Fun / Gratitude Project

Aged

Last week, I stopped by a liquor store to pick up some vodka for homemade vanilla that we’re making for Christmas gifts. I stood in front of the giant wall of clear liquid that (literally) all looks the same, completely flummoxed. I’m not sure the employee appreciated my question as to whether the “cheapie vodka” would suffice for my project. He told me that the less expensive vodka had a rougher taste, which means nothing to me. I eventually made my choice by closing my eyes and choosing some bottles off the bottom shelf.

I carried my 3 large bottles of vodka to the counter and readied my driver’s license to flash at the cashier, because surely, he couldn’t tell whether I was close to 21 or not. Imagine my surprise then he rang up the bottles and instead of, “Can I see your driver’s license, young lady?”, he said, “That’ll be $35.”

“Aren’t you going to card me?” I asked half-jokingly, pushing my driver’s license forlornly back into it’s lonely place in my wallet.

He did the verbal equivalent of someone who is surprised that they have just been slapped, his words and tone wheeling like your arms and legs would if you had been pushed into a pool.

“Well, I mean, uh, not today, ma’am! Do you shop here alot? No? Oh well, I’ll get you next time. I promise! (nervous laughter)”

I shoved my receipt in my bag and heaved my heavy burden out to my car in the parking lot.

Beth, Alex, Caleb (13), Aiden (3)

A photographer recently came to our house and spent several hours with us, taking pictures of our usual Sunday night routines. I love the pictures that she took and how she captured what our life is like right now.

I look old in some of them. My skin isn’t perky any more and I can see the pre-wattle that graced both my grandmother’s upper arms. Also, I have one chin hair that seemingly cannot not exist. I could write an “Ode to My Chin Hair” about persistence and determination. My eyes look tired because they are tired, which is what happens when one has a genetic predisposition for troubled sleep as well as children that tag-team not sleeping well.

No longer will I be carded at go-carts for trying to be a 16-year-old driver with a minor. Apparently, no longer will I be carded for anything.

I’m officially old.

Even five years ago, with a house and a full-time job, I remember thinking, “When am I going to feel like an adult?” and I think I’ve finally made it.

What does it take to feel like an adult and not like a kid anymore?

My birthday was last week. I was going to write this post about wisdom- how, when I was a kid, I thought wisdom was knowing everything and now that I’m nearing my mid-30s, I feel like wisdom is admitting that maybe there’s nothing to know (or that you’re never going to know it all anyway). But it’s ridiculous to claim that I understand what wisdom is in my 30s. Come find me again in my 80s.

I didn’t write that blog because it didn’t feel right. I finished a book last night that had an analogy that just felt right. The writer F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “There are no second acts in American lives.” The author and a friend were having a discussion about the meaning and one of them reflects this way,

“In any play, Act 2 is where the action is. In life as in a play, you can’t leap from Act 1 to Act 3. We skip Act 2 at our peril, for that’s when we go through the turmoil of confronting our demons- the selfishness, immorality, murderous thoughts, disastrous choices- so that when we enter Act 3, we have learned something. Fitzegerald was telling us that Americans are inclined to bypass Act 2; they don’t want to go through the pain that self-discovery requires.” Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me) by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson

Richard Rohr also has a book about this, called Falling Upwards.

This idea resonates with me. Perhaps, within the last five years or so, I’ve entered the second act of my life. It looks rough, sure. I’ve ripped off my colorblind glasses; karate-kicked down the walls of faith I so carefully constructed in my youth; felt angry and sad and cynical; gone in search of spiritual truth from non-orthodox sources; more days than not, I feel like I need to wear sackcloth over my yoga pants so I can rend it.

For those of you on the outside looking in, maybe I look like a bit of a mess.

Maybe I am a bit of a mess.

But something is happening in Act 2. I’ve learned to lean into the chaos, not flee from it, and something is happening. Letting go of the need to know everything and who’s in and who’s out, realizing that other people see the world differently than me (and they’re not wrong)- those were painful experiences. It’s difficult to give up certainty, but it’s also freeing. Protecting my version of Truth, like a dog protecting its bone, was exhausting. Everyone was always circling, waiting for me to leave myself open for one second so they could attack. Learning to let go, to share, means that I have more emotional energy for other things. I can let my guard down, be vulnerable, allow other people to be vulnerable without feeling like a threat to me. In a new way, I’m feeling more authentically like myself. That kind of certainty that comes from knowing yourself, your whole self, even the bad parts, is comforting, not exhausting.

Who knows how long Act 2 will last? I still have some growing up to do, some things to dismantle. If I’m being honest, I don’t hate Act 2. Maybe I hated it at the beginning- discomfort and uncertainty isn’t a day at Six Flags- but now I see where Act 2 is taking me and I’m excited about it. I’ve seen so much growth in leaning into doubt and chaos. What else don’t I know? Who else do I need to learn from? I don’t know! There’s a whole unseen world for me to see and I.am.here.for.it.

Let’s raise our glasses to more of Act 2!

6 thoughts on “Aged

  1. Hear! Hear Beth!. Each stage has it’s positives and negatives but one thing you can be guaranteed is that you will learn something about yourself.

  2. Wow! Mid-30’s?? No way!
    I think it’s wonderful where you are.
    Just so you know, the guy behind the counter was probably thrown off because he could get in trouble for not ID’ing.
    He probably doesn’t ID anyone…:/.
    I’m in my 40’s now, and while I don’t think it’s fair to compare the growth and development of two people who have had such diverse backgrounds, for me I am finding the freedom to be myself, self express, love myself and enjoy the world like I have not been able to previously.
    My thought is, I think you’ll find your way back to that at some point. It’s wonderful that you are finding freedom, truth, groundedness now, too.
    Me thinks you were born wise ;).
    Happy Belated, Beth!

    • I know. Whenever I see those Junior high girls that I worked with now, I’m like, ‘There’s no way you’re married with a kid now”.

      I love that you’re finding the freedom too. It’s really great to know that other people are learning (have learned) the same things that I am.

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