I MET LAURIE before the turn of the decade in the comment section of Janice's blog. The banter there spawned a crazy idea: Several of us wanted to see and experience this place of which Janice painted a compellng verbal portrait, so why didn't we all just COME? And she responded by taking leave of her senses extending an invitation for us to do just that for a long weekend in July.
Imagine my family and friends' reaction when I told them, "I'm picking up someone at the airport. Never met her in person, only online. She's from California. We both have blogs. She's going to sleep overnight at my house, then tomorrow, we're driving 3.5 hours down to Virginia, where we're going to meet up with a bunch of other bloggers, most of whom have never met each other in person."
"So you're going to host a complete stranger overnight in your home, then get into a car with her and drive to Viginia? To meet with other complete strangers? How do you know they're not serial stalkers or have strange compulsions or just plain smell bad?"
Fair point, I suppose, but we bloggers knew we had stumbled upon a like-minded group of people with whom we'd be instantly compatible in real ife. And we were. Laurie and I immediately hit it off, joking that we were separated at birth (and not just because we share an odd but amusing talent for rewriting cheeky lyrics to popular tunes). We became friends, and I wish there weren't 3,000 miles between our homes.
Laurie's writing has always spoken to me, but no more so than in her recent post, where she put into words something I've been feeling but have been unable to articulate. She wrote it after her 48th birthday, and pondered this thing we call Midlife and how for some it can be a time of existential crisis.
In particular, this part resonated loudly:
RIGHT?? Brilliant. You start thinking, so this is my life. Here it is. Okay. And while you may not feel that it's too late to change it, you probably realize that the stakes are way too high, the risks far too profound, to shake it all up. It reminds me of those sand-art-in-a-bottle things the kids make at festivals: It starts in nice distinct layers,each easily identifiable, but if you shake the bottle, all the separate get all jumbled up, blurring the edges. It's all still there, it's just… messy.
And so, on the eve of my 46th birthday, I woke up with Laurie's sentiments still ringing in my ears. My babies have become little men, two of whom are in high school (one a senior!) and the "baby" a third grader. All the big plastic toys and baby paraphernalia are gone, long since replaced by iPhones and xBoxes and driver's licenses(!). Two of the boys are on the verge of college, and we've barely saved anything. The weekly warnings from the high school counselor's office to START PLANNING NOW make my blood pressure spike. I want to stick my fingers in my ears and go LALALALA ICANTHEARYOU! Same with retirement. Will we even be able to stop working at some point?? I always thought we'd have time, but that time is nigh upon us.
The Rest of My Life is hiding around the corner, and one day soon it's going to pop out and go BOO! in my face and I keep wondering how it can possibly be so.
It would be easy to dwell on the trials, and there have been some in this 46th year of mine. This year started with the puchase of a brand new roof, thanks to a rare storm and a weak tree. Shortly after my oldest became licensed to drive, he ran the Suburban up onto an embankment, resulting in no injuries, but the purchase of a new transmission. Sandy Hook happened that same weekend, and that rocked everyone's world. My husband has had job challenges galore. His dad got sick and died in June, all within the span of two weeks. We're both still pretty raw from that. And our youngest STILL would rather hold his poop inside for days on end.
I could go on. I know what it's like to "feel the panic rise", as Laurie wrote. And how.
BUT: I know that in so many more ways, I am blessed. And it's always better to count your blessings than to dwell on life's challenges. And as my mom always says, having another birthday sure beats the alternative.
I don't know what my 47th year will bring, but it starts tomorrow.