So this is 48.
There have been three words that dominate my 47th year and bring me to where I am right now. Grief, Change, and Gratitude. I’ve grieved over the loss of family, friendships, lovers and dreams. I grieved over the life I wanted and have a new-found gratitude for what is in front of me each moment of each day. Grief and change: The master of these has been the constant of change.
Grief. Forty-seven was a year of big changes, as I mentioned here a year ago. The start of my forty-eighth was spent grieving. I continued to grieve the loss of my mother. Friends kept telling me how strong I was and how I would go on and remember in my own way; that I would work through the feelings and cherish the memories; that pieces of her live on in me. I didn’t feel strong. In fact I felt the weakest I’d ever felt in my life. I was confused by the immediate memories of my mother that came to mind were not pleasant memories but hurtful ones. Despite this, I looked for and believed there were signs that she was near me: white feathers that land in my lap, hearts in the clouds and in the leaves on my walks, smells, gestures I’d seen in my students that were exact movements of her, and even words coming out of my own mouth that I didn’t seem to have control of, convinced she was speaking through me. I’d joke about this, telling friends I was turning into my mother. Then I found our my mother wasn’t who I thought she was. This truth is one I hope to spend time finding out more about in the coming year.
Gratitude. As I get older I look around me and see the life I once wanted for my self is not the life I have. More than anything I wanted a family of my own, the stability of owning a home and a romantic partnership with a man to share it all with. Thinking about what I don’t have can bring me to a very dark place, I will admit. Somehow I find a way to get myself out of that hole and realize what I do have. I have friendships that have lasted years and have crossed oceans. My friends have become my family and I sometimes can’t believe it when I think about the kind of love I have been shown by them. Although the desires of my younger self have not been fulfilled the way I pictured them, I have been living a life with so much to be grateful for. Especially my dearest, closest friends.
Change. The end of forty-seven gifted me with the end of a romantic relationship and catapulted me from the plans we made for a life together to a completely new job and life in a new country. “We plan and God laughs” a friend said to me recently. It was a challenging year for me personally and I realized how resilient I am, despite my thinking I had no more resilience at all, and how strong my will is, especially after having a scary set of health diagnosis in early June. I’ve spent the summer visiting with people I love so dearly. I’ve taken daily walks through West Yorkshire, and a few in my beloved Milan, appreciating every leaf, flower, blade of grass, sound and smell. Each moment with a friend is magic to me. Every change in the sky and weather is a mystery and I’m loving it. I’ve continued to spend my time reading, walking thinking meditating and observing. Though I didn’t see it before, I know now that I have always been living my life on my own terms. Every change, every move, every job, every life live I’ve lived and every invention of myself has really been my choice. Now it is time to be more conscious, more aware and thoroughly prepared to continue on for as long as I can.
Onward. I have learned things about my mother that have affected me in ways that are becoming clearer each day. My need to tell stories I now know comes from her; my wanderlust and need to keep moving and changing – also her; my need to do better, be better so others will look on me favorably – Julia in spades. As I write this I am on the verge of more changes that are coming. Some I know about and am (naively) planning, some I I’m sure I can’t imagine. I will proceed with caution because I now keep in mind my friend’s words “… we plan, God laughs.” I’ve said many times that I fear change, but now I’m starting to understand I thrive on it. Maybe change is the only thing I can plan on.
In my forty-eighth year I will count on change and see where that gets me.
Bring it on fortymotherfuckingeight.