Around Thanksgiving, no less than three friends announced they were expecting. I felt total joy. It means 3 times over that I get to be the cool urban auntie. 3 times over I get to pick out books that I hope their kids will treasure. 3 times over I can be a source of support during the inevitable exhaustion that follows.
As more of these sweet announcements come, the more I realize the path of these friends is not the same as one I’ve chosen for myself. Until now, our lives have largely shared similar orbits. Soon, our days will look begin to different from one other. I’m eager for us both as we each enter this uncharted territory.
32 has been about defining traditions for myself. To know what I truly enjoy and to move towards those things with intention.
That has manifested itself in different ways. For one, I discovered I love tall, fat coffee mugs, so I got rid of the short, squat ones. I like the thrill of spicy foods. I hate flying. Sweaters are comfort cocoons; I buy them with vigor. I covet well-written letters, well-written paragraphs, well-written sentences. Lavender everything, all the time. The smell of a new book. The rising curtain on a performance. The joy of sharing a quiet day with a fellow introvert. I’ve made a decision to no longer wear uncomfortable shoes. I want to be known at my local coffeeshop, library, and deli. I crave urban family. I loving sitting in movie theaters and crying or laughing with strangers. Professional success matters to me, deeply. I believe apathy is the greatest sin. I have a supernatural ability to hold grudges. I will never finish Infinite Jest.
I am coming to terms with these things I learn about myself. I seek out the things I want more. I find ways to move away from the things that no longer bring me joy. Now, when good things happen it is as satisfying as a lego block clicking into place.
I’ve begun to examine our holiday traditions with this same intention. Our Christmas tree, for example, is a hodgepodge of our favorite childhood ornaments. We lovingly remove them from their boxes and hang them gently on the tree, but it is as if our memories stopped 15 years ago, when we received the last ones. There are no recent ornaments to laugh over or reminisce, none that were selected to affirm memories we have created as adults.
We typically spend most of our holidays driving hours to see our families. We arrive tired, wary of local politics, strangers in our hometowns. We are happy to see our loved ones, warmed to know that they continue to grow and lead healthy lives, but meanwhile, we crave something different. A day spent in service. A morning that opens with coffee and quiet. A walk around our neighborhood. A good meal at our own table, with foods that reflect who we are today.
It’s not easy to break traditions, but people do, and for good reasons. And then they make new ones and they cherish them as well.
Faraway friends came to visit recently.
Before they arrived, I cleaned our apartment, and when I was done, I surveyed its territory. I sat for a moment with my own insecurity that I will never pay for things that could make my home look like the ones in the magazines (I no longer deny my tendency to agonize over purchases until I talk myself out of them; this is why the tired rug remains, why the old Ikea bookcase lives to tell another tale).
I mourned, briefly, my total lack of aesthetic cool, and then I shrugged. My home is clean. There is good food in the kitchen. We sleep soundly here. That’s all I can ask of it and of myself.
We had a great time with our friends. I felt immense pleasure in hosting them here. Sometime before dinner, they casually offered their appreciation for this space we have carved out. It is warm and lived in, they said. The artwork on the walls is lovingly curated. They felt our home conveyed everything they knew to be true about us.
I laughed and was glad.