A few days ago I turned 31. A few days before that, I came across a line from a poem by Zbigniew Herbert called “A Life”. It reads:
I know it’s hard to be reconciled not everything is exactly the way it ought to be
but please turn around and step into the future leave memories behind enter the land of hope
I liked that this sounded like someone talking to me, giving me a directive, gently turning both of my shoulders to face them square on and speaking the words slowly, kindly, but with a strong current of intent and wisdom. The way a mother would, or a grandmother, or a friend who’s tired of you missing your life.
I imagined the same line spoken in a hundred thousand homes all across the country: from mother to son, husband to wife, sister to sister, brother to friend, dog to owner, and so on. I picture a whirlwind of heels dressed in dusty cowboy boots, muddy soccer shoes, pointed pink stilletos, flip flops, clogs, slippers and worn out socks, each firmly planting and spinning around to face the opposite direction, to face their life as it is and as it could be. Picking their gaze up from their toes for the first time in a long time to see whatever there is to see. I imagined heads tilting and eyes squinting, tentative glances ‘round the room. But I pictured acceptance. And with that, a lot of power to move forward in whatever way they choose, whatever way I choose.
I spent a lot of 30 looking off in all kinds of directions except for the place I happened to be at the time. A lot of energy denying or fighting life as it is, not realizing that sometimes we just simply don’t get to love every bit of it, but we do have to accept it if we have any sort of intent to actually live it.
Sometimes even when we are bruised and bleeding and have broken ourselves into tiny little bits, we refuse to stop doing whatever it is that is making us so damn miserable. We refuse to see the answer that life has so clearly laid out before our eyes because it doesn’t look like what we asked for, what we wanted, or what we think we need. This is when life sighs and starts to speak in absolutes. Being pregnant doesn’t leave much to the imagination. With a fair degree of certainty (as well as luck and health) I will, within a given amount of time, give birth to a child and become a mother. And I will wear that hat every day from that point on. I tried for a while to not accept this, too. My mind tried to squirrel and turn and squirm its way to an alternative, to find that exit door, the escape hatch, the rewind button, the do over. Not because I don’t want to be a mother, but because I thought, “I don’t want to be a mother right now, no no no.” But, life tricked me (it’s known to do that to the stubborn) and it threw me into the room anyway. A room where there’s simply nothing else to see but gratitude. A place where I had no choice to plant my own heel firmly on the ground and turn around.