How can you lose your song?
When you have sung it for so long?
How can you forget your dance, your dance
When that dance is all you ever had?
It must be, it must be true
You can't separate the two
Oh no, you can't
It's impossible to do
Just like the salt in the stew
Oh my, it's all a part of you
- "Salt" by Lizz Wright (emphasis my own)
I will be 31 next month, but it feels like I turned 30 only yesterday. My mother's youngest child, who, to my delight, she still calls "baby", is now a grown woman solidly in her thirties. This has been a whirlwind year of transition in which I watched many dreams unfold and previously shut doors fly open for me and those dear to me. I received a sizeable promotion at work; one of my closest friends applied to Ph.D. programs. My sister became a tech founder in Silicon Valley. I listened to weekly play-by-plays of the life of tween-age niece, a bassist and ballerina, who is growing into a lovely, thoughtful young woman, and I realized how lucky I have been to bear witness to, cheerlead, and usher along all of these beautiful flowerings as best as I can.
There are signs of growth and of a shift in consciousness apparent everywhere. I remember demonstrations against the hazards of globalization during my college years, but nothing within my lifetime can truly compare to the fortitude shown by the huge swaths of the young and the old who have gathered consistently over the past two months to give voice to the realities of inequality. I am heartened by the Arab uprisings of the spring and the emergence of South Sudan. And the intellectual distance between the public responses to Clarence Thomas' confirmation hearings and the Herman Cain debacle assures me that there is no better time to be a woman in this country; I take for granted many of the things my mother, at my age, did not even have the words to vocalize. This is a time of miracles.
Of course, being life, this has also been a time of loss; most notably, for me, a long friendship that I held dear dissolved. There was unprecedented self-doubt after some romantic calamity that I was certain would be my undoing. I believe that I spent all of August bouncing between the stages of grief.
What I can tell you is that for all of the twists and turns - the wreckage, splendor, and the days that just were, I am profoundly overwhelmed with gratitude. On the other side of it all, I grew more solid in my skin than before. More present and awake. My senses sharpened; my interaction with the world became less tentative. Each "yes" grew more certain; each "no," much more resolute. In all endeavors, I began to accept less while simultaneously aspiring for more with enthusiasm, even glee.
Is this why our society frowns so heavily upon a woman's aging? Because she grows in her awareness of miracles and develops the muscle to wrestle them to fruition? Because she learns, over time, to claim herself, resist the words of detractors, and discard all that is unnecessary? I guess this is what it means to become "seasoned." What I never knew was that becoming yourself, and I mean really settling into your flaws and gifts and everything else, would feel so sweet. There is no way I would trade today for the silly days of my twenties, when I would thrust myself along haphazardly at whatever came by fashionably presented as an opportunity. But for those days, I am thankful, too.
If I have a daughter, and I one day hope to, I will teach her to her to anticipate and embrace, with gratitude, the loveliness of the growth that comes with time.
For many, the holiday season is fraught with difficultly, especially in these days of economic uncertainty. And, of course, the end of the year causes many of us to dive deep into self-reflection. When you look there, you may find triumph, possibly some disappointment. We certainly live in a time of miracles, yet there is much work still to do and so much pain and negativity to push through to get it done. But what this awe-inspiring year has taught me is that those circumstances, that pain, that calamity, can never trump what is real - your love, your passion, your dreams. Let us give thanks for those things; they sustain us, nurture our miracles into reality, and remain through it all, calling to us, reminding us of who we really are.