That was my answer, is my answer. Paul asked me how I felt about turning 30, and all I could think was one beautiful, rising note of gratitude.
In my 20s:
- I almost joined a convent, but I didn’t
- I danced on a stage in front of more than a hundred people at least 3 times (my version of jumping out of a plane or going to a concert)
- I “nannied” the Holden family kids for 4 summers & was blessed tremendously by those memories, each kid & parent, and by their family culture & warmth
- I met Paul at 22 and married him at 23 & to my extreme fortune, have been discovering the real version, the way way better version, of Paul ever since
- I had the honor to teach for 6 years to students who challenged me, humored me, and discussed literature with me (best ever)
- and I’ve had the privilege to stay-at-home for moments and memories that are bit by bit treasure stocked in my heart
- I held my firstborn in my arms at 25 -- those brown eyes!
- and saw 2 babies snuggled side-by-side within me at 28
- At 26, Paul and I bought a spacious ranch house with character & charm (and a kids’ room big enough for surprise kids…)
- and in this home, we’ve welcomed people in dozens & dozens of times for board games, loud parties, or long chats in the sunroom
- I had the pleasure of enjoying vacations to Wisconsin Dells with my mom & dad, California with Paul, and Tennessee with my family of 5, 3 boys snug in the back of our Saturn Vue
- And my status as Aunt Ashley has leveled up over and over again to sweet nieces and nephews who continue to make all our lives better by knowing them!
These good things are a big chunk of my gratitude pie. Or cake rather. It is my birthday we’re talking about.
But another large chunk is all the bad things too, the things I learned and know because of surviving the bad things. There are things I went through in my 20s that hurt deep, that I didn’t know I would get through or that I didn’t know how to solve. But I did.
Life goes on. So the saying goes. And it does. For every complicated mess, tricky conflict, deep hurt, or ugly shortcoming I was pained by in my 20's, I can’t think of one where I should have put my hope and joy for life on pause.
I couldn’t see it in the thick of the things that stung, but there was not one situation that wasn’t remedied by simple things used over and over again. I’ve discovered so much power in finding the resources I need, hard work, a little creativity, a little kindness, gentle honesty, and knowing when to ask for help with something and stating it as ordinarily as, “I’m not feeling okay about _____________ and I think you would be great at helping me work through it.”
Dan in Real Life is my favorite movie. At the close of the movie Dan says,
Yes! Sure I was surprised by the twins. But really, I was surprised by a lot of things in the past ten years. Surprised by pain. Surprised by failure. Surprised by things clicking into place faster, at times, and slower, at other times, into place in life. Surprised by people, conversations, things I hadn’t known before and the funny things my kids do and say every day.
The bad surprises though? The ones that had me crying on a toilet, asking God if he was shooting pool while I was needing him, and eating my way to bigger pants... those things almost always turned out better than even the good things because they forced me to stretch beyond myself or what I had been. I had to stretch to others, to God, to hope, to new ideas and new habits. I'm ready for more of that. A lot more of it.
A few days ago I typed out just a few very concrete things I would like to accomplish in my 30s (so scary to write them out because they're big), but I focused mainly on thinking of the woman I want to become: one of discipline, kindness, joy. I look back to my 20s and see so many things that were bigger than my plans & I look forward and know this will happen again and I won't fight it. I'm okay with life crashing my party, my plans. In all things, the good, the beautiful, and the true---they win, so it doesn't matter what shapes form and dance on my days, I'll be dancing right there with them!
Today, I’m just happy. I’m happy to have a car that takes me from point A to point B, a roof over my head, and a family to wake up to each day. But more than that. I’m grateful for podcasts, long walks, my cold cups of coffee, the way Paul knows when I need chocolate or how to make me laugh, a good book, Thomas’s hugs, cooking in our kitchen, a fresh coat of fingernail polish on my small hands (just like my mom’s), a diapered tush snug on my lap, bright colors, and the way the keyboard feels when I press out my words.
Truly, I’m grateful for it all. And humbled by it all. And happily surprised by what a beautiful, joyful song can come from such a messy, hopeful soul.
My eyes, heart, and hands are open and I welcome it all. Happy to be 30.