Acceptance and Gratitude are Practice
We are only in the second week of January and I can officially say that 2021 has already been an interesting year. I think standing outside of a friend’s house over a fire to bring in the new year opened me up for all sorts of newness. Not in a million years did I think I would stand outside in 20-degree weather talking about swinging (not the childhood version), vaccines and the demise of my relationship as midnight approached on the final day of the year. Yes, topics of conversation were all over the place, just like our hearts and minds were throughout 2020. We did manage to stay away from talking politics as the hosts kept the fire going and our drinks full. I guess there was an enough of a distraction from it with the moose chilly and the subtlety of our cold fingers and toes huddled around the fire.
Surrounding the fire, a group of suburban parents grateful for the opportunity to be together and watch our children play together as the new year rang in. No fancy dresses, tuxedos, up dos or shiny shoes just jeans, cozy sweaters, warm jackets and knit caps. There’s something to be said about keeping it real and on this night we did. With a great awareness of our reality and the beauty of the blessings that surrounded us we welcomed 2021. I never thought I’d wake up on New Year’s Day and think that a New Year’s Eve standing outside in the freezing cold in an oversized parka would fulfill me. If 2020 did nothing, it reenforced my practice of gratitude. It certainly taught me to accept and appreciate what I have even more, and I appreciated being surrounded by friends, being with my children and seeing my friends and children laugh and smile together on the final evening of 2020.
Exactly a week later I celebrated my 49th birthday. This may be the first time and most likely the last time I willingly share my age. I tell people I am 29 and it feels good to lie. I don’t know if they believe me or not, if they are foolish enough to ask, they will get the answer I choose to give them.
This year I started thinking I was 49 in November. I believe I started the process of closing out 48 and moving into 49 early because of the sting. It’s 50 after 49 and yes that is a strange place for me. I don’t feel what I thought 49 would feel like. I certainly don’t act like 49 and my soul, she is definitely not a year over 23. I guess I had all these conceptions of what getting older would mean. They were all wrong. What I didn’t know was life gets better, you always have opportunities to learn and when you keep an open heart and open mind life always surprises you.
Yesterday I ran 7 miles at a respectable pace, nothing hurt, I smiled most of the way and when I got home, I ran around my backyard with my dog. I was told that my knees wouldn’t last, my hip flexors would get tight and cause me low back pain, my pace would slow and if I was smart, I’d take up walking rather than continuing to run. Well, so far none of this has happened. Not even close to happening and I hope it stays this way for a very long time. I know there are unexpected things that happen in our lives. No one thought we’d be hiding from one another for almost a year now. Unexpected and difficult things happen and all we can do is take the learning from them and not let the struggle define us. It is easy to fall into the struggle and convince ourselves life is hard. As a woman who has had a good amount of struggle and pain in her 49 years trust me when I tell you, each of us is resourceful and creative enough to overcome what is hard and painful.
Right now, as I type I am overcoming a good amount of pain to continue to write to you. I have Raynaud’s Syndrome and when I am cold or stressed my fingers turn white from the lack of blood flow to them and they hurt. Basically, my blood vessels stop working. I am extremely grateful for the fingerless gloves on my hands, so I can more comfortably type while my fingers experience the effects of low blood flow. The Raynaud’s has taught me to take care of myself and look for ways to be more comfortable, manage my stress and spend as much time as possible in warm weather.
This is why if you told my actual 29-year-old self I’d be standing outside in the cold to bring in a new year she would have brushed you off with a, “yeah, right” or possibly a “whatever.” This woman was busy living her LA story. Twenty years ago, I was dressed fancy, picked up by a limo, taken to the hottest clubs in Los Angeles and surrounded by people I hardly knew on New Year’s Eve. When I woke up the afternoon of New Year’s Day the night/ morning before was a blur. I did not remember conversations, I did not feel a sense of fulfillment and love, I definitely did not get up and go for a run, I laid in bed alone thinking how amazing it was that I was chauffeured around Los Angeles with some cool famous people.
Getting older does not mean you have to stop doing certain things or thinking or feeling a certain way. Getting older allows us to fully accept ourselves and the truths that belong to us. Everything from silly mannerisms, communication styles, athletic abilities and inabilities and where we are most comfortable. At 29 I was extremely comfortable in a club with loud music and acquaintances. At 49, I’d club but, I am much more comfortable standing in front of a fire with people I call friends. I am grateful I can run 7 miles with a smile on my face, spend time with my children, laugh with my friends, and bring in a new year with a renewed sense of peace, love and joy.
What I know now is my tribe of suburban parents are cool. I am grateful to watch my children grow and interact inside the bubble we created. I am blessed to live somewhere different and safe where friendships are real, and the conversations are just as real. Where spending New Year’s Eve outside in the freezing cold together is better than being warm inside alone. I am crying as I type this because when I first moved to this bubble, I hated it. I missed the city, I missed the noise and believed I would never fit in and find my people. I was convinced people were going to judge me and not like me because I was different. I was the one judging. I was the one who did not want to fit in because I thought if I was like them, I’d no longer be cool. At 49 I am cool thanks to my beautiful suburban friends. I will never wake up alone on New Year’s Day or any day after thanks to them. No matter what happens I have my small-town tribe at my back. I have what is real and no matter the struggle or the pain, they got me and my kids. So, if I have to accept some quiet and cold to be grateful for friendships and laughter, concern it done.
Kristen and Dave, thank you for the fire.