Monday, January 3, 2011

A new decade. A new year. A new me.

I am quite happy to say goodbye to my thirties and to the first decade of the millennium. I turned 30 in the year 2000.  I left my 20s behind and was, at the time, quite prepared for the new millennium. I was freshly single, had been practicing law for three years and lived in a swanky loft in downtown Houston. Life was good. Actually, life was quite spectacular. But yet, I was anxious to start the next stage. I just knew my 30s would be even better than my 20s. 

Well, they were and they weren't. You see, the 30s are a time of growing up for most. A type of growing up that just doesn't happen in your 20s. The type of growing up that comes from life experience. A time for becoming "adult."

My 30s started with a wedding in 2001. It was a spectacular affair and a wonderful time in our lives. Our union, however, meant that I would have to leave the swanky loft and dream job and move. I was giddy about the marriage part, though, so I overlooked the impact of those two minor details.

Less than a year into my 30s my last living grandparent passed away. My sweet grandmother was 94 years old. She had lived a good life and, while I was sad to see her go, I completely accepted that her life was full and she was ready to continue her journey on the other side. Unfortunately, her death was only the tip of what would become the decade of death. I also lost a nephew, my father and my mother. But I'm getting ahead of myself. 

Shortly into my newly-married life I received two life-changing blows.

First, my family discovered my father had lung cancer. Advanced lung cancer. Inoperable lung cancer. I was very close to my father. We talked on the phone every week at the exact same time. I cherished those times and was always available when he called. Sometimes we let my mother get on the phone too. Sometimes.

Second, I was diagnosed with endometriosis. Or otherwise told my chances of conceiving naturally were slim to none. Dying father and no grand baby on the way = lots of stress for newly weds. But we had 2-3 years {left with my father} so certainly we could at least provide a grand baby with medical intervention. 

I felt completely out of control when it came to my father's situation. I was not able to be there to micro-manage every detail of his treatment {bitterness towards hubs for making me move may have surfaced}. As if me having a baby would miraculously cure his cancer, I put all my energy into that medical treatment. Infertility is an incredibly humbling diagnosis. Humbling and a bit paralyzing. You imagine life with kids. And of course, I naively assumed children would be conceived by having sex with my husband. Taking another route was never something I considered.

Dad and Mom with my newborn twins - 2003.
My 30s were not only filled with heartache, however. I was able to, after the imposition of at least a million shots {I kid you not} and utilizing every marvel of modern medicine, conceive. Or rather, my eggs were surgically extracted, fertilized using a needle and later implanted in my uterus. Isn't that how everyone does it? But truly, I fell to my knees when I received the call -- the call stating that my hormone levels were off the charts and most certainly indicated that I was not only pregnant, but pregnant with twins. Thank you God for modern-day miracles!

After hearing my twins' heartbeats for the first time I promptly walked {or probably swaggered} in to my law partner's office and tendered my two-week resignation notice. I was not planning on participating in the charade whereby I act like I am going to continue working with twins at home and during my father's last year on earth. Truly, they only paid me so much and I was disenchanted with work at that point anyway {did I mention the hubs made me leave my dream job?}.

Suffice to say my twins were born healthy, albeit a few weeks early, and {best part} my Dad was present at the birth and their christening and their first birthday party {which was at his house because he could no longer travel}. I spent a good part of my twins' first year strapping them in the car and driving the three hour drive to Houston so he could watch me watching them lay on his floor instead of mine. But he was able to see them grow and walk and throw around a little tude {yes, little miss thang started early}. That year was a blessing of ginormous proportions.

But the inevitable loss that followed only two months after their 1st birthday took my breath away. It caused a paradigm shift. Life changed forever. I was growing up indeed.

My 30s were not only a time of loss, but a time of finding myself, or rather, my new self. A new marriage, new babies, and a new career -- Mom. The adjustment to becoming a mom is an entire post in and of itself. I will not address all those changes but to say: WOW, I had no idea how things would change and how judgmental we mothers can be of other mothers. Shame on us!

As you can imagine those first few years with twins are a bit of a blur. I think that is my body's natural defense mechanism. I don't remember too much about it all. I remember my little guy's full belly laugh. I remember little miss thang's smile, but I have blocked out so much of the negative -- the sleepless nights, the hubs ability to sleep through anything, the loneliness, and the innate craziness of the situation. I've done this to survive and to smile again. I fear I did not smile for a few months years. I also did not leave the house without a shirt full of breast milk or spit-up or some combination of the two, but as I said, the humility imposed by motherhood is another post entirely.

My 30s were also a decade in which I waded through the results of infidelity {though, thank God, not in my own marriage}, divorce {a few good friends}, sex addiction {truly, I have an interesting group of friends}, unemployment {more than one friend's hubs}, massive home repairs {though I do love our old home}, the loss of a child {my sister's and an a close acquaintance's}, financial hardship {it's all relative}, starting a new legal practice {the hubs}, and being officially orphaned after the loss of my mom {5 years after my dad}.

These are not all my stories to tell so I share no details but to say: your 20s simply don't pack the punch like your 30s. This is all big stuff. All life-changing stuff. They are "adult" issues and I never felt so adult as I did in my third decade of life. Some days I simply yearned to be young again:  to worry about a big final, how to spend my end-of-year bonus {opposed to how much to pay others}, or what I'd wear to a party next weekend {ok, I do still do that occasionally}.  

So as I neared the dawn of 2011 with my fortieth looming in the last few days of 2010, I realized:

all that is behind me now.

I have grown immeasurably over the last ten years. I have found my new self and {this is the big part} I like her! I am comfortable in my own skin. Even if a few wrinkles are present on said skin and a few pounds seem to have permanently taken residence on my hips. I am, quite simply, me.
  • I no longer struggle with the loss of my legal career {though suspiciously I'm still talking about it}.
  • I no longer struggle with being a full-time mom. I love it and I feel like I am thriving in it {quite easy to do once the kids go to school every day}.
  • I no longer harbor bitterness towards the hubs about our relocation {I cannot imagine life any other place - ok, I can still imagine it, but I no longer yearn for it}.
  • I no longer desire a better house or a better car or a better anything. I have everything I've ever needed. And realize now: I always have.
  • I no longer wonder why some people take church or bible study so seriously. It is an absolutely mandatory part of my life -- a lifeline. Spending time in God's word has buoyed me through some tough times. I will never outgrow my need for it.
  • I no longer yearn to change the past. Everything happens for a reason. I am where I am today because of all that happened to me and around me. It is all what made me, ME!
So in many ways I am where I was as I begun my 30s -- ready for the changes life will inevitable bring -- and yet, so much more settled, content and sated in a way my 20s and 30s never knew.

Is that how it plays out for everyone? Are are 20s for fun, our 30s for learning and our 40s for living well? Or perchance my 30s were a little more action-packed than most? Packed differently perhaps, but I don't think necessarily more fully than most.

So here's to a the dawn of a new decade, the new year, and a fully-adult me. 

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