Friday, May 20, 2011

Turning 40 Is Not the End of the World...(or is it?)

If you had told me a year ago that I would be sitting in a pleather recliner getting ready to update my blog about recent changes to my breast cancer report, I would have spewed wine out of my nose in derisive laughter. Moi? Noooo, no, no, no...not me, darling. The thinner, healthier, more sophisticated version of me would be picking up my last minute dry cleaning before hopping off to the spa for a little pick me up before the swanky fun party my husband had put together. 40 was going to be hot, the new 30 but better. 

Swanky fun party, check! (thanks, Nick!). Thinner, healthier, more sophisticated? That bit got derailed somewhere about November and got completely blown off the tracks come March.

And, yes, I am sitting in a pleather recliner (god, it's ugly) that has electric recline control, because that's just how I roll these days.

So I sit here the day before my 40th birthday in an incredibly reflective mood; missing everyone who is "gone" like crazy, musing that many people believe the world is ending tomorrow, looking out at the gorgeous sunshine and my husband working in the yard and wondering, in some ways, how did I get here? Here to this place in time, with these challenges but gifts in my life. Here to this town, where I have met such amazing friends. Here to this neighborhood where people ring the bell and drop off delicious things to eat, or stop to chat, or just give me a hug. As my mother in law said "Fran, in this place you sit on the front porch and people just bring you things." It's that kind of place.

I have to tell you a secret. It's actually not a real secret but its something worth bringing up right now. I hated Ann Arbor when we moved here. Hated it. I wanted nothing to do with it. We had moved from Seattle and I had lost my way. Three moves in three years, the most recent leaving behind a wonderful group of women I felt insanely bonded to. I was bitter. I wanted nothing to do with this place and for the better part of two years, I effectively shut myself down.

Those that know me well know that this is not normal for me. Being part of a community is what gives me life. I felt myself turning more inward than I ever had before. I think it was partly not wanting to be hurt again, to make friends only to leave them behind, and partly not wanting to have to go through the whole process of getting to know people. I mean, wouldn't life be easier to put all of those stories on a mixed tape that you could just hand to someone and say "listen to this and tell me if you want to hang". But life's not easy that way.

And here I sit, nearly 6 years from when we made that fateful decision to move to Michigan and start again. Six years of slowly getting to know people, to expanding out again, to letting people into my heart. At breakfast I bumped into 4 different groups of friends in the span of an hour. I spent lunch with my friend Myra who is full of kindness and love and who knows everyone in the world. My friend and neighbor Anne just popped over for a minute to say hi and spread a little sunshine my way. Tomorrow night I will get to see friends who I love deeply, who have been amazing support over the past few months/years, who make me feel good and whole and happy. This doesn't mean that I don't miss and long for what I have lost in the moves and the miles, it just makes me realize (really, remember, because I have always known this) that community is where you are. It's not the city or the town, but the people in that you gather to you and invest back in that make it a home.

I hope I can teach my own children that there are many places to love, many wonderful cities where they will connect deeply with people and be sad to leave. That there are always new friends to be made, new people whose lives you can touch, new experiences to be had with this gorgeous diverse world we live in. That part of the beauty of life is change, collecting stories and friends and bonds that will sustain you when things get rough. A community of friends is the flywheel that builds up energy so when the power shuts off, you can keep going.

So I sit on the brink of 40 and I am trying to take stock in what I want for the next decade.  I want to make a difference where I can, most deeply in the lives of people who I know. I want to do good work. I want to put my money where my mouth is and invest heavily in community through philanthropy. I want to help create good things in the world. I want to sit on porches and drink delicious wine and laugh with friends. I want to laugh a LOT. I want to spend time with my children and husband doing things that make us think and play and enjoy one another. Life is too damn short to be miserable or sad or unhappy or lonely.  I want to quit saying "I'm too busy" and reconsider my priorities. I want to make people in my life feel the same sort of love that I have felt from them. It's intoxicating like the finest jasmine.

I want nothing short of a life well-lived, so that if this cancer does come back I won't scream and gnash my teeth and cry "unfair!" There is no guarantee that you get anything in life...time, a break, good health, love, happiness...but the true injustice is when you don't use what you are privileged to receive well. And that's where I am going to sit for awhile.


  1. wow. i have read this three times wanting your words to imprint my heart....

    - There is no guarantee that you get anything in life...time, a break, good health, love, happiness...but the true injustice is when you don't use what you are privileged to receive well. And that's where I am going to sit for awhile. -

    here i come to sit there, next to you, in that space, time, energy. such amazing words, so true. you are true fran. a true gem, incredible soul. i feel so SO blessed to have you in my life. you bring so much richness to it despite all the miles.

    hugs and love and all my best wishes for a year ahead filled with love and LOTS of laughs.


  2. you are such a beautiful writer, Fran!