In the past year on The Huffington Post, there have been a number of posts by writers I admire encapsulating what their current age “is” to them: Lindsey Mead with This Is 38, Emily Mendell, This Is 45, and Allison Tate, This is 39. These lovely pieces made me laugh, cry, but most of all….reflect.
Thursday is my 37th birthday.
I feel a lot of resistance to writing about 36. I am not one to look back or dwell on what was. I am the client who says to the therapist, “Oh do we really need to get into all of that?”
I’d rather look to the future – to all the possibilities that lie ahead. I think this is because I don’t like to be sad. Because when I get sad, I get REALLY SAD. And I am scared that if I go down that hole, I will never claw my way out.
But as I sit here right now, straddling two ages….I can’t help but think you need to reflect upon where you have been in order to know where you want to go. See? I’m more mature already! And it’s not even Thursday yet.
This is me on my 36th birthday. It was taken at a beach party in Scituate that was actually for the 4th of July, but I pretended was just for me. It was a magical evening. I look really happy because I was. I felt 100% alive.
For me, 36 was about my family: Phil, Emma, and Phoebe, and until January, our dog Ellie. This is the family I co-created, and before this year I am not sure I really grasped the hugeness of that – the beauty and joy and bring-you-to-your-knees challenges of having your own independently run familial operation. Which is what we became when we moved from Philly to Scituate, MA, a town where we knew not a soul.
36 was “just us.” A kamikaze trust mission. 36 was not running away from an argument because you are 30 minutes from the nearest Target and you forget where it is, exactly.
36 was realizing that sometimes you need to be the strong one. 36 was being the glue, the one that held things together. It felt good to be the glue for a change.
36 was being a cheerleader; it was being more Tigger and less Eeyore. 36 was saying, “We can do this!” when you want to say, “Do we know what we’re doing?” It felt good to be a Tigger for a change.
36 was being a caretaker. It was spoon feeding your kid ice cream when she breaks her leg.
36 was playing Barbies on the couch for hours. It was using a chopstick to scratch that itch inside her cast, even though the doctor told you not to. 36 was spray painting a wagon Caribbean Blue so she could still perform her duties as flower girl at your best friend’s wedding.
36 was saying you weren’t going to cry at your best friend’s wedding, but then crying tears of happiness the entire weekend.
You remember all the years you didn’t cry at all, because you were just kinda numb. So at 36, you are grateful for the tears, for the best friend singing Bon Jovi with the band, for the ability to feel real joy for someone else, all the way down to your french manicured bridesmaid toes. Because for so many years you stood slightly outside the joy; you didn’t think you deserved to be in it. At 36, you know that was a lie; that the only one who kept you on the bench was yourself. So now you jump into the joy.
36 was loving a dog through her final days, even though you never thought of yourself as a “dog person.” It was letting her make out with you until you broke out in hives, letting her eat people food and lifting her up on the couch so she could watch TV.
36 was lying on the floor with her in the vet’s office, crying and whispering “I Love you, Ellie-Dog” over and over and over until it was…over. Your heart is broken, but you would do it all over again in a New York minute. At 36, you see the tender beauty in having your heart broken. At 36, you know this is a gift.
36 was about dreaming big.
36 was learning that sometimes dreams change. Sometimes dreams become a horse of a different color. And you just have to roll with it. You have to believe that the real dream is bigger and better than the one you manifested in your mind.
36 was wanting everyone to be ok. And trying to make everything ok for everyone. And then realizing that sometimes you can’t. And you just have to roll with that, too.
37 will be different; I can already feel the shift.
Phil is finding his groove at work; he has his helmet on. He is in it to win it. He will be ok.
The girls are finding their feet back in PA. Summer has healing powers. They swim, do yoga in the driveway, sell lemonade on the corner. I am amazed by their resilience. They will be ok, too.
And when school starts, Phoebe will be in all-day kindergarten. Those precious years of just her and I are behind me. My little buddy, my co-pilot, my Pandora DJ.
So that leaves….me.
Me at 37.
I think it’s gonna be good.
I’ve got some ideas.
Stick around. I’ll let you know how it all shakes out.
Oh, to be 37 again! Happy birthday Jessie!
love it! you made me cry at my desk over ellie dog!!
i think this was my favorite part:
“before this year I am not sure I really grasped the hugeness of that – the beauty and joy and bring-you-to-your-knees challenges of having your own independently run familial operation.”
here’s to your and phil’s mom and pop shop!
HAPPY EARLY BIRTHDAY!!!! you are going to ROCK 37! 🙂
let me know how it is. i’m up for 37 next year. 😉
Having moved five years ago, to a city where we also knew not a soul, the “escape” to Target resonates loud and clear. It’s in the (often) painful staying that I find the best recovery, despite all my fiercest intentions to the contrary. I love your perspective and writing. Thank you!
Oh, sitting here crying. Happy, happy birthday. I love what you say about how the family that we create can bring us to our knees – that’s true for me, too, sometimes the realization that this little family of four that I had a hand in making is here just absolutely overwhelms me with its beauty and also, sometimes its terror. Oh, this life. Happy, happy, you spring chicken (I turn 40 next month). xox
Happy birthday to you. Life is just beginning for you. All the stuff you’ve experienced so far has pard you for what lies ahead. Seize the day!
Sorry for the typo – should be prepared you. Why do I always proof my stuff after I send it?
Happy Birthday Jess and many, many more. Lots of love, Aunt Chris (Happy Anniversary too!)
Happy Happy Birthday!!! You truly get better with age!
Happy Birthday to an amazing writer who looks younger and sounds wiser than her age!
Love your writing – always look forward to reading it.
And I always looks forward to you reading it! xoxo
Yes to all of this! I’m 37 and I 100% relate.
Thanks Nina! I have a feeling it’s going to be a good year. Maybe because it’s a prime number?! Look at me, doing math before my 3rd cup of coffee;)
Jessie-You have such a gift. Excellent job!
Thanks Katey!!! How are you??? Thank you for commenting;)
Hi Jessie! I have been wanting to check out your blog since we met at the retreat. You have a true writing gift, lady! I loved getting to know you here a little better. Looking forward to reading more. And still hoping to get my own blog up and running some day again. I feel blessed to have you met you; you have a beautiful spirit!
Thank you Annette! I have been thinking of you often! You ABSOLUTELY should have your own blog – you have some important things to share. And right back at you on the beautiful spirit part – I hope our paths cross again! xoxo
Happy Birthday! Beautiful essay about finding the lessons and the hidden gifts. Absolute bravery!!