It’s the eve of my 49th birthday. What a crazy number to be turning! Over the past few days I’ve flip flopped from depressed to elated to somewhere in between. If you were to have asked me a few weeks ago, I’d shrug my shoulders and say it’s just a number without much relevance.
As the clock ticks toward midnight, 49 feels significant in ways I hadn’t expected. I’d be lying if I said my body feels as it did half my age ago. I’m beginning to understand my patient's caution that aging ain’t for sissies. My joints stiffen up when I sit too long. My hips and ankles make me seriously question whether running is ever in the cards for me again. I can walk and hike til the cows come home but running makes me remember the residual impact of my long ago gymnastic days. While these sensations vie for some of my attention, I am simultaneously aware of a new fire and vitality churning in me...to identify and do the things that matter most. I feel a call to slow down and simplify along with an urgency to get busy doing what I’m here to do. At this juncture in human development I’ve seen people shrivel up, give up and slip into oblivion. I’ve witnessed others grab life by the horns and take off. I certainly identify way more with the latter. I can't imagine for a second wasting a precious moment of this life I've been gifted with.
Aside from my premature entrance into the world, I was a late bloomer developmentally. In some ways it’s been hard to shake that...making me feel like I had to ask permission to be present at the big kid’s table. There is something about ‘almost fifty’ that takes that need to ask away. I know what life experiences I’ve come through and nobody can take that from me. I know time is of the essence so waiting til it’s my turn to speak up is no longer an option. I’ve got stuff to say and shit to do...and 49 feels like a warm fire under my ass. Get the picture?!
Heading off to sleep after lingering in each moment of my final evening in not-so-sunny Florida. I cannot recall the last time I spent six consecutive days with my mom and dad alone. I think I can almost say for certain that it was before the age of three. Florida was overcast and cooler than usual but felt like warmth and sunshine in my heart. As the oldest of five, I wandered through so many of my formative years trying to secure love and affection.
Although my love for her is unremitting and unquestionable, I resented having to share parental attention with my first sister. I discovered I could secure it again through my good works, especially after siblings three, four and five were born. I was next in charge and the leader of the pack. I was praised often and well for my good example. There was no way for my parents to know the motives of my early behaviors nor the impact of their every word. Certain words left their indelible mark and shaped the course of my life for better or worse. My parent’s stamp of approval reinforced which path to travel and when to shift course.
At a certain point I discovered I had to charter my own course. In a strange sort of way, their raised eyebrow or outright lack of approval affirmed that I was indeed beginning to find my own way. This week in Florida afforded me the opportunity to clear up a few matters but mostly the chance to just be without feeling any need to 'try' anymore. We did many of the things that were among my favorites as a kid...ate 'Jonas' popcorn (it's a legit thing), watched movies snuggled up on the couch, listened to live music, strolled around a farmer’s market, dined on Mexican, enjoy long walks and good talks, clothes shopped with my mama and simply just enjoyed time and space together. I got to say how awesome it was to finally have them all to myself for several days without having to share time or affection with my siblings or kids of my own and without feeling selfish or guilty about it!
It took me a good number of years to acknowledge that I deeply resented having to share affection and attention from the two most important people in my life. I yearned for something good that I just wanted more of. It took me a good number more to vent out all that negative emotion to the point of finally letting it go. Wisdom and spiritual practice have taught me that no one or two humans can ever fill our reservoirs completely...that is reserved for the Divine alone. Being able to identify and label the deep longing has been a vital part of my life's journey. Having the courage to speak candidly and unabashedly with those I held responsible to divvy out all that love was the next most essential step.
Before I discovered the sweetness and fullness of God’s deep and unconditional love and before I had children of my own, I regretfully took the liberty to inform my parents of their insufficient love with great accusation. With all my heart I wish I had the insight, wisdom and self-restraint then that I do now. There is nothing quite as humbling and educational as being a parent myself to teach me about the challenging predicament inherent to that courageous role. We are our kid’s everything until our “everything” is no longer enough. We hold, coddle, embrace and protect while simultaneously teaching, empowering and letting go. My girls struggle with jealousy for my attention and it drives me to want to run for the hills because dividing myself down the middle just doesn’t work. But it’s right for them to want more...to want it 'all'. 'my all'. Without that yearning and without my failing to fulfill, how could they ever sense that internal drive to seek the face of God within.
I have been reminded often enough in life that when I look outside myself to anyone or anything else, including those who stepped in for God for a good number of my formative years, that the love always comes up short. Sometimes it feels more full and satisfying than others but it’s never quite enough no matter how good it might be. I make it a point often to inform my girls that while I will try my hardest to give the best parts of me to them, it will never be the 'all' they are yearning for. As painful as that reality might be, it’s Gods perfect design to bring us back home to the great and whole parental love that lives inside of us. It never betrays or leaves or falls short. I still need to nudge myself to go there...to drink of that deep cup, to feel that holy embrace. As I learn to do that more consistently I also learn to be a better 'asker' for the things that are available to me here and now from those I have chosen to have in my life including my parents and partner. This same kind of initiative allows me to access God’s love more fully too.
While our culture has a pitiful habit of worshiping youth and all that goes with it, I am growing to appreciate more the wisdom that comes with time and life experience. I am grateful to have the perspective that comes with taking a longer view. I still struggle with jealousy and the feeling that others might be more deserving of love, affection and all things good than I am. It is a part of my humanity that I strive daily to cull out, have compassion for, and ultimately transcend. I am deeply grateful for the two who gave me my first taste of something so good that I simply wanted more of it! May I plant and water those same good seeds in those I have been gifted to raise and have the wisdom and wherewithal to help them know what to do with their feelings of jealousy and longing when my love inevitably fails them.
Oh the trials of the in-between-years. I wish I could scoop her up and carry her over the proverbial threshold into her twenties. What a mixed bag and emotional roller coaster these years are. I wish we could rewind and be back in Bham. Would that fix it? I doubt it. I suppose some of it...perhaps much of it is inevitable. I wish that weren’t the case. Please help me help her. Help me give her wings to fly. Everything feels lighter when you are off the ground.
I'm Kelly Isabelle.
Full-time workin' mama & spouse aspiring to live a slowly paced, sustainably minded, creatively expressed, clutter-free life shared with kindred folk.