I spill my rocks out on the wooden desk. The desk that lived in my in-laws home for many years. The wood is solid even if the writing platform is too high. I like that it’s left behind from a time now passed even as I keep pushing against the thought that stuff outlasts people. Maybe this is why we collect stuff.
Maybe this is why I have a pile of rocks that I pilfered from the beach during my last camping trip. They sit in a bag of items I brought to the writing class I taught last week. The teens were like, what’s that stuff? It’s inspiration, I said.
One boy laughed at my red iPod shuffle that sat next to rocks the while another boy asked what it was and then both boys acted like I pulled it from an archeological dig. Yup, I have an iPod shuffle from the pre-iPhone everything days. Yes, I’m ancient, I said, and we all laughed.
Yup, as I drove to the dentist last week I bemoaned the bakery that was demolished, the place where I used to buy bread with my husband back before we were married. I bemoaned the knocked down Tully’s and I didn’t even like Tully’s. But I liked that this neighborhood was a testament to my youth. And my youth is passing as I touch my 45th birthday this week.
Yes, I am that dramatic. And yes, I am so, so happy to be celebrating 45. But it feels so weird. Weirder than all the celebrations I threw for myself when I turned 40. I was so excited to turn 40, to have an excuse to celebrate. Heck, I always over-celebrate my birthday.
But 45 defies easy explanation. I still love navel gazing while I write essays and work on my memoir. But I’m no longer bemoaning my childhood or regretting the career path I said goodbye to with the mere fact of becoming a parent. I used to grief that career I thought I was going to have, forgetting that having my girls was the event of my lifetime.
When I turned 40, I certainly wasn’t thinking about the losses of the decade ahead. How I would have to stop freaking out every time I heard someone had cancer or another person was getting divorced or someone died. OK, I can freak out, but I can’t freak out in an epic way. Because everyone else that got to 45 before me would tell me, hey, the 40s, they are full, full, full of major life changes for everyone. If you are lucky enough to dance into your forties, you better know the steps to some funeral dirges, too.
God, someone hates me right now for writing that. I sound like a healthy annoying person watching the world spin by while I stretch out my calves. But as I know less every year of my life, the only thing I know for sure is that I don’t know much about what every person I run into is going through right now. I know for sure none of us are unscathed.
And I need a bag of rocks to look at so I can remember the sun on my back and my girls climbing cliffs and my husband skipping stones into the salt water. I need to see the amber rock that’s already been split in two, to know it will outlast me. That I’m here just to witness this: this skipping of stones, this climbing of cliffs, this beach combing for treasures to bring home with me. I am here. We are here. Even as it’s passing too fast, I’m so glad I’m here for all of it, noting the beginning of my 45th year. Happy birthday to me and happy birthday to you. One more day to shine even as the rocks on my wooden desk shine less away from the beach water. May we all shine on a little bit longer.