Today I am forty and so far I’ve eaten breakfast (made by Rik), went to physical therapy, taught a class on revising prose, ate fish tacos, and now sit in my very favorite nook of my writing studio. I’m keening to tell you something, but I’m not sure what. Perhaps if I keep writing, I’ll figure it out.
In my thirties, I lost and then rebuilt my marriage; I cut ties with my father; I learned how to grow plants; I became a better mother; I developed a writing discipline. These things feel simple to say, like pointing to a map instead of traveling to the country, but they are the first things to rise to the surface when I consider this last decade. I told a friend recently that turning forty feels like a gathering of powers, energy earned from the suffering and flailing of everything that came before it.
I lost both of my grandparents in my thirties, confronting a depth of grief I’d worried over my whole life. It’s rare to have your beloved elders in your life well into adulthood, and rarer still that your child can know them in a meaningful way. I was gifted both rarities. I think of them every day and listen hard for their voices as I get further and further away from their physical presence. Their home is no longer a place I can return to, which I’m coming to understand might be what allowed me to finally buy my own home. I’m no longer split between here and there. Only here exists now and I am free to fully inhabit this place I’ve lived for 20 years.
Beautiful, luminous friends have died as I tumbled through my thirties. They visit me often in my dreams. I see them peeking around the corners of poems, in songs, a conversation we never finished continuing on in my head, my heart. Still, I wish they were here and assume I always will.
I found my calling, my community, and this glorious corner of light where I now sit, in my thirties. I traveled. I found another home and circle of fine souls in the far north. I experienced, for the first time, the gift of time and my own uninterrupted thoughts at a writing residency. I wrote two books in my thirties, and even though they’ve not yet found a place in the world, I wrote them just the same. I found that there are more words, more ways, even after you feel you can’t conjure one more.
I’ve witnessed how the failures and missteps of my twenties stretch into a long, forgiving curve as I look out into the vastness I hope my life will be. My daughter rises with intelligence and humor into her adulthood, past all of the anxious days I once held to so tightly, that I would never be enough to raise her, guide her, hold her, because I was young and unformed myself. Our family is so strong—my mother, my brother, and I. My husband, my child, and I. These overlapping triads that make everything I imagine, possible.
And though, many days, I observe the world’s anguish and see that there is a black hole, cut exactly to my shape that I could easily drop down into, I resist it. I pull the lens back to the frame of this home, these trees, the beautiful soul I wake up with each morning, my dear, dear friends near and far, my students shining up and out from their seats, the tenderness of aging pets, baskets of food grown in this soil, and always, somehow, an abiding hope for what comes next.
This last year of my thirties has been the best of my life. For a second time, I committed myself to the love of my life, in front of our people, in our favorite place. I am lucky enough to work with the bravest, most compassionate group of writers. My job is purposeful and challenging. We’re days away from owning our first home after 20 years of marriage.
I’m not afraid anymore to live. After years of unshakable depression and constant concern for our ability to make a good life, somehow we’re here. We were making it all along. All of us.
I don’t know if what I was yearning to say found its way through these thoughts. The light has turned toward dark and a pink radiance is illuminating the clouds outside my studio window. Maybe it’s woven between the words. Maybe you can imagine how, if you were here, I would touch your arm. I would insist on hugging you goodbye when we parted. Together, let’s wave to the end of my thirties and beckon the new decade in. For today and a while more, imagine me here.