Friday, March 11, 2011


My 30th birthday is coming up in just a few days, and of course, because it's me, I am mooning around and reflecting on it. But hey, it wouldn't be me if I weren't introspecting all over the place.

(On a related side note, I am trying to write a novel, but the main character, instead of doing very much, keeps ending up cooking meals and getting lost in thought while she stirs the stew, considering one side of the dilemma, then the other, then the first side again... I guess every novel really is an autobiography in one way or the other ;D)

Really, though, there is something about 30 that catches my attention, because to me it means something more than the other birthdays leading up to this one. I think it is a combination of factors, but really what it comes down to is a feeling that my "practice run" is over. I had a realization when I was in my mid 20s, furiously finishing my schooling, getting married, starting out in all of these life endeavors, that my life was sort of like a big bowl full of Jell-O that has been in the fridge for about half an hour. It was starting to set, and it was time to start sticking in all the banana slices and marshmallows or whatever random things you like to imagine in your theoretical Jell-O mold. I had a certain number of years to keep poking things into the Jell-O mold of my life, but at a certain point, the mold sets, and there you have your Jell-O, too late for any additions. I feel like at 30, the Jell-O has finally set. I am not likely to stuff any more book-learning in my brain at this point, and who I am and what I want is a lot more steady than it used to be. This I see as a very good thing. I am pretty happy with the Jell-O these days.

I have my minor issues with the upcoming milestone, most prominent being my total failure to reach my weight loss goal for my birthday, by about a 25-pound margin. So that stinks. I wanted to be non-overweight so that when I look back at pictures of my 30th birthday party, I will not cringe and wish I had passed up the cake and pasta a few more times before then. I tried, guys, but when we had Constant Sickness in the house from the middle of January until about three days ago, my exercise schedule just completely died, and I don't have time to resurrect it before next Saturday. I eat very carefully for 5 days, then get exhausted and stay up all night grading essays and eating Oreos, then it takes me a few days to get back on track... and so on for about the past 12 weeks. I have lost some weight, but instead of 30 pounds, it's more like 6 pounds. And I have gained and lost the same 5 pounds twice now, and desperately trying not to gain it back yet again. Fridays in Lent are hard because the only things I can eat are carbs and cheese and boiled eggs, and that isn't very healthy. I still have another 15 pounds before I start feeling comfortable in my own skin and not trying to hide from cameras. But I am closer than I have been for a couple of years, so that's good. From now until the party I will meditate on the beauty that is still there in spite of the chunkiness. Maybe watch some more Adele videos (she's gorgeous in spite of or maybe because of being a bit thick) or take some virtual tours through museums of Baroque art. Anything, really, to feel better about the thighs. (sighs)

Other than that, though, it has been a sobering but not really unpleasant journey, mentally psyching myself to walk over this threshold. To me it boils down to the idea that at 30, life is really underway. It isn't the practice round, I don't get a free pass for being a dumbass just because I am in my 20s and don't know any better, I have gray hair and the fine lines start, and the currency I have been hoarding in my metaphorical Hello Kitty wallet from the second grade is outgrowing its usefulness. All the compliments from people that I have painstakingly memorized to tell myself on a rainy day, the days of being so prodigiously young that I was remarkable when I did anything at all, just because other people my age were still delivering pizza for a living, all of that assurance of being somehow remarkable is over. That sounds so terribly conceited when I write it out that way, but hopefully my friends will understand what I mean. It is embarrassing to me to look back on the way I used to see the world, but at the same time I can't deny it. Now, I am a suburban mom who drives an SUV and does laundry without ceasing; I made my first school lunch just this morning. I bought life insurance. I blend into the landscape a little bit more. When I was newly minted as a mom, this blending into the background really bothered me, and I admit that it is still not my favorite thing in the world, but it matters less, because to the people who really matter in my life, I still have distinguishing qualities. Norah says my name with her fat little lips, and her growling baby voice. Chris curls up next to me on the couch and says "I love you so much," totally unprompted. Ben says that I really know him, and it matters to him that I do.

Turning 30 means that I stop collecting life credits in my wallet, and instead, I start to spend them. I lavish my energy on my kids, I literally spend myself serving them, giving things up to be a better mom. I get older, I look older, and my posterity depends on what I do today. So I'm getting out that little girl wallet and I am telling my 20 year-old self, that shadow I see in the mirror sometimes, to calm down and quit worrying. Everything turns out fine. You find a husband, and he's a good one. You have beautiful children. You finish school. You live in a house with a yard. You don't stay young or beautiful or thin, but you stay good, and in fact, you get even better.

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