Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Bringing on thirty-five

I'm thirty-five today.

I say it again, I'm thirty-five years old, let it roll off my tongue without fear or judgment, regret or nostalgia. I just am. All these years of life and all the ages I've ever been, rolled into one unfinished number.


I was grieved to turn thirty, for a lot of reasons that felt painful at the time. I don't know how or where I'll be when I turn forty. But here? At the age of thirty-five? I'm content to own my years.

To really own them, the way I'm learning to own my body through all its changes. To treat it more gently, kindly, respectfully, instead of beating it up. To appreciate all we've been through together. To (try) to eye it less critically, to see it more as a watercolor painting and less like a chiseled sculpture. Instead of running miles and miles, which my knees will no longer allow, I walk for miles and miles of wide-eyed seeing. Instead of sweating in a boot camp class, I stretch and pose and feel my strength grow, my muscles lengthen, on my yoga mat in the living room. The theme of my life lately has been coming into my true self, my real skin, and I am loving that skin with all its history held in billions of tiny cells.

I started loving myself for the first time at thirty-four. I'm going to love myself more fully by the end of this year.

* * * * *

Ricardo and I celebrated our birthdays together this past Saturday, his fortieth and my thirty-fifth, among dearly loved friends - of the non human variety, that is. Driving an hour and a half south of Seattle, at the base of Mt. Rainier, we greeted all kinds of delightful friends at a wildlife park. Bison, moose, elk, big horned sheep, mountain goat, deer, cougar, wolverine, beavers, river otters, raccoons, lynx, grey wolves, snowy owl, barn owls, turkey vulture. Aspen, Douglas fir, Western red cedar, hemlock. 

We loved them all.

And I felt more at home among these ones than I do among most people these days. These are lean years of friendship, and I'm learning to live in the tension of that ache, and also to find friends in other forms and places.

The cold nipped at our noses and fingers and we awed at the frozen glory of the lake and the forest. We clasped each other's gloved hands snugly and basked in the warmth of companionship, the gift of another year together and the glow of dreams kindling fiery orange.

These are true riches.

* * * * *

I haven't had much use for written words these days. Most of my words have been coming to me in the form of paintings, and so I've been picking up my brushes and letting them speak.

At the age of thirty-five, I'm coming to see that living into my art is more than being a writer. I have more inside me than words. It's like learning a new language, expanding my speech, this growth of creative expression. Painting takes me beyond the limits of my words; words and painting combined open up a new world of speech. It's exhilarating.

So I lean into this inclination toward painting, even though I know nothing of technique. I haven't studied styles. I don't know the proper terminology. And for once in my life, I don't give a damn. For a change, I'm not doing this to try and be the best or get it right. I'm doing this for the pure joy of creating. 

Just as I'm not doing yoga daily with the expectation of ever being a yogi. Or doing the splits. Or looking as graceful and altogether flexible as the instructors I watch in my online yoga classes. No, I'm doing this because when I get on my mat, I can feel this is growing both body and soul. And because as months go by, I find myself doing things I said I couldn't do or at least inching my way closer. And it feels good, real good. 

* * * * *

I used to hate that my birthday was in the winter. As a kid, it made outdoor birthday parties impossible. But at the age of thirty-five, I'm loving my January birthday. In fact, I'm loving winter for the very first time. While I hear people constantly looking forward to summer months and warm sunshine, I'm wishing time to slow these few months of winter. To savor the crisp cold and, yes, even those dim gray days. To open more to the raw beauty of this season with all its mysteries, to its invitation to hole up inside and create.

And this, too, feels like acceptance. Contentment. Creativity. Growth. Hope. 

I am leaning into winter, into loneliness, into beauty, into creating, into kindness, into exploration, into what is. Leaning into thirty-five and falling forward with curiosity and anticipation.

Bring it.