Fifty.

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My fiftieth birthday has come and gone and yet I have words in my head that have not dissolved, so here I am. There is a line in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous that speaks to a “position of neutrality”, specifically referring to the company of alcohol. I like to take the concept further and apply it to expectations. This is big work for me. Before I quit drinking, I loved to indulge in future-tripping. I loved the drama of it, I let it keep me up at night, I wanted every experience to be OFF THE CHARTS good. Like any good sufferer of the disease of MORE, I scoffed at mediocre, okay or even good. I expected great, every time. As you can imagine, most experiences failed miserably at meeting my expectations. And arguably, many of them could have been great, but I was too drunk to notice.

So back to this big work for me practicing neutrality around expectations, it works. It worked when I went to Portland, OR a few weekends ago for a Tammi Salas lovefest/Unruffled Podcast meetup/Amanda Grace RAW workshop. I kept my expectations at a low hum and the experience well exceeded that to where I’m still riding a wave of creative inspiration and productivity. My actual birthday was interesting though. I experienced an emotion I’m not used to feeling and it really caught me off-guard.

Melancholy.

Melancholy is not a dwelling I inhabit very often. It was a bit of a paradox as while I was feeling every ounce of gratitude for even reaching this milestone birthday and was overcome with appreciation for all of the birthday love that was flooding my text messages and Facebook notifications, yet, there it was. In reflection, there were a combination of realizations that spurred the emotion, I’m sure of it, the biggest one as something I don’t often like to examine: impermanence. And not just impermanence as my own impending doom, which if I’m truly lucky, I’ve reached the half-way mark but the slippage of time in general. I have a teen that will be leaving my home soon and I know, I KNOW it’s going to feel like a limb has been ripped off. I don’t live in regret but there is always lingering some lament over the paths not taken, “the ghost ship that didn’t carry us”.

As quickly as melancholy engulfed me that Tuesday morning, it had left by the evening. I drifted in the wake of, What just happened? for a bit. In conclusion, I’m happy to be fifty. Practicing neutrality around the anticipation of this birthday was about to play out, so I’m glad to be here, that it’s come and gone. I don’t know what this decade will bring, but I look forward to being astonished, either way.

An Invitation

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I’ve recently embarked on a large writing project that had me going through all of my journals started since sobriety. I came upon one that I’d yet to revisit, my attempt at consistent Morning Pages in my second year of sobriety. Such tender and earnest expressions, I was so happy to have captured that as I hardly remember the feelings from that time. At the time, I’d been re-reading Marianne Williamson’s classic, A Return To Love. I only copied down a few quotes, one being “The truth doesn’t stop being the truth just because you aren’t willing to look at it.” Of course I was resonating with that sentence as a reference to my drinking, as I’d just accomplished the big one year milestone. But as I was reminded of that quote now, I began thinking about what current of truths I’m unwilling to look at today. There are many. Instead of addressing the parts of my life that were intolerable, alcohol dumbed me into submission, aiding me to simply tolerate aspects I was unwilling to change. Recovery gave me space and strength to slowly reassemble the parts of my life previously intolerable, the truths I’d been unwilling to look at, but it was like Sondra with a fresh year of sobriety under her belt invited current me, approaching fifty years on the planet and five years of rebirth, to take a look at all the things I’m still only tolerating.

“A miracle is a shift in perception.” —M.W.

How many times had I said that to myself in the early days. I know what that looked like then, but now I’m wondering what that even looks like for me today. I think it looks like continuously challenging your own hardened stories, the ones you are so convinced are true only because of their insistence and longevity. Because IT JUST IS. The questions I’m currently asking myself are: Am I really too old to start this thing? Has my ship really sailed? Can I figure this out? Can I do something I’ve never done before, even if I don’t see many examples of it in the world? I have come so far since those Morning Pages and I celebrate that, but I need to keep examining what else I’m just tolerating.

The truth is, I am turning fifty this year and I’m not denying that, but it’s also true that most days I feel better than I did in my thirties, so why deny that truth either. I was so self-conscious my whole life, fretting, editing myself as an attempt to control how others perceived me. It’s a tough exercise to retrain your brain to a place where you have zero inhibitions, but one of the gifts of aging is that it just happens, like you are retreating to childhood, aging in reverse. Do you ever look at those lists, the ones where people found their personal success much later in life, like Laura Ingalls Wilder, Toni Morrison, Julia Childs, Martha Stewart, Vera Wang, Lucille Ball. Now, do you imagine your name there? If you’ve followed my blog since the beginning, you’ve probably noticed I don’t talk about the work of getting sober anymore, it’s evolved as I have. If you are like me, you’ve been challenged by motherhood, sobriety and now mid-life where society may be telling us we’re done when we feel like we’re just getting started. I’m adding my name to that list.

Change begets more change. That’s just how it works. Being all in on something elevates you, from mood to consciousness and science has proven it, even though I don’t need science to tell me. Artists do a better job, in my opinion. Thank you, Marianne Williamson. Thank you to the female artists who never stopped creating. Thank you, Sharon Olds, I do in fact feel very lucky.