Going into 2020, you probably weren’t just looking back on the previous year, but on the previous decade. Weren’t we all wondering how the hell 10 years had passed so quickly, and reflecting on all that had transpired (or not) in that time? I, for one, considered why it was that I didn’t seem to change that much from the year 2000 to 2010, but 2010 to 2020 happened to be so transformative. It probably had to do with age…
I spent the first decade of the new millennium as an immature adult, full of inspiration, a thirst for knowledge, on a quest for a life of art and comedy and glamour… all the while dating (and marrying) men who taught me that I would have to choose between all of those desires and romantic love; that love equals sacrifice; that love would hold me back from everything else I had ever wanted out of life, that the love you see on TV that builds you up and makes you the best possible version of yourself is a fallacy. I could say that all of that idealistic, effervescent energy within me was snuffed out as I realized my destiny might be simply to live a life of struggle in every sense of the word, all in the name of “love,” but there was still a spark urging me to just explore one more small option, to open one more door, to try one more thing. Ever the slow-learner, or should I say slow-decision-maker, it took me the entire decade of juggling a dichotomy to squash my self-doubt and declare that I knew a different life was waiting for me, even if I had no clue what it would look like.
At the dawn of the last decade, transformation was brewing and within the first three years, my life looked nothing like the life I had been living. I was deconstructing and reconstructing my life blindly, and attempting to excavate pieces of myself from the ruins. Where was I in all of this? Who was I? What would matter in the next chapter, and at times, would there even be a next chapter? It was simultaneously a freeing and painful time, full of soul-fueling laughter and soul-crushing disappointment. And there was so much soul-searching. After a legit (if not low-key version) Eat, Pray, Love period, there is no other phrase for what happened next: I straight-up manifested my life partner. He is the redemption of love. In the remainder of the decade I would learn that I don’t have to choose between anything and love, rather that love makes everything else seem more attainable and more possible; that love is empowering; that the love you see on TV that builds you up and makes you the best possible version of yourself is brought to you by the lucky few of us who have experienced it and need you to know that it does exist.
And because first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage, I also made a human in the last decade. I say that because the experience of creating, carrying, birthing, and raising a person with intention is so much more than just “having a baby.” It feels nothing short of powerful. Sure, I could have had a baby sooner, but I would not have had this exact, profound experience without all of the conditions being right. In the previous decade, I grew in unexpected ways after adopting my stepdaughter. I felt increasingly inept while raising her as a naïve 20-something, relying on other people for reassurance and crumbling under the weight of everyone’s criticisms. I don’t know whether it was my first experience of child-rearing, life experience in general or a combination of the two, but I’m much more confident now. I feel present to motherhood, even though it’s not perfect and it often looks different than I’d imagined.
Though my husband and I actively craft the aspects of our life we can control, we’re not ignorant. We know some things are out of our hands. And as powerful as our connection is, it can’t take away the agony of grief. Love is comforting, but it does not heal all wounds. And without wanting to become the poster child for grief, it is as much to blame (or to credit, depending on how you look at it) for who I became in the last decade as my reclamation of love. I lost several key players in my life in a that 10-year span, from my grandmother who was more like a mother to me, to my actual mother, to some of my dearest friends and even my beloved dog who saw me through nearly two decades. To modify a quote I read during the ongoing healing process, if you don’t understand the weight of grief, consider yourself lucky to be so blissfully unaware.
Life is not fair, and I have known this from a very young age. My cinematic childhood memories of domestic violence and substance abuse are constant reminders. And because of this, I always felt like, for better or worse, I had been gifted with knowledge or vision that others had not. (You can see how fine the line is between finding the bright side and becoming self-righteous.) Grieving my mother in particular has been yet another initiation into this club of people who get to see what others don’t. In this way, I might be more prepared or able to help when (not if) tragedy strikes again. Not that you are ever “ready” to lose your mother, but I still very much felt like I needed her to survive a couple more decades. I don’t believe in questioning God’s master plan, no matter how suicidal I might become. (And I’d be doing my readers a disservice if I didn’t admit this part, but more on that another time. For now, you need to know that love cannot “fix” a person, but a gratitude-filled heart has helped me to self-soothe through the dark times.)
The point of all of this is to say that existential crises juxtaposed with heart-bursting love and fulfillment in the past decade has led to an unlikely feeling of wholeness. Danielle LaPorte put it best when she said, “My heart is so open I can’t tell if it is a gaping wound or a portal for everything that ever was and ever will be.”
So here we are. All of us, here at the start of a new decade. What happens next?
I can say that these experiences have changed the perspective I bring to the table. I’m acutely aware of mortality, so that has implications on how I love (everyone and everything, myself included). Time will continue to be life-giving and life-taking. I’m choosing to be optimistic, which doesn’t mean glossing over the hard stuff, but instead, actively seeking out joy. I’ll continue to work on discerning my fears from my wisdom, societal influence from what I was really put here to do, and trusting myself in the years to come.
How about you?