6 things i’ve learned by 38.

tomorrow (well, technically today now) is my birthday, & i’m really looking forward to it. i’m not even exactly sure why.  we’re not doing anything particularly remarkable, taking a weekend away & or buying me a big something.  no, my birthday will be a much gentler affair.  we’ve got church in the afternoon followed by a bonfire, so the day has it’s own activity.  but honestly, the older i get, the more each day i get to be here seems pretty remarkable.  anyone?

in the morning, we’ll take the kids to the farmer’s market first thing, like we do every saturday, for raised donuts from the kind amish lady. one of leif’s new words?  “new-nuh”.  donut.  welcome to the family, little buddy.  we’re really learning now!  then i’ll pick up some carrots & cilantro from Chia, the gentle-spirited young man who sells vegetables at his parents’ stand & always gives me an extra eggplant or some ground cherries.  we’ll walk by the banjo player & the gallons of maple syrup on our way back to the car.  then we’ll wander off into the day & see what it brings.

for the most part, as is our culled tradition of recent years, between andy & I at least, we celebrate small, monetarily speaking.  this isn’t shorthand for “not at all”.  on the contrary.  my kids gleam with anticipation & wonder on birthdays (theirs or ours), & andy is a master at making me feel loved.  we like taking time to go slow & to enjoy whatever there is, whatever we find in front of us, which will certainly include much homemadeness & plenty of attention.  turns out, it’s usually better than expecting a whole heap & withering under the weight of it.  for me, anyway. I like small.  (think blog title.)  andy & I haven’t actually bought each other birthday gifts (other than a few edible treats) in years.  because what do i want?  more things?  not likely.  not anymore.  my birthday wishlist reads like this:  a nap.  a cup of decaf with cream.  time to read awhile in the quiet, that elusive foreigner in this house.  & celebrating with a sweet treat to share with my sweet little ones & the huz.  because all of us together in happy mode is a day-maker.

so, sitting in the quiet of birthday eve, with all but me asleep (can I get an “amen”?) & pandora playing a mix of rend collective & the fray, I wanted to tell you what I’ve gleaned in the last little while.  seems like much has been brewing, with all the waiting we’ve been doing.  seems like the gleaned bits ought to be shared, yes?

1.  perspective is everything.  when I was in college, I walked by the student government office every day on my way from my (usually empty) p.o. box to the cafeteria.  every day I was paying attention, I read the quote pitched up on the door frame:  “I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it.”  (charles swindoll).  that math sure puts the odds for happiness heavily in my favor, if I choose it.  circumstances be darned, I get to adjust my vision however I want.  every dang day.

2.  rich is relative.  I have a quote on my fridge (okay, i’m one of those people.  collecting quotes.  it’s a thing.) that says, “there is a gigantic difference between having a great deal of money & being rich.”  I know (& you do, too.  look at any people magazine) plenty of people with hoards of money who aren’t happy.  & I know that money isn’t necessary (after our basic needs are met) to be happy.  I can increase my wealth in five minutes by taking a grateful look around me & tallying my goodnesses.  & they are many.  i don’t need cash to be rich.  (only to pay for parking.)
3.  there’s very little that music can’t cure.  for me, anyway.  for you it might be nature.  or people.  or solitude.  but for me (& my kids now, turns out.  apple, tree.), flip on a little rend collective or something kid-friendly from walk off the earth & we’ve got a whole new ballgame.  I just have to remember I can apply balm to my own soul & then take the initiative to do it.  kind of goes along with the attitude choosing.  we’re kind of powerful, we people.

4.  people really are the biggest deal.  a few years ago, I remember bob merritt saying the most important aspect of our lives is the people around us & the relationships we have with them.  at the time, that was not good news to me.  (I can feel you freaking out.)  I wasn’t very good at relationships.  i didn’t really like people much (not for very long or very often.  true.).  I was good at getting my kids to & from storytime.  I was good at getting my house clean. i was good at organizing the bins of toddler clothes in my basement.  I wasn’t good at digging deep into relationships.  but i’m learning.  i’ve got the most amazing people around me who load me up with grace & kindness.  i’m a slow study, but heaven help me, i’ll get there.  people are where the fullest life is (this includes Jesus for me. totally a Person.).

5.  living with less is actually living with more.  i don’t know how that math works, either, but the more i dig into this, the more it proves itself true.  we’ve given away more than 7000 things to date (more on this later, hopefully), & my life keeps expanding.  i have more room to think, more time to create, more space for all of us to play.  & the creativity & cooperation my kids glean from less!  oh, my.  that alone is worth the recommendation.  give it whirl.  I promise you won’t miss your stuff.

6.  taking care of myself is taking care of everyone else.  ahhh, this is complex!  i used to be good at self-care tactics, like showering (i’m beginning to get nervous about your impression of me. . . .what’s that you say?  way too late?  oh.), but four kids later, most days by 4pm i’m a train wreck.  it’s easier for me to wait until everything is done (what?) or I’ve met all the kids’ needs to take care of myself.  but it’s like the airplane crash analogy:  if i don’t put on my own oxygen mask, how can i help anyone else?  so i’m trying to do that more these days.  sometimes it amounts to reading a page of fiction leaning against the kitchen counter before i head into the dirty dishwater.  sometimes (like today) it’s kicking the kids outside so i can have a little quiet.  sometimes it’s a literal shower.  it’s always a bit of scripture in the morning & a word to the heavens.  but whatever it is, i’m communicating to myself that i in fact matter, too.  which somehow is easy to forget.

so there it is, my birthday montage.  i’m off to sleep now.
I’ve got a birthday to wake up to.
38 is going to rock.
& I know a slew of little kids who’ll be ready to party.

2 thoughts on “6 things i’ve learned by 38.

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