Spring of Life

flowering tree

Spring is here. The season I’ve been anticipating, the season closest to my heart, but one I’ve also been quietly dreading. Spring is like a mandatory party. Nobody gets out of spring.

Once the sun shines and flowers burst into bloom, it begins. Everyone emerges from their homes and holes, some of us sidling out more slowly than others. The time for hiding is over. Spring is about exposure, bare legs sticking out of shorts like pale stalks. Spring is for letting kids trash their sneakers in the mud when they can’t find their boots. Spring is for cracking open the chrysalis, sliding out of the cocoon, and letting the sun warm your skin.

I’ve always loved spring for its promise, its electricity. How everything is rife with possibilities. How young the world looks when leaves are pale green flowers sprouting from branches, and the grass is vibrant and wet.

buddy

But this year, I feel an unease that I don’t usually associate with spring, one that has been coming on the last few years.

I’m no longer in the spring of my life. Forty is barreling down fast and I’m trying to keep my footing in a place I believe is called… middle age.

Whoa.

How did this happen? Is this actually happening? Yes, I know these questions are cliche, and all the rage right now, it seems. I can’t get away from articles about turning forty and mid-life, like this one that made me nod my head like an out of control marionette doll. A few months ago, under the heavy cloak of winter, these articles weren’t there…or maybe they were and I just wasn’t paying attention.

But despite this twinge, spring is unfurling and I can’t help but get caught up in the energy of it, the beauty and exuberance. My nearly seven-year-old daughter is thrilled to wear shorts and t-shirts, even while I’m still wrapped up in a sweater.

Do you need a fleece, I ask as she teeters on the edge of the sliding glass door. She looks at me like I’m crazy and dashes away.

Her young strong legs are pale as the clouds and spotted with blue bruises. She dangles upside down from the bar on our jungle gym while my husband and I cringe with worry. But she is confident. This is a new skill and she is eager to practice.

My three year old son’s light up Thomas sneakers almost graze the dirt beneath his baby swing. He is itching for a “big kid” swing like his sister’s. It’s time. He’s no longer a baby.

My children are in the spring of their lives. The cusp, the beginning.

kids

But maybe, in a way, I am too. Maybe life isn’t doled out in precise segments. Maybe it’s more malleable than that.

Yes, I’m about to be forty, and there is PLENTY of baggage that goes along with it, from feeling “old” and out of touch when it comes to pretty much everything pop culture, to being horrified at finding a gray eyebrow (!) hair and knowing it won’t be the last.

But there is also a springtime brewing in my soul, in my mind. My kids are no longer babies, and I’m no longer so young, but, because of this bitter and sweet knowledge, I’m holding fast to what I have, and running toward what I want.

I’m not done, far from it. I have so much I want to accomplish, so much I want to write and do and say and shout. In one day I’ll be on stage reading aloud an essay about the labor of death and life at the Lehigh Valley Listen To Your Mother show. I’m not a performer, I’m a writer, and yet I’m stretching my wings, still sticky from the chrysalis.

I’m not done bursting into bloom. I’m not ready to fade.

My mother hit her artistic stride at the age of forty and then it was ripped out of her hands, literally. When we kids were at school she bloomed in her mid to late thirties, spending hours at the local pottery studio, sculpting beautiful and haunting creations.

masks

mask and stones

Then, at her peak, she was cut down by a disease. Multiple sclerosis numbed her hands and her legs in rapid succession, though it never got her heart, not until the very end.

So, it doesn’t surprise me that in the midst of all this burgeoning hope and excitement, there is a darkness encroaching. A cautious hand pressed upon my shoulder. It says, be careful, it could happen to you, too.

It could, of course. Maybe not that illness specifically, but something else. Some other horrible stroke of misfortune or tragedy. But I can’t live that way, under a shadow.

I have to live as if there is only the wide expanse of blue sky above me, the warmth of the spring sun, as I chase my children, and my dreams.

 

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30 thoughts on “Spring of Life

  1. This: “Maybe life isn’t doled out in precise segments. Maybe it’s more malleable than that.” Yes, yes, yes. I’m so with you. There’s no “middle” anything, just doors opening and closing, leading us down new paths. Beautiful writing.

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  2. I started finding grey hairs this past year (turned 41 in January). At first, I stood in the bathroom at work and plucked them out. And then one day I decided they were sexy. Each and every one. No more plucking. I earned those, baby.
    Loved this post!

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  3. Love this. A couple of years ago I wrote that I thought I was in life’s high summer, the hot heart of it, and while that realization felt joyful it is also limned with my awareness that from here on out we are on the backside of the hill, the downslope of the ferris wheel. And welcome to 40… I turned 40 last August and feel it’s such a relief to be here rather than dreading it. Being 40 is far better than waiting to turn 49, at least in my opinion. xoxo

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  4. turning 39 this monday- this really resonated. i remember watching that scene in when harry met sally “And I’m almost 40!” and meg ryan still has years til she actually turns 40. and now here i am. how did i get here, i’m wondering. i hope you’re right and i think you are- about life being more malleable and less linear. richard rohr has a good book on the second half of life- it’s called falling up and his basic premise is that the really good stuff happens in this part. it’s nice to have companions on the journey- thanks for writing it.

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    • It’s funny, I’ve watched When Harry Met Sally a dozen times at least, and can only vaguely remember that moment. But I can totally envision her neurotic response 🙂 I really think time is more malleable than linear, although it’s more tidy to think of it as the latter. I’ll have to take a look at that Richard Rohr book, sounds right up my ally. I’m happy also so grateful to have such wise and understanding companions on this journey.

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  5. Dana you express this so well and yes you are not DONE, nor should you wait for something bad to happen. I know the feelings though and time keeps filtering past me. Its a race now to get the dreams onto the page and I have no doubt you will blossom and enjoy some of your best creative years. So hard to think about your Mum being cut off when she probably had way more art to share. So take each day as your opportunity to shine and make her proud. Forty is the new thirty. I can say that because I’m fifty and I make my own rules up now.

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  6. Dana your fears and feelings are real and valid, and the fact is none of us know what tommorow may bring and so, keep moving forward into your beautiful life. Be grateful for everything you have now including your health and your ability to write and share such special moments with us. 🙂

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  7. Dana, I relate to this 100%. My dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in his late 50s. Now in his mid 70s it is very hard for him and my mom to manage. I also feel that hand on my shoulder always worrying about what could happen–and if not that then something else.

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  8. I’m happy to say life does begin at 40 and even 50. We come into ourselves. We know who we are. Once kids grow, we’re free to explore the world. I understand your concern about your Mom. But maybe that’s even more reason to enjoy each blessed year.

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    • I totally agree! I feel more in tune with myself now at almost 40 than at any other time in my life. And I know how important it is not to become bogged down with worry and forget to live my life. Thank you so much for your wise comment.

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  9. Love that second paragraph. Spring is so lovely in its way. Fresh, new beginnings…but nobody gets out of the slush, mud, allergies, and having to leave our caves where we hibernated so happily all winter. 😉

    “Maybe life isn’t doled out in precise segments. Maybe it’s more malleable than that.” Lovely way to look at it all. I’m older than you and have young children so can relate to this quite a bit. That they are in their spring. I am not. I am so sorry about the shadow you are living under but I do hope you let the sun in and stretch your beautiful wings.

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    • I definitely was happily hibernating this winter 🙂 But I’m finally feeling the energy of spring and ready to dive in. Thank you for reading Sarah, and for your lovely comment.

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  10. Lovely post, Dana. I’ve been thinking about the phrase “the days are long but the years are short” a lot lately. I have to remind myself to embrace the seemingly ordinary moments instead of rushing through them because those are the moments that shape my life.
    Let’s enjoy the spring and all the gifts it has to offer.

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    • Thanks Jackie, and yes, I agree, absolutely embrace the ordinary. Dani Shapiro has this great quote, which I’m paraphrasing, about if we spend all our time searching for the extraordinary we just may miss our lives.

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  11. Gorgeous! I do think we get more springtimes, no matter our age. It’s always more unexpected when we’re older. I’m 34 and sometimes that still seems so young! Other times.. not so much.
    I love how you described your kids. My oldest thinks I complain about being cold too much. I have a really cranky attitude about it, actually. Um… is spring coming???

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    • Thanks Tamara! The longer I let this post settle, the more certain I am that our springs are far from over 🙂 34 is quite young, but I am sure that someone reading my blog in their 50s is probably wanting to smack me and say, yeah so is 39! If I spend too much time focusing on my age and what it means, I will miss out on accomplishing my dreams.

      Here’s hoping spring has arrived where you live! I’m finally able to wear a t-shirt without shivering 🙂

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