But I Don’t Want to Feel Like I’m 22

I huffed and puffed a little more than I wanted to in the middle of slow but long hill. I looked at my mileage: 8.58 miles. I sighed and kept on running. And then Taylor Swift told me that everything would be alright if we just kept dancing like we were 22.

“Shut up, Taylor.”

I said it out loud. Only the horses in the field nearby heard me, but I’m sure they wondered why the sweat-drenched woman in green attempting to run up the hill was talking to herself. Answer: Because who else are you supposed to talk to out on the road and you just want to quit but you promised yourself you would run 9 miles?

“I’d love to feel 22 right now.”

My second run after my back injury flared up and caused me to take a short break, I felt good lung-wise but had a list of pains, aches and general complaints. My back felt tired. My right hip desperately needed to be stacked and cracked. As this was my first trip running out a different road, a misstep caused me to almost twist my ankle and knee, both of which felt faintly like someone had kicked them. Hard. Sweat kept dripping into my eyes which stung. A lot.

“I’m sure running these long distances at 22 would have been much easier.”

My hips weren’t this wide; in fact, I barely had hips and they never cracked when I rolled over in the morning. My back didn’t hurt if I moved or twisted or breathed wrong. I did have a problem with an ankle, but in my younger years, I just put on a wrap and did whatever it was that I wanted to do, pain be damned. I took all of that for granted, of course, because you don’t miss your non-existent hips and aches and pains until they exist.

I continued huffing up the hill. Taylor Swift kept regaling the magic age of 22. A decade out from that age, I snorted.

“But, Taylor, my 22 wasn’t anything like what you sing about with that stupid catchy tune.”

I spent a large part of my 22nd year on Level III bed rest. After spiking a 104 degree fever while 18 weeks pregnant, I went through an emergency surgery on my kidney. I spent the next few months in and out of bed, on and off the couch, in and out of the hospital. Mostly alone, mostly scared. For all of those reasons and more, when I was 22, I placed my baby in the arms of another mother. That Christmas, my hormones still out of whack and scared about what an unreturned phone call might mean, I cut myself — for what I hope remains the last time in my life.

I did no dancing when I was 22.

22 was the year that I grew up in quick order. I aged years during the months in bed. I aged decades during the sleepless, bloody, breast leaking nights after I left the hospital alone. When I think of who I was when I was 22, I see a scared little girl who just wanted someone to tell her that they believed in her. If 32-year-old me could hold the hand of 22-year-old me, I’d tell her that she was stronger than she knew, that I believed in her. 22-year-old me would likely have ignored 32-year-old me, because 22-year-old me knew lots and lots about life and everyone else obviously knew very little.

22 felt like deep, drowning grief. 22 felt like loss, like suffocating. 22 felt like pain, physical and emotional. 22 felt lonely. 22 felt scary and unsure, terrified of making any decision lest it be the wrong one — or the right one. 22 felt like a crisis of faith. 22 felt like the weight of everything I had ever done, everything I had ever chosen. 22 felt almost hopeless.

22

No, I don’t want to go back to being 22. Or feeling that way — so lost, so alone, so desperately broken.

As I continued running up the hill that would not end, I decided that being 32 — and feeling 32 — sounds much better to me. I like me at 32. I like my body, despite its creaks and groans. I like understanding my emotions and what to do with all those feels. I like knowing more about the world at large, having lived some more and opened my heart and mind to the life experiences of others on their own journeys. I like laughing along with others, and crying with them too.

32 feels like peace. 32 feels like joy and happiness and love. 32 has some hard days, because hard days exist at every age, but I’ve learned how to muddle my way through them and come out on the other side in one piece. 32 feels like I know who I am.

And I love dancing like I’m 32, hips and loose skin, thighs and breasts flapping, holding my back while I laugh so hard because my sons’ dance moves are so killer.

32

“You can have your 22. I’ll take 32, Taylor,” I huffed as I finally crested the hill. “Thirty-two-oo-oo.”

 

 

Land Of Nod: Design for Kids and People That Used to be Kids

I Married My Father

Working on the Cottage

Working on the Cottage

I didn’t mean to marry my father.

Working on the Cottage

I mean, I didn’t actually marry my father. But the man that I married possesses many character qualities and quirks and other attributes that sometimes make my eyes bug out, my head snap back and look at him through squinted eyes just to make sure it’s really my husband and not my dad.

Working on the Cottage

I dated a lot of people who weren’t like my dad. At all. In any way, shape, or form. My dad is a lot of things — but he is neither selfish nor cruel. I dated a few of those over the years. Selfish and cruel at the same time always made for the best combination. Best meaning most disastrous, once with violent consequences. To boot, I had my heart broken many a time, but I also broke a few hearts along the way. I’d make myself sound all innocent in that regard, but at least one time, the heart-breaking done on my end came about with purposeful intent. Thankfully, mostly for my guilt complex, I found that feeling to be not-so-awesome and moved on to not being a total jerk myself.

But yes, I dated some total jerks. Some of them read this blog. (HI! I’m glad you’re not still a total jerk, too! Welcome to the club of Once a Jerk, Not Always a Jerk!) I could get on board with the whole “those people were in my life to teach me something” train of thought… and maybe it’s true. Because at least those jerks — and my foray into jerkdom — taught me what I didn’t want in a partner.

Working on the Cottage

I didn’t know my now-husband was a younger incarnation of my father when I met him. I didn’t realize their similarities when we started dating either. I focused on the differences, trying to find all the reasons why this man I was falling desperately in love with was different enough from my family of origin to warrant starting another family, our own family. He had tattoos; my dad hated tattoos! He drove a Mustang; my dad once had a Camero, but life and children made him a pickup man. On and on, I found the differences and placed him in the Not Selfish and Not Cruel but Definitely Different Category.

Then we got married.

My husband now drives the same truck as my dad. When we’re driving in said truck, my husband will flip endlessly through the radio channels before switching to sports talk radio — on AM, with all of the crackling and static and me holding my hands over my ears much like I did as my dad would drive me, in his pickup truck, to voice lessons every Thursday evening during high school. He’s incredibly helpful, both with everyday household things like laundry and dishes like my own father is, but also with all of the handy stuff like rewiring the house so we can hook up a generator in case our electricity is out for nine days ever again. (Please, never again.) He loves him some baseball and football and all the sports. A good beer? Yes, please! And, just like my dad, he likes to push all of my buttons, just for the sake of pushing them.

Working on the Cottage

And when I say, “Honey, I need to tell you something but you’re not going to like it,” he’ll sigh at me in that same tone-of-sigh my dad sighs at my mom with, listen to me as I explain that we need to go help my parents work on the cottage on one of his rare Saturdays off, and nod his head. Come Saturday morning, he will gather up all of his tools, his toolbelt, his patience, his children, his dog, and me, his wife, and he’ll drive an hour-and-a-half to help my parents work on the hundred year old cottage that probably needs rebuilt but is getting new siding instead. He’ll hammer and measure and climb up and down the ladder. He’ll walk it along the wall while still on it, while I yell, “Don’t do that! That’s not safe!” And he’ll turn, smile at me, and say — at the same time as my father — “How else am I supposed to move the ladder?”

Indeed.

I married well.