Monday, July 11, 2011

In the middle

Have I cooked with my kids in the past two weeks?  Honestly, no.  I'm embarrassed to say it.  Not one egg cracked, not one pancake flipped, not one piece of cheese melted.  The closest I have gotten to spending quality time with them in the kitchen was congratulating my daughter on pouring her own milk for cereal without spilling.  Something that truly is worth recognition, but hardly a cooking milestone.  Speaking of milestones, I turned 40 last week, hence my absence.  I would like to say that I am dealing with it well and am aging with grace and dignity, but that would be a bald-faced lie.  It's possible I am thinking that if I just stop moving I won't be middle-aged.  If I stand perfectly still, I can actually reverse time and be 25 again.  If I keep my eyes squeezed tightly shut, the wrinkles will disappear and the sagging parts will become taut again.

Ok, so I know none of that is true.  When I open my eyes and start moving again, I'll still be 40.  I'll still have my crows feet, my smile lines and worry lines, and my parts that have travelled South.  (And let's face it, those parts are NOT at the end of their migration!)  I'll still have to face that approximately half of my life is already done.  Perhaps I'm fighting this natural progression tooth and nail because I don't feel like the previous 40 were used well.  There's very little from my past that is note-worthy.  I didn't find a cure for cancer.  I didn't even try.  I didn't so much as walk a 5k, let alone run one, to help raise money so that others could search for a cure!  I didn't accomplish anything that I set out to do when I was young.  I was going to be a, a vet.....wait, a translator for foreign diplomats.....uh, a high-powered business woman.....a boat captain?.........Nope, I didn't do any of that.  I did, however, graduate from college.  Yep, that's right, I ate up 7 years getting a 4 year degree that I used for less than 3 months.  Hardly something to brag about.  I owned and mostly cared for more cats than I am willing to publicly admit.  I held a couple of office jobs - as a secretary.  I took more than five Japanese classes and learned about 5 Japanese words.  I worked on boats and even learned how to drive them - a little - but never got a license.  I made friends and lost them, had my heart broken and may have broken a few as well, I crashed a couple cars, read hundreds of books, drank too many beers, and mixed a little excitement into a semi-ordinary life.  If I put it that way it sounds pretty pathetic, huh?

Recently I reconnected with an old high school friend who, unwittingly, helped me view myself and my life in a new light.  I hadn't talked to or heard from this friend in over 20 years.  Of course we started with the usual, "What the hell have you been up to?"  Mercifully, getting past the formalities took less than 3 minutes, and then we fell into a comfortable and lively conversation - mostly about our kids.  There was a little of, "Ohhh, how cute!" but the meat of the discussion rested in how profoundly parenthood had changed our lives - for the better.  He got to turn 40 in January and so was also bemoaning a lost and wasted youth.  But, he summed it all up in one sentence.  "If I went back to being 20, I wouldn't have my son, and it just wouldn't be worth it."  It took me a few days for the true meaning of that statement to sink in, but when it did I was blessed with the attitude adjustment I desperately needed.  Life is like a story, with each sentence building on the last.  Without the beginning, there would be no middle.  And without the middle, there can be no end.

I'm still a little overwhelmed with the realization that I'm in the middle of my story, but I'm no longer viewing my beginning as lost or wasted.  It's just the beginning of my story; it's what led me to my middle, and without it I wouldn't have the wonderful life I have today.  So, thank you Pat.  Thank you for showing me the true meaning and importance of my youth.

Sometimes, getting your feet dirty is the best part of the journey.

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