Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Reflections on 40

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Chapel in the Hills
This weekend marked the end of my 4th decade on this planet. I did not dread it like so many stereotypical birthday cards suggested I should. There was no angst, no sudden realization that “oh no, my life is half over!” No shopping on CarSoup.com for a red convertible or figuring out what medical methods I can employ to retain my fading youthful appearance. No, the weekend, and new decade, ushered in rather peacefully, despite my 19-year-old’s constant reminders about how “old” I am now. Reflecting back on my life so far, I can see it just gets better and better. My teen years were full of anxiety, lack of confidence and lack of direction. All I knew was that I was ready to be out of the house and into the wider world, and leave my small-town and small-school labels behind me. My twenties were also full of anxiety, lack of confidence, lack of direction, lack of finances, and to top it all off, several dysfunctional relationships and a large dose of single-parenting. There is not enough money in the world, if it were even possible, to pay me to go back and relive my twenties. But there were bright spots, too. I met some of the dearest people, whom I still cherish as my closest friends. I finished my college education, while working full-time and single-parenting, graduating Summa Cum Laude as my 8-year old cheered from the audience, “Yea Mom!” I faced my fears and jumped out of an airplane. I faced my fears and learned how to navigate using a map and compass, to travel by canoe through the wilderness, to sleep alone in the dark woods. I traveled to Germany and Ireland and Africa. Yet I was still eager to leave those tumultuous twenties behind and enter my 30’s. My fumbling as a na├»ve new parent was behind me. All of my dysfunctional relationships had been terminated, and the required amount of grieving and emotional detoxification (not to mention years of counseling) were under my belt. My thirties had to be better than the last twenty years, I sensed, and I looked forward to them. At age 31 I met my beloved. We were married two years later in a storybook setting in a Norwegian Stavkirke outside of Rapid City, SD. The rest of my 30’s were a blur of financial difficulties, parental struggles dealing with my daughter’s increasingly bizarre and scary behaviors (results of her anxiety disorders), and health challenges for my daughter and husband, culminating in three hospitalizations in 11 months, all of which were for life-threatening conditions. Through all of this turmoil and chaos, my beloved stood beside me like a rock (well except for the time HE was hospitalized for 10 days… then he laid beside me like a rock). I could not have made it through this last decade without his unwavering love and support, and for that I will always be grateful. Somehow, we all survived all of the challenges. I will always remember my 30’s as being exceeding difficult, but also blessed in so many ways. My daughter grew up into a beautiful, endearing, entertaining individual. And of course, more adventures. The purchase of my ultra-light 16’ cherry red Epic kayak, in which I have spent hours upon hours of delightful paddling and wildlife spotting. Camping, canoeing, the “Superior 35” (35 miles on the SHT for my 35th b-d). Back to Europe - Scotland, then Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day. Then a once-in-a-lifetime family trip to New Zealand and Australia over Christmas and New Year’s. And now, my 40’s. What lies ahead? What new adventures, what new lands? I am so excited to find out. Life is more stable than ever before. We have gotten through most of our financial challenges. Our child is safe and stable and happy and healthy. I am contemplating how to incorporate even more writing into my days. I believe I have a book or two in me, about getting through those tough times. I am no longer anxious or lacking in confidence or direction. I have my entire life ahead of me. And I have no regrets. Bad choices, yes, I have made many – experience is the toughest teacher of them all, but the end result is wisdom and compassion and a strength that cannot be forged any other way but by braving the depths of hell and coming out the other side. Yes, I look forward to the next 40+ years of my life. But, I could still use that little red convertible…… Blessings -

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