39

It’s maddening, really. I’ve made it to the last year of my 30s and I know, in the way I usually don’t know until much later with the benefit of time and distance, that this last year was a tipping point, a harbinger of things to come. Momentous, even. I’m bursting to full of things I want to write about.

What’s maddening is that all I can think to write are clichés—things even MY PARENTS have already said. All the ways I can now relate better to them, in fact. All the signs I am in a new category of old. (The “oldies” station now plays ‘80s music. What?) All the ways I want to live stronger, be adventurous, be truer to myself than I have been. I want to surround myself with the things I’ve always loved—writing, music, nature. I’m even pressuring my husband to move 25 minutes away to a 5-acre property with an old barn.

I want change—I want to hang on to its shoulders and give it a head-butt, grab it before it grabs me. To just move, so I don’t look back and see stagnancy. But I am also savoring my little ones because I have a feeling this, right now, is as good as it gets. And I mean that in the best way possible.

Basically, I’m going through a mid-life crisis and my writer self is rolling her eyes at me. Really? she says. This is so….expected. And unexceptional. 

But still, I think:

Man, it’s going fast.

I can’t believe I used to babysit you!

You’re 40?! I once saw you pee on my bathroom floor in a swimsuit! Aren’t we still those same little girls?

What in the world can I write worth reading that hasn’t been written a thousand times before? This past year, yes, was an absolute mind fuck—from finally accomplishing my “someday” dream of publishing a novel (I did it! I did it!), and then watching it whizz by on its way to the past, where it lodged itself comfortably; to the news that my body carries on a family tradition of not having a certain cancer-fighting gene which, really, would have been nice to have (how lazy can one gene be to not even show up?); to the scary surgery monster of metallic dreams and hollow drips, of pain and awakening realizations that this little, old body can only take so much. And at the same time, how goddamn much it can take.

So this year was a culmination of sorts and a push to a future I have always disliked, one I now reach for and hold on to with tired but strong fingers. Something has shifted in me. I have moved from being a consummate fan of the past with its soft, glowing edges, to a lover of the present and future. It is simply too depressing to focus on what I miss—my babies’ fat wrists and dimpled knuckles, my 1981 Strawberry Shortcake shirt. I am here, now, and will not always be. That is this year’s greatest gift to me: the deep understanding that I am fleeting.

It’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years. ~Abraham Lincoln

Bring it, future. ~Jessica Vealitzek

39th birthday

Meet My Mom (AKA: Me)

The other night, I sat watching the Olympics. My legs rested on the coffee table with a blanket draped over them, my arms half crossed and my chin resting in one palm, my hand holding a wadded-up tissue.

Kind of like this, except without the computer:

My son, a budding photographer, took this photo

My son, a budding photographer, took this photo

I turned to my husband to say something and then looked back at the TV. Suddenly, a flash of memory, of hundreds of memories, appeared so clearly in my mind that it was almost like I was inside it: growing up, I had seen my mother make that same gesture–that blanket-draped, chin-cupped, tissue-wadded, TV-viewing gesture–dozens of times.

It’s common to have those moments when you think, “I sound just like my mom.” I’ve had plenty already. But this was the first time I felt like my mom, like I inhabited her body–the her I knew as a child.

I was already sensitive to the I’m-my-mom feeling because of the wadded-tissue thing. I don’t really remember a time my mom wasn’t plagued by allergies, by the need to exit a conversation posthaste to run for a Kleenex. She’s always had a tissue stuffed in her coat pocket. When we go on walks, if it’s too warm for a coat, she stuffs one up her sleeve. She sleeps with one under her pillow.

I never had allergies, so I never had to deal with the suffering of feeling like a little guy with a feather was up inside one nostril, tickling away.

Until recently. Now–you guessed it–I sleep with a tissue under my pillow. I always have Kleenex in my purse or coat pocket. I keep them in the car and various cabinets. I now spend the first fifteen minutes of every day sneezing in the kitchen.

Also, I now say things my mom always said, things like:

“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.”

“Jesus H. Christ.” (A more formal version of the name, for business cards.)

“For Cripes Sake.” (Not sure of the spelling, since I’m not sure what this is.)

“In or out.” (said sternly on summer days when the children exit and enter the house several times per second)

“I can’t keep my eyes open. What time is it? 9:30? Sigh.”

“But you like [insert food]. Just eat it.”

So the other night on the couch was really just the culmination of what I already knew: in many ways, I’m my mom.

How about you? When did you know you were your mother?