I am now 30 years old. Funny, I always thought that I would have my life figured out by now. It seemed that an entire decade after high school, and most of my postsecondary education as well would have been enough time to do so. Alas 30 has arrived and I don’t feel like I have anything figured out yet. I’ve made some significant decisions that have dramatically changed its course and are pretty irreversible. I chose marriage, to join my course with that of another, to even further narrow it down I chose motherhood, there are now 3 other people whose welfare I have in mind with every choice I make. Not to mention their father and his dislike of cold climates. If I wanted to move us all to a place where it snowed I would have to provide a very convincing argument. Say I decided to go to the snow, minus the Genius Husband because I stubbornly had to go for some reason and he stubbornly had to stay where it is warm. Theoretically I could leave with the children, but then I would have to watch them pine for their father, I would have to consider whether it was good for them to live so far from the father who loves them, so really it’s not likely at all. For better or worse my life is bound to him and the children who have entered the world through me. This part of my life is set for a while; this course will remain fixed.
I have managed this decade to sort of paint myself into a corner; I have voluntarily given up a lot of what many consider freedom. I no longer go to the bathroom in private, I rarely sleep when I want to, I go nowhere by myself, ever, my body serves more than just me, and I am financially dependant. So in a way, though I’ve not figured a great deal out, there are many things that are settled for me, and those things are also keeping me too busy to have time to do or think about anything else.
The Genius Husband once talked about an experience that is common to both of us. We both had felt as though we were in a sort of rehearsal waiting for the time when our “real lives” begin. We felt we were preparing for that moment when the curtain pulled back there were people watching and it mattered if we forgot our lines because this time it was for real. Perhaps this is a condition that is common to most young adults, I don’t know. But I do know that when I met the GH and agreed to marry him that that curtain finally went up for both of us, for the first time it mattered. Adding children to the mix means that it will never go down, there is always someone watching, and there is no going back and fixing a scene that didn’t play so well. Now I sometimes feel like its opening night and I’m throwing up backstage because I’m grossly under prepared and I’m hoping no one will say, “Why did she get that role, she’s obviously not talented enough to play that.” Will my audience of critics rear their adult heads one day and condemn my performance as I have my own parent’s? Will they still think it was a good show in spite of the opening night blunders and occasional set malfunctions?
I wasn’t always this way. Once I was blissfully ignorant and over confidant. I would look at something and say to myself, “I could do that, easy.” Things are always easy if you know how to do them already, except relationships, but I would try without grasping the basic concept of the thing. (Like the time I tried to learn to play hand percussion and I thought that the point was to learn a pattern and then match it to the song you were playing with, and I thought my problem was that I didn’t know the right pattern. Maybe a year later I finally realized that you had to listen to the song first, and play along with it, that the pattern took care of itself as long as I listened first. Listening first, I’ve gotten a teeny bit better at that this decade, but I’ve got much farther to go.) Enough experiences like that have taught me some humility, but also that things are often simpler than they seem if you know how to ask the right questions.
I have a bad habit of asking stupid, thoughtless questions. The fact that they are thoughtless is what makes them stupid. Marriage to a logic machine has helped me to see this, though not yet cured it. I am now aware that it is helpful to consider first what information it is that I desire, and then phrase a question to most rapidly get that information. I’ve no idea what it is in me that prefers to come at something from the side. For instance, tonight I wanted to know if the GH would like it if I put some leftovers in a travel container for lunch tomorrow. So I started by asking where he was working. Then I realized that that wasn’t what I really needed so I revised the question and asked if there was a chance that he would be home for lunch. Then I finally got around to asking if he wanted to take the leftovers for lunch. Why not start with “Do you want to take this tomorrow for lunch?” Why am I always trying to guess the answer instead of just asking for it? What part of me thinks that it will not be freely given?
In the birthday blessings that our family does as part of our tradition the word dignity was used at one point. One person was observing that in the last month or so since the Baby was born that I seem to have grown stronger, more full of grace and dignity than I have been to this point. I hope so. I hope it’s not just the extreme contrast as the maternal depression has lifted and my more regular personality has returned, I would like it to be actual growth. Dignity is not a quality I would have imagined it even possible for me to possess. I feel more often like the less kind comments that some of my profs would scrawl on my jury sheets in University: lacks preparation, poor execution, neglects proper interpretation, too much tension in body, and my personal favorite, should wear a skirt. (Because women apparently can’t perform classical music well in pants according to one professor, or maybe he just disliked that my chosen attire for the moment when I performed and was graded for it was casual.) I do remember that the more often I stood on that stage, in front of that panel of judges, the more comfortable I got there, the more I understood how it was that I needed to prepare, and the less afraid I felt going in, though I remained underdressed still thinking that if my music was good enough it wouldn’t matter what I wore. It seems I’m getting there in terms of my life too, I’m getting more comfortable with this real life process, more like opening night has passed and I’m comfortable on this stage, I’m learning how to prepare so things run more smoothly from moment to moment, and I’m still defying those who would judge me on appearances by refusing to make it easy for them to place me in one of their neat categories and assume they understand me. Maybe I’ve even gained some grace and dignity in the process.