Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Letter to My Kids Because I'm 40 and That's Old

Not wiser. Just a bigger ass.  Literally.
Hello my very beloved offspring,

Someday when you read this, I will be even more ancient than I am right now. Someday I hope very much to be a crotchety old lady who says wildly inappropriate things and embarrasses you by grabbing your father's keister in the retirement community where we live. But for now, I'm only 40.

Everyone says turning 40 is a really big deal but I have not found that to be so. But upon this occasion (and just in case I drop dead tomorrow), I thought I'd tell you what my perspective on life is at this particular moment. Then when you turn 40 and start wondering "Why don't I feel like a real grown up yet?" you can read this and feel better. Because at least you will realize that your immaturity is in part hereditary. Sorry about that.



Relax, we're all faking it.
This is kind of a big deal, you guys. Because your whole life - there will always be someone. Someone who you look at and think, did I miss something? How come that person gets to be like that and I have to be like this? Sometimes it's not just a person, sometimes its a whole group of people. I wasted a lot of time thinking that at any moment,  those folks would figure out that I was a big fraud and then they would shun me. It's actually a thing. It's called Imposter Syndrome and lots of people experience at different points in their lives. So guess what? Turns out it's totally normal to feel like you're faking it. Just do it with good manners and you'll be fine.

Know what makes you happy. Here's what makes me happy: the three of you. What the tops of your heads smell like. What it sounds like when you laugh so hard you might pee yourself. What you're like right now, what you were, and all the things you're going to be. Your father - all parts. The rest of our family. Friends who are kind and who don't get mad at me if I forget to call them back right away. Having a big, silly dog. Also Korean barbeque, aged Gouda, and pretty much any kind of dumpling. I know what makes me happy and as a result, I know what's important to me. It's called having priorities and thanks to you, I finally have some.

Don't invite poison into your life. Did you ever read something and you were like "holy crap - THAT IS A MOTHERFUNKING TRUTH BOMB"? Terry Pratchett is my favorite writer and he wrote that: "poison goes where poison's welcome".  You know that's right. And guess what else? Drama goes where drama's welcome. Pain goes where pain's welcome. Betrayal goes where betrayal's welcome. All these things are going to find you anyway, so for the love of GOD, don't make them welcome. But you know what else? This thought has a bossy older sister and that sister says "light and love go where they're welcome, too. SO MAKE THEM WELCOME." Even when you feel like you don't deserve them, you really do. And so does everyone else.

Simmer the hell down. I know that you probably think I'm an unrepentant shrieker. But here's a little nugget for your bucket: I have never regretted a single time that I kept my mouth shut, got my crazy under control, and didn't lose my schmidt.  But I regret every, single time I ever yelled at someone (including you guys). I regret every time I ever unloaded on someone because "they need to hear how I REALLY feel." I regret saying things that made me feel better for about five seconds until I realized they could never be unsaid. I find myself at stoplights, cringing at things I said 20 years ago. The words that haunt me are not the angry ones people have said to me, you guys. Let's just leave it at that.

The universe doesn't give you something without taking something away. There's a million different ways to say this. Isaac Newton said "every action has an equal and opposite reaction." Bridget Jones said "When one part of your life starts going okay, another falls spectacularly to pieces.”  And everyone's grandfather ever said "Nothing comes for free." It's all true. You get married and have kids? You will get so much, but don't kid yourself - you will have given stuff up along the way. You want a promotion more than anything and you get it. Then suddenly your whole life is about your job. You will do anything to be with that one person or get that one thing or achieve that next gold star... But getting what you want comes with a price (and you usually won't know what it is till long after the fact), so just be prepared for that.

Everything that sucks in your life is there to teach you a lesson. Take your time, but make sure you try and figure out what that lesson is, because it's always good for you. So when you're lying prone on the floor, surrounded by dirty underpants and Pringles crumbs, maybe stop sobbing "Why is this happening to me?" long enough to ask yourself "Why is this happening to me?"

Value resiliency and not just brokenness. There was a time when I was young where I felt damaged and I pretty much only identified with people I thought were as messed up as I was. Because they would understand and not judge me. But at some point, I decided to focus on people who are trying to deal with the junk in their trunk and are trying to make things better. Sometimes it takes a really long to time to do that, I think. And notice, I didn't say succeed - I said try. That's the thing about going through shit in your life. You have to try and wade through it because the alternative is just to stand there, neck-deep in feces. There was a time when I could stand by the people who wouldn't even try to fight their way out of the dukey, but I can't now. Because I don't want to get sucked in. Now I have priorities. Besides, it's really not your job to fix people. It's your job to love them while they fix themselves.

Understand the power of an honest apology. Oh my sweet baby condor, I have screwed up so many times. But I try to admit when I'm wrong and I try to make amends for my mistakes. The thing is though - you have to really mean it. A disingenuous apology is a very bad thing. It's a lie, wrapped in bacon. But not the good bacon. The kind of bacon they serve in England, that never gets crispy. It's a lie wrapped in flaccid, probably contagious bacon. It's bad.

Gratitude is actually about respect. I'm not just talking about saying thank you (though saying please and thank you is incredibly important). What I'm talking about is the more Oprah-esque kind of gratitude for the big picture stuff. If you have a family who loves you, if you're healthy, if you have food in the fridge, a job, health insurance, clean water to drink - be genuinely grateful for that stuff. Be grateful because you are no more entitled to those things than any other human on Earth planet. And there are millions of good, hard-working people in this world who are desperate for all those things. And it's profoundly disrespectful TO THEM to take what you have for granted and throw it around like it doesn't mean anything.

When you're feeling your worst, when things seem hopeless, there is one thing that will make it better. Here's the deal: there will always be people who really need help and there will always be something you can do. So pull your head out of your haunches, get your hands dirty, and do some good for someone else. This will remind you of who you are and will help repair some of the worm-holes in your soul that come from seeing and feeling stuff.

You can always start over tomorrow. You're going to make mistakes. You may find there are stretches of your life when you don't like who you've become. You may find yourself listening to the Talking Heads and wondering "HOW DID I GET HERE?" You may forget to go the gym for about 3 years. But if you wake up tomorrow and try hard enough to wade through it, you will eventually come out on the other side.

And, God willing, I'll be there waiting for you on the veranda at the retirement community. With one hand holding a refreshing cocktail and with the other, squeezing your father.

Love,
your mom

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2013

42 comments:

  1. You have no idea how much I needed this. Nooo idea. Thank you!

    Btw.. Has there been a domestic enemies of the depressed mom post yet? If not I would love to write one!

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    1. I second this 100%...I'm a trying-to-be mom with massive anxiety issues. I love that series though and would love to see it revived!

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  2. THIS. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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  3. This is wonderful; thank you!

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  4. This is genuinely perfect. Thank you for putting into words the feelings of so many moms!

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  5. Wonderful. Although I should probably be insulted on behalf of English bacon ;-)

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  6. OMG thank you for this post! Not about what you are thankful for or your take on things. But for a little shove in the right direction. Kudos

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  7. Best post ever. Ever. In my 40th year and I don't think I could come close to writing something so profoundly...right. I may just have to share this with my kid!

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  8. I just had my 1st child at 39, but in my mind I'm in my 20s. Big mistake! She's now 3 and the 40s are kicking my ass. I'm printing this out so she can read it when she's older, it's going right on my office wall. Hell, I might just read it to her now for a bedtime story. Thank you so much for this!

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  9. This was a great post - I need to start wading :-) Oh, and I like British bacon! Thank you for your insights. Jo

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  10. Amazing! This one is close to met heart in so many ways. Thank you for sharing

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  11. How did you know that I was thinking about what to say to my kids if I wasn't going to be around for much longer today. And then I read this and the ugly cry happens. You write so very honestly that it's simply beautiful. It's wonderful that you're so open to yourself, to your children, to the truth, that by happenstance you are then open to the rest of the world. We are all lucky that you chose to write your experiences that we get to benefit from it. Today you speak to many hearts including mine, and I am grateful that you've continued this website and to share yourself. I know that you feel like a goofball a lot of the time but know that to others you are much more than that. I just wish that, like many other strangers, you lived down my street so that we could hang out and be friends. But you don't live in MN, which is the arctic tundra currently. So instead I want to simply say to you, thank you. Thank you for the laughs, the tears, the honesty, and the love that you share.

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  12. Perfect! You are amazeballs! I'm planning on printing this and posting this in my closet so I can remember these words. Especially "Simmer the Hell Down." I am always apologizing to my kids for losing my schmidt or for the words that tumble out in my frustration. And oh my goodness, the things we have given up for happiness...and I would do it all again.

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  13. I am turning 40 too in a couple months (Yikes!) and this was really so great to read. I have learned so much up until now, but still feel like I have a lot to learn. Particularly this one: "Besides, it's really not your job to fix people. It's your job to love them while they fix themselves." SO. DAMN. HARD. to do, for me, especially when it is family.

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    1. Absolutely. Especially when it's your darling 17-yr-old son. I have written that quote down to remind myself !

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  14. Truth bomb! What a great post. Thank you so much for sharing this.

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  15. Well said. I am going to print it out for my kids ( personalized) and have them read it now. As teenagers, they need the message right away!

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  16. Two things:
    1) Thank you. This was an awesome post that really hit me in the ovaries and assorted feeling places of my anatomy.
    2) OMG YOU LOVE TERRY PRATCHETT TOO!!! Um, did you know that the North American Discworld Convention is coming to Baltimore this year? I might successfully whine my way into going. I might even bring my children, who are huge fans of Sam Vimes and were raised from infancy on Tiffany Aching (okay, AND Harry Potter and Tolkien).

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  17. So true! Thank you for sharing with us.

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  18. Just what I needed even though I'm only just thirty. Thank you.

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  19. I didn't think I could love you any more, and then I found out Pratchett was your favorite author too!

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  20. "I find myself at stoplights, cringing at things I said 20 years ago. The words that haunt me are not the angry ones people have said to me, you guys"


    When I read this I thought, this is probably true of the people to whom you said those things, as well. In other words, what you said isn't what haunts them now, either.

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    1. What I meant to go on to say is, maybe it's time to forgive yourself for having said those things?

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  21. Loved this! I'm in my early fifties and concur with everything you so beautifully said! Bravo - how about a one woman play entitled, "Simmer the hell down!" Yes!

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  22. Truly beautiful.
    I would add only one thing to my letter to my own kids and this little nugget has helped me through every single difficult day of life thus far: "I am a Work In Progress - God is not done with me yet". Because when you are truly ancient (*snicker*) you'll be writing the same things and you'll realize that you haven't got it down quite yet...
    That is how I have learned to forgive myself and learned to forgive others. We are all unfinished as of yet - the work of shaping and creating and developing who will all become is still underway, working miracles under the surface of our lives.
    I want my kids to know that and I want them to read this post and know how true it is - every piece of it

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  23. oh. so. timely. and i'm not even your kid :-)

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  24. I know it's very early in the year, and some may be fearful of throwing out this kind of bold statement. Not a rebel like me. THIS IS THE ABSOLUTE BEST POST OF 2013. That's right, I am nailing this to the tree like jello baby. Every single breath of this post is fan flipping tastic. Remarkable, honest, hilarious and it's like alphabet soup for the soul. Lays out the lessons in order no questions. 5 out of 5 stars. Woot Woot !

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  25. i love this so much. i'm happy to know i'm not the only one faking it! i found this on Huff Post, and now i'm following your blog. have a great weekend!
    melanie
    http://violetsbuds.blogspot.com

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  26. Huffington Post Canada reposted this. I had to come over and say thank you. It was a beautiful, witty and well written piece.

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  27. This is absolutely wonderful. I am bookmarking both because I want to read it again and because I am worried my current horrendous case of pregnancy brain will have it fall out of my head in the next few hours to make space for worrying about if I remembered to turn the tap off. Thanks. :D

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  28. I just read your post in an Australian newspaper. It's brilliant. Just brilliant.

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  29. Loved this! I'm in my early fifties and concur with everything you so beautifully said! Bravo - how about a one woman play entitled, "Simmer the hell down!" Yes!

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  30. So true! Thank you for sharing with us.

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  31. Nice Article, i like it.
    Thanks, im come back later...

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