Thoughts on 36
I’ve been reflecting a bit on turning 36. A year ago, when I turned 35, I wonder if I was just distracted by being almost 9 months pregnant with number three, on preventative blood thinners, and chasing around two other littles, that I didn’t really have time to think about it.
Thirty-five seems like it should be the milestone. The one where you have a mid life crisis or start to feel old, or go out and chop off and dye your hair or something.
But nothing like that happened for me last year.
This year is a bit different. But not in a “I need to go out for some retail therapy so I don’t have to think about it” kind of way. It felt like a shift. I’m still trying to follow the threads to gain a better understanding of what exactly shifted, but there are a few things I think I have a grasp on.
In some ways it feels like I’m straddling a fence. And while I’m sitting there I can see two sort of realities at the same time, as if time was folding in on itself. I can see where I’ve been and technically still am. Young(ish) with little kids and a baby. Still feeling twenty-five inside. (Although some days it feels more like fifteen!), but it’s all still in the younger, newly married, new mother, learning the ropes stage.
On the other side, I’m seeing future me middle aged with teenage and grown children and even farther out with grandchildren. Driving to the dentist, listening to “The Parting Glass” by the High Kings, I saw a vision of myself with great-grandchildren, all of the future generations spread out before me.
The legacy that I’m shaping now with my diaper changing, read alouds, dish washing, hurt soothing, hug giving, training, and correcting. All the feasts and music and literature and art and great ideas that we lay out in between the whining and rough housing and mess making.
It’s a strange feeling that I can’t quite describe, but it gives me an even stronger urgency to prioritize and edit out what isn’t the best, to pray about what legacy building for me, for my family looks like. What I want to leave and pass on in the world. Because he’s only 6 now, but it goes fast and I can see him steaming forth into adulthood and I want to pour love and story and wisdom into him now. Cultivate our relationship and strengthen the bonds that we have.
I see the changing of the stages in this looking glass in between place. A gradual changing of the way we live out our roles in their lives. What they need from us now and how that will change as they grow.
I also feel a strange peace about my body and growing older. I’ve had three children and three c-sections. My body tells a story and it’s not the story of a twenty something year old who’s running around the nut factory twelve hours a day burning off all those calories and building muscles hucking fifty pound sugar bags around. (No joke).
My body didn’t bounce back as quickly after this last c-section. My back protests more when I’ve been on the floor, things are ever so slowly shifting and I realize that although I can do some things to improve my overall health, there is no stopping the march of time. My face has lines that tell the stories of laughter and smiling, and perhaps also grieving.
Wrinkles will continue to form, skin will continue to sag or lose firmness. But somewhere in all of this, there’s a peace, almost a freeing feeling in realizing that I’m not twenty something anymore and I don’t have to try to force myself to look like it. I don’t have to hold up this standard image in my mind’s eye and compare myself to it and find myself lacking.
I can embrace the story my body tells, makes choices that will contribute to my overall health and wellness, determine the things that make me feel most fully myself and wear them with lavish freedom, but also tell myself a different story than the usual one that comes at me.
When my son is snuggled up next to me when I’m reading aloud and he’s squishing my not so firm arm, I can tell the story of a boy who will remember the softness and warm touch of his mother, the closeness, the love, and realize it’s true.
It’s an odd place to be, this 36. Knowing that I’m closer to 40 than 30 and feeling like I can’t possibly be old enough, adult enough for that. And yet, like tendrils slowly unfurling, gradually releasing, I’m coming unmoored from the tethers of the past years and feeling the wind softly sailing me ahead into new seasons and uncharted waters.
An openness to what’s ahead, and a desire to live it wholly, purposefully, and alive.
So “Hello 36. Let’s see where we go”.