Monday, November 23, 2009

Standing on the Threshold

{portrait by my dear friend Chantal}

Tomorrow I will turn 30. I never thought that would happen. Not that I have a problem with it – it just always seemed so far away. In pondering the last ten years, I find myself quite surprised at the wealth of experiences those years have brought.

I stepped into this decade with a brand-new husband and big ambitions. Graduate from college. Have some children. Raise them in Utopia surrounded by friends and family. Develop my faith, talents, and attributes, all in my well-controlled comfort zone. Nothing fancy, nothing complicated.

Well, that lasted for about five minutes.

I did graduate from college and I did have children, but Utopia and my comfort zone went out the window. Detours and U-turns and stop signs were numerous. Highways became backroads and vice versa. Sometimes I think I accidently picked up the wrong map. But what a ride it has been.

In the last ten years I have been to places I never dreamed I would go. I have walked the beaches in San Francisco and Delaware. I have visited the Sacred Grove in New York, and been through the Nauvoo Temple. I have dined with the Amish in Pennsylvania, and caught catfish off the coast of Florida. I have pulled a handcart in Wyoming and a shopping cart in Baltimore.

In the last ten years, my family has grown. Four children, three sisters-in-law, a niece and a nephew. I have also been blessed to find other “sisters” along the way. Women who have taught, served, befriended, and put up with me. Friends I know I was meant to meet.

In the last ten years, there has been a healthy mix of joy, disappointment, hope, frustration, comfort, loneliness, excitement, sorrow, gratitude, anxiety, and love. Trials I didn’t ask for, and blessings I didn’t imagine. I hope I am a better person for them.

Twenty-nine finds me firmly entrenched in motherhood. Trying to find a balance between selfless and sane. (Not that they should be opposites, but I’m still working on that.) Beginning to accept drastically lower expectations in some areas (like shower frequency or the ability to read more than two sentences of a novel without interruption) and infinitely higher expectations in others (patience, charity, and humility, to name a few.) Searching for hints of fulfillment within the hours of frustration. Waiting for the assurance that it is all worth it.

The transition from college student to stay-at-home mom hasn’t been easy. For a while I mourned the absence of A’s and the lack of measurable accomplishment. Nobody cheers when I load the dishwasher, practice the piano, or de-clutter a closet. Motherhood requires a different grading curve. But I am beginning to understand…. Every meal I cook, every load of laundry, every book I read aloud to a child, every homework sheet I sign, every game of Uno, every thank-you note I write, every lullaby I sing, every scrape I bandage, every kind word, every trip to the park, every lesson I teach, every hug and every kiss count for something. Not in somebody’s grade book, but in somebody’s life book. What I do matters. The last ten years have taught me that.

Going into 30, I’m taking these life lessons with me and hopefully beginning with a bit more perspective. No less ambitious, but perhaps more centered.

Part of me knows that the only difference between 29 and 30 is one second’s time. But another part knows that that second is the difference between two eras. The last ten years are stored up, with all of their experiences and emotions, in the person I have become. The next ten years lay ahead of me like an unexplored scenic highway, full of promise, opportunities, and unexpected side streets.

One more step and I will enter that road.

I hope I have the right map this time.


Wu Roscheck said...

That was beautiful to read Christine, especially as I am a little behind you and just entering that phase of leaving school and entering motherhood. Thanks for sharing your wisdom and HAPPY BIRTHDAY today! I hope is wonderful for you! Lots of love from us.

paintermoe said...

You're a beautiful writer. Especially as David and I contemplate entering parenthood, and maybe me leaving a career where I rely 'gold stars' to make me feel like I matter. Best of luck in your 30s. So far mine are going fine.

Tiffany said...

30 certainly SEEMED like a big number... I guess that was before. I think harder than 30 is realizing there is a whole group of grown-ups behind you and being sandwiched squarely in the middle of the "responsible" (and by responsible I mean cerebrally mostly developed group). You've always had high standards for yourself, dear, but its fun to hear that you are learning that high doesn't always have to mean impossible; sometimes high can be just within the grasp of little fingers and that is the highest and most precious standard of all.

brettnkatherine said...

Christine - You write so beautifully, I got chills and tears welled up in my eyes. I often times foget that what I do matters. Thank you for reminding me - Oh, and the next ten are even better, believe me ;) Thanks again, Katherine