It’s the last day of the semester for me, and I am home grading assignments. Our Christmas tree is up; it’s our biggest one yet. It stretches across much of our bay window in the front of the house.
A week ago, I had my last day of being 46. And since my birthday comes in December, it often feels like even more reason to take stock of the past year. There are some big things I lost this year, and some bigger things that I found.
I lost my Dad. We were not close to say the least, but we spent decades trying to be something to each other until we both seemed to give up. Actually, until I gave up, and that was it for our story. I don’t get to go back and have the Dad I needed, but no one does. Comparing myself to those who had loving fathers and good support systems is futile. I made it to somewhere where the grass is green, somewhere that has a pretty fence around the yard. I made it through a zillion years of not believing in myself and attracting the absolute wrong boys or men – and ignoring (or running from) a few of the right ones.
So, my hope is that I am losing my need to compare. There are so many women who seem more successful than I at this age, and it feels hard to be going for a real career as a college professor at this age. I wonder some days if I will ever catch up? But there story is not mine. And my successes are still tremendous.
I feel considerably older than I did just two years ago. I can see it on my face, measure it in my son’s height. Changing hormones, job stress, and death will do that to a person, will add a little softening of the jaw and strain in the brow. Living is experiencing and staying aware of emotions that need feeling.
What I have found this year is something new in my marriage. My husband and I passed our 11th wedding anniversary (our 16th of being together), and I feel like we’ve stepped into phase two (or two-hundred), like we’ve entered into a new definition of together, and it feels pretty exciting. It feels like an unspoken renewal of our vows or like a whole new set of vows could be said. We get more of what better or worse means now, and the more comfortable we become in ourselves as people, the more in love we seem to be with one another.
I have also found a beginning inside of myself. Dad’s death creates an opening for me, a new way to process our relationship. It puts to bed any hopes of reconciliation or real connection. And in all of this, there is freedom. A physical and psychological awakening. I feel the pages of this new chapter like they are paper turning in my hands. There is so much brewing right now, and my intent is to put more detail into these thoughts in an essay for the coming year, so I don’t want to say too much. All I can say is more will come on this one.
In the meantime, I am 47. My eleventh semester as an adjunct professor is over. Another layer of the Russian doll has been added, with the internal layers acting as support. I don’t feel like I am hiding those former versions of me. Rather, I am all of it, and this might be how it’s possible to feel the lightness of joy even through the hardening of wood.