Six days before my daughter died I turned 40 years old. That milestone was not so much celebrated as it simply happened, a little island of obligatory and forced cheer in the midst of an ocean of sorrow, knowing our girl was dying. Donna was having what would be her last best day. She worked with her auntie to bake me a cake. It was chocolate and she chose the heart shaped cake tins.
Cue the tears. Dammit.
I can’t think about that birthday without tears springing from my often extremely well lubricated eyes. That cake was heartbreaking and life affirming and overwhelming and delicious. My sweet girl baked me a cake and then she died. That cake will be in my memories for all my days. All of them.
On Sunday I turn 50. With this milestone, I have more space and less impending doom. With some of that space, I’ve reflected on this past decade, as middle aged ladies are wont to do. So many women I know love their 40s. They feel powerful, released from insecurities, finally claiming their place in the world. I can’t really say the same for myself.
A few months ago I met a girlfriend for a museum exhibit. We paid good money to walk through the museum, but legitimately looked at not a single thing. Instead, we found ourselves talking and connecting and recognizing that the losses we had experienced in recent years had contributed to a mutual sense of suspension, kind of being frozen in time, devoid of direction and motivation, a sort of muffled recovery. She called it “floating” and the moment I heard her say the word, it clobbered me with the weight of its truth.
I have, essentially, floated through my 40s. In the past decade, I have lost my daughter, my Dad, my career, and had three miscarriages (on top of one I had at 38). I could go on, but you get the point.
That’s a lot.
In some moments, I extend myself grace and wisdom, knowing that the losses I have known are extensive and traumatic. Of course I have spent time reeling. In other moments, I acknowledge the privilege of being able to float through a decade of adulthood. I mean, that is some pampered lady ish, having a life where all the things my family needs are provided without me needing to fret or contribute financially.
Maybe it’s exactly that layer of comfort that insulates me and has enabled me to float and float and float. 40 gave way to 41, which turns to 44, then 47 happens, and you blink and realize 50 is just 72 hours away. Just. Like. That.
I don’t even know what the point is of me putting all of this into words. Maybe someone out there needs to read it, to feel that same sense of connection and validation I felt in the conversation with my friend in that museum exhibit. Maybe its an attempt to make my peace with it, to reassert myself, me, here I am, see, typing on the keyboard.
I don’t really know.
I don’t want to float through my 50s. I want to be more accountable, more present, more intentional. Life is short, yada, yada, yada, YOLO, insert favorite cliche here. All of it is true. We do this once. I’m going to be expecting more of myself this decade, because the next time I blink I will be 60 and, well, that’s just damn crazy.