Monday, January 12, 2015

Thirty

One of my friends is turning 30 tomorrow.  She is terrified by the aging process, dyeing her hair to hide the hereditary gray creeping in and turning more to natural solutions for everything.  She is convinced that she is somehow lacking in adulthood, since she doesn't have the "standard" mortgage-marriage-two-children she thinks is necessary by age 30.

To all of that, I say, "Bah."  Here I am, thirty-one.  Yes, I'm married, for almost seven years now.  Two step-children, two biological children.  But as for mortgage...we live with my husband's parents.  We share a minivan between the two of us.  We frequently struggle to make ends meet.  There is no way we have it all together.

And you know what?  That's okay.  Maybe most people's lives do wind up somewhat together by age 30.  That's great for them.  I really am happy for them, truly.  That's just not the way ours has gone.  Not the way hers has gone.  For us, we got tied in to a third share of a mortgage prior to our marriage, and then a house that never sold.  It's not ideal, but it's where we are, and there are so many blessings associated with it, not least of which is having two loving grandparents in the home with our children.

For my friend, two grandparents and her mother started having mental issues at the same time.  Someone needed to care for them, and she made the choice--yes, the choice--to be that Someone.  She could have left.  She could have packed up and gone, and carried on with her life.  She could have enlisted an uncaring state worker to check in on her loved ones while she got her career, family, and house.

She could have done that.

Instead, she sacrificed her dreams one by one, as her mother's health problems increased and her grandparents' minds slowly slipped away.  She took on the incredible responsibility of regulating medications, arranging doctor visits and providing transportation, and ensuring safety in the home.  Her social life all but vanished so she could be home in the evenings with those she cared for.  For this, she was reviled by family and "friends."  She was accused of "seeking attention" when she reported behavior changes and anger outbreaks from her charges.  She was called a liar.  She was refused help.

Still she kept on, until finally there was no option other than to put her grandparents in a care facility.  This brought some relief, but also overwhelming guilt, because she felt like she should have been able to do it all--and she still had her mother to care for.  They moved far from friends.  They moved closer.  She is still her mother's primary caregiver, unpaid, managing groceries and medicine and doctor visits and long, boring phone calls with insurance.  She stays because there is a need, and she is willing to stand in the gap there.  She stays because she loves.

So, Friend-Who's-Turning-30, here are some things for you to think about:

1) You are strong.  You are brave.  You are competent.  You could have crumbled under the weight of the burdens you've borne, but you have stood firm as a rock, unmoved by what life throws at you.

2) You are loving and compassionate.  You love and are broken by what you see happening in those you love, and yet still you choose to love, and love, and keep on loving.  You choose to love any who are willing to receive it, you love when it's hard and heartbreaking, you love even when you want to scream in frustration.

3) You are patient beyond belief.  I know it doesn't feel like it.  I know.  The reality is, you have been forced to be patient for So Many Years.  Many other people would take a lifetime to build up the store of patience you possess.

4) You have a quick wit and keep humor ready on your tongue in all situations.

5) You are fabulous with small children, even though you don't think so.

6) Think back on your attitudes and opinions from when you were 20.  Think back to even just two years ago.  Is that where you would rather be?  Do you like the changes time has brought to your convictions and opinions, or do you want to change them back?  Personally, I think you have worked well with time to make yourself an even better version of who you were ten years ago.

7) You really do like hanging out with teenagers.  I could mention Fletcher, Robin, and Barak.  That's okay; teenagers are fun.

8) There's nothing wrong with having gray hairs.  They are a wonderful excuse to dye your hair every color of the rainbow, and any time some young upstart wants to challenge something you say, you can point to your gray hairs and call it wisdom.

9) You are enough.  YOU are enough.  You are enough.  You are enough.  Yes, I mean you.  You are sufficient to be the woman God created you to be.  You have been put through trials--you were enough.  You have suffered loss and heartbreak--you were enough.  You have been asked to give more of yourself than you thought possible--you were enough.  You have been, you are, and you will be enough.

When thinking of your life up to this point, I am inevitably reminded of Robert Frost's poem, The Road Not Taken.  I'm sure you've read it before, but here it is to remind you:


Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

 You have traveled well.  Keep on traveling, and don't forget--I'm right here with you.  Happy birthday!