, I am not bold. This timidity and hesitance to have endeavors, to "put myself out there," has always frustrated me about myself. I think one of the good parts of getting a little longer-toothed is learning to value or at least accepting our intrinsic traits we used to despise. I'm not saying we can't change--I worship change like a god--I am talking about making peace with some of our bone-deep qualities.
My ex-bf and I were together for six years, and so naturally broke up a few times over those años before our final kaput. The worst break for me came soon after I'd graduated from college and was a complete fucking disaster for myriad reasons; I was at that time deeply un-fun company. Anyway immediately upon our split he commenced boning a yoked and enormous cold-eyed Finnish yoga teacher (or maybe he was already was, which he denied but who knows). In one of our few, utterly rancid post-break (pre-reunion god help us all) phone-fights he was telling me about Yoga Whore (as I o so creatively sobriquet-ed her), how in addition to her yogic mastery and fancy dollah-dollah-bills nine-to-five computer-y job, she was also a "Shakespearean actress" and "professional concert violinist." He explained to me that she was very "yang" where I was very "yin." What he meant was that she was an expansive and accomplished doer, and I was...not. It was such a slap to my self-esteem.
I always have a very loosey-goosey grasp on New-Age-y stuff, which is of course in itself not the most rigorous shit, so my goose is totally loose when I write about this stuff (and yet here I go again). My friend Kate explained "yin" to me as the feeling of petting a cat; if that's yin I'm yin. I've never really explored defining it further, but I do love/require a purring thrum of harmony in all aspects of my life. I create clean good-feeling spaces with nice light. I like to have rumple-free concord in my work as well as personal relationships. I enjoy pleasant rhythms. I stay in the same jobs for a long time (sometimes way too long, but I'll get to that). It is really difficult for me to shake things up, because this means I am choosing to be (even temporarily) uncomfortable.
Though I am slow to make a change, I’m not always slow in life. I can chill thank god, but I contend with nervous energy. Contentment follows activity—I can get down on some deep relaxation, but I achieve that by balancing it with the stuff that "got done." I check-mark to-do lists most every day, regular running is a must, and I get totally bonerized by multi-tasking mental and physical activities. I heart calling my mom on a run, washing dishes while chatting at a party, podcasting while I clean the bathroom, doodling a painting while visiting with friends, etc.
My brain’s always busy, but in a very controlled and organized way. I am orderly in my thinking style; what I'm usually doing is combing out snarls, snipping frayed threads, weaving all those skeins of experience into a smooth and coherent cloth. Or let me grapple with another clunky metaphor: I'm constantly mentally sorting, collecting thoughts into compartments of ideas that over time are adequately abundant and consistent enough to be labeled "beliefs." It's not usually too willy-nilly in there (aside from my sense of humor which is totally nuts). My mind's always working on staying nice and tidy.
The loving to be comfortable thing doesn’t mean I’m a homebody—just the opposite in fact. I crave the escape and have always been the one in my group of friends to spearhead adventures, to spatula peeps off the couch, badgering them that “we should go somewhere!" But moving through unfamiliar (or uncommon) spaces with familiar people has been key to my enjoyment of them. It's stimulating and soothing being mobile with good company (I mention this partly because being endlessly game and down-to-clown forms a core portion of R's and my compatibility and happiness together).
This is all to say I'm not quick to venture out of the energetic corrals I've penned myself into; I'll prance incessantly in circles, but it's a long time before I'll risk the fence-jump. I peeked back into a couple old journals and was struck by the two clear themes running throughout: my unhappiness with my job (abusive bullying boss and toxic work environment) and my discontentment with my relationship (emotionally unstable bf). But despite the pervasive dissatisfaction I was feeling, It took me years to extricate myself from either situation (though ironically both my overdue exits were swift and final as guillotines). You live, you learn. I hope that if something is making me unhappy in the future I’ll have a quicker turn-around time, not be so scared of rocking the boat that I wait overlong to change its course.
The yin stuff I think also has a lot to do with my inward orientation. I am excessively susceptible to picking up what other people are feeling, and if those people are people I love (as was almost exclusively the case during my early childhood), it is extremely difficult for me to feel at peace unless all's well with all of them. Which means I can get buffeted around a lot in the emotional squalls and circumstantial storms of others, myself wielding very little control over any of it. My mom said that when I was first starting to talk I would stare into her face and ask her, "Happy Mommy? Sad Mommy?" (Her brother had died suddenly in a motorcycle accident when I was one, and I wonder now if I was picking up on some of that grief.) Throughout high school if my dad was in a grump my mom would chide me, "Molly, don't take it on." Because I would. I am interminably trying to cheese-make the family squabbles. And so of course I formed a coping mechanism--my internal, semi-impermeable spaces.
I am extremely good at diving deep into thought. I am the master of blocking out intrusive sounds. It is very easy for me not to listen to the conversations around me. Through therapy I've identified when I'm going inward in a bad way, which I call numbing out, my pulse beating like the wings of a panicked bird trapped in the cage of my body, my thoughts oily and untouchable, slipping darkly out of grasp. But even if I originally built those inner zones to cope with stress, I cherish them now as a pleasant retreat to sometimes exist in.
I love my own company. When things are going well enough on the outside (for as Joanna says, "the great estates are not lit from within"), my brain is an enjoyable zone to be, by turns acrobatic and crystalline or rosily at play. I'm mohss def an introvert (incidentally I recently re-took ye olde Myers-Briggs and tested INFP where I've historically been INFJ, for any nerds out there who are into that kind of thing)--I re-charge my batteries on my own. While I love to "be social" on varying levels of intimacy, without time to myself I am invariably depleted. That being said, relating to others, be it through convo or through some kind of media (music, lit, visual art), seems to be one of my life's richest sources of meaning.
And now there’s Rama, the bona fide pardner I never expected to have nor knew I wanted. I find myself energetically bound to another—and it’s lovely and easy and filling and fun, without any power games or ego crap or calculation or distrust or drama. The goodness of and with Rama has branched into all aspects of my life and well-being--I'm not so beleaguered and beset by the world and the existential shit. I feel like a plant that had wanted a greenhouse; I'd chosen the pot, mixed and fertilized the soil, planted and watered the seeds, but with Rama I am benefiting from the boost of a little warmth and shelter. (Though I also do worry that like Jo "I have sown untidy furrows 'cross my soul, but I am still a coward, content to see my garden grow so sweet and full of someone else's flowers.")
My thirtieth if anything felt like a positive rite-of-passage, with everything in its right place, as it was meant to be, moving peacefully along its plotted course--and that's partly I know a product of the sense of rightness I feel with R.
But loving someone like that is a terrifying luxury, is freeing but not free. Fortune takes a new hostage. I’ve written before about how future talk makes me sad partly because I am afraid of what might be different and who might not be around. There’s been a lot of hullabaloo in my thirty-turning peer group about marriage and babies. So far at least I haven't felt any urgency about these things within myself, and haven’t felt susceptible to irrefutable societal pushiness. But our dad's age puts on Maddy and me (and Franz too probably) the biological clock of another. Just last week Maddy wrote to me about how she dreams of Dad being able to meet her eventual children and wants to expedite aspects of her life-planning accordingly. The baby stuff feels way beyond my current ken, but I recently realized that while I’ve always been much more concerned with marriage than weddings, and have never really dreamed of "My Big Day" aside from vague fashion speculation (snakeskin cowboy booties), I realized that if possible I’d really love for as many loved-ones as possible to be around for mine. God-willin’ and the creek don’t rise Rama and I are on the same page that this is The Thing, which is a really lulling feeling, and while I don’t have any desire to “lock it down” or get locked, I had the strange experience recently of opening a door on the idea that I’d deeply love my dad to be there if he could be. Having that hope felt like inviting death into the room. I am so averse to making decisions out of any kind of fear, and even writing about this I feel claustrophobic, but I need to be more pragmatic about the nature of things, to allow more space in my consciousness for mortality, to be more unflinchingly cognizant of the finite parcel of time I/we have been given, and what I want to try to experience and do within that time. I want to use more than just "a hundredth part of the gift [I’ve] been given for [my hopefully] long journey."
Dad's in the hospital right now—over the day and night I’ve been writing this blog it has become apparent that he’s had not a TIA as we had hoped (mini-stroke with no lasting effects that he's had before), but an actual stroke. He’s having trouble getting words out, but on the bright side he’s present and aware and in physically okay shape (standing up on bis own). We're hoping for the very best, and will be flying down south early tomorrow to be with him, and Mom and Franz and Kurt and the rest of the fam.
Life is serious. Love is serious. These are our endless numbered days of the good flesh continuing. I have been thinking about "thirty," trying to be brave enough to decide from inside what I want to try for in this life, to extend myself beyond the introversion and contentment/complacence and flexibility and liberty and lightness that have always been most comfortable for me, to also boldly hope and declare desires and strive and dream and build and goal-set and time-line and try.
My heart is very full right now. Yesterday I boiled my eyes with crying. Inshallah I'll have a "birthday celebration" post forthcoming, teeming with pictures. But for now I'm going to leave off with a poem my dad loves very much, Dylan Thomas's take on turning thirty:
POEM IN OCTOBER
It was my thirtieth year to heaven
Woke to my hearing from harbour and neighbour wood
And the mussel pooled and the heron
The morning beckon
With water praying and call of seagull and rook
And the knock of sailing boats on the webbed wall
Myself to set foot
In the still sleeping town and set forth.
My birthday began with the water-
Birds and the birds of the winged trees flying my name
Above the farms and the white horses
And I rose
In a rainy autumn
And walked abroad in shower of all my days
High tide and the heron dived when I took the road
Over the border
And the gates
Of the town closed as the town awoke.
A springful of larks in a rolling
Cloud and the roadside bushes brimming with whistling
Blackbirds and the sun of October
On the hill's shoulder,
Here were fond climates and sweet singers suddenly
Come in the morning where I wandered and listened
To the rain wringing
Wind blow cold
In the wood faraway under me.
Pale rain over the dwindling harbour
And over the sea wet church the size of a snail
With its horns through mist and the castle
Brown as owls
But all the gardens
Of spring and summer were blooming in the tall tales
Beyond the border and under the lark full cloud.
There could I marvel
Away but the weather turned around.
It turned away from the blithe country
And down the other air and the blue altered sky
Streamed again a wonder of summer
Pears and red currants
And I saw in the turning so clearly a child's
Forgotten mornings when he walked with his mother
Through the parables
And the legends of the green chapels
And the twice told fields of infancy
That his tears burned my cheeks and his heart moved in mine.
These were the woods the river and the sea
Where a boy
In the listening
Summertime of the dead whispered the truth of his joy
To the trees and the stones and the fish in the tide.
And the mystery
Still in the water and singing birds.
And there could I marvel my birthday
Away but the weather turned around. And the true
Joy of the long dead child sang burning
In the sun.
It was my thirtieth
Year to heaven stood there then in the summer noon
Though the town below lay leaved with October blood.
O may my heart's truth
Still be sung
On this high hill in a year's turning.
And may Dad's as well be if it can be.