On January 1st this year, I woke up in our guest bedroom, alone. I had injured my knee five days earlier, and still swollen, hurting and icing, it was easier to sleep in our only downstairs bedroom than navigating the hardwood mountain to my room.
Stretching awake, I smiled to realize It's a new year!
Still smiling, shooing cobwebs and rubbing sandy eyes clean, I remembered the spectacular game the night before.
Then, suddenly aware of the fire in my knee, my smile quickly turned south and brought with it my sobering reality:
My 50th birthday was 89 days away.
A single word escaped my lips. It was ugly and had four letters.
It was the first time in my life I had dreaded my birthday.
* * *
Because I look younger than my age and feel younger than my age, I sometimes forget my age.
This can be problematic, but it took me a long, long while to understand this.
I'll try to explain.
First, let's remember I'm a recovering people-pleaser. While I've made great strides toward recovery since I understood this about myself, my natural inclination is to want you to like me. It manifests itself one way in real life comings and goings, but differently in my online life.
Only recently did I realize how this affected my writing; I've been hesitant to write about topics that made me different from "you".
Now this is where it gets crazy and a little rambly, so bear with me.
Blogging changed when anonymous bloggers began meeting one another in real life.
When I started blogging eight (are you kidding me?) years ago, it was different. We didn't use our real names or if we did, we certainly didn't use our last. Smart bloggers made up names for their children and spouses; I rebelled against that one because cutesy-wootsy has never been and will never be my style. I guessed DH meant "Dear Husband" but I never was sure, and do I dare admit it got on my last nerve?
If a blog wasn't password protected, it was rare to post pictures of yourself and children. Sure, there were exceptions, but my word--there was no such thing as selfies or a daily chronology of your baby's first year or weekly pregnancy tummy updates! My avatar was a picture of my feet and I was fine with that. Eventually, when I finally did post a picture of myself (and time is a little short or I'd link to all these things...), one of my favorite comments EVER was when Willowtree said, "Whoa..." because he was expecting Delta Burke (because he could tell I was Southern and he's Australian???). Still makes me grin to think on that one. The first time I met a blogger, a designer who lived half an hour away, we were both relieved not to come face to face with an ax murderer.
Fast forward to the Blissfully Domestic years, when I was an editor for the ezine's inaugural faith channel for a bit, and then part of the Blissdom conference at its inception and first few years.
It seems like a lifetime ago. So...much...life has been lived during this time (most of which I've never written about here. Yet.).
In a nutshell, once regional blog conferences started happening and bloggers began meeting one another [also through many other venues like trips and brand partnerships I won't get into here], online relationships evolved into real life friendships, and relational lines weren't blurred they were erased!
All the while collaborative sites began emerging, and I happened to make some wonderful choices when I said yes to joining incourage, Simple Mom and Deeper Story/Family (and, though on indefinite haitus, I love Megan Jordan's Story Bleed). The relationships among contributors within a site grow organically.
What I didn't notice is that practically all of my online-to-real-life friends are younger than me; the majority not by a year or two but by 10...15...20 years. For some, the gap is wider.
Did you hear that? I didn't notice. And that is key.
When we meet someone, immediately we begin looking for common threads. If we look long enough and don't find a connection, we'll move on; but if there's a bindable tie, we'll find it and hold tight.
Amazing doors have been opened to me as a result of my writing. I'm humbled, grateful and aware that it's my responsibility to steward these gifts well. I do not take them for granted.
But despite these good things -- opportunities that I'm afraid have caused others to "feel less" than or struggle with envy because they weren't asked to take part in whatever "it" was -- I have found myself feeling the void! On the things I wasn't invited to join, or sites for which I wasn't asked to contribute, or whatever it is that she got to do that I didn't!
Isn't it insane? And incredibly ugly??
It has never been a case of me not being thrilled for another's success or opportunity; but more about what did I do wrong not to be included? Why was I overlooked or dismissed or forgotten?
I've received these imagined slights as outright rejection. I've taken personally things which had nothing to do with me.
Cue the crazy music...banish me to a rubber room!
Why is it so much easier to believe lies that shred our heart? Why do we assume all manner of rejection that I'm here to tell you does not exist?!
And then a friend gently reminded me that I'm forgetting that I'm 50, in a totally different stage of life than so many of my online friends.
A splash of cold water in my face...just what I needed to come to my senses.
It's not that these friendships aren't valid or good or precious to me! My affections run deep for the people in my life, regardless of age. But there are certain, shall we say tendencies?? associated with stage in life, a general mindset depending on your age.
I have some things o say about aging and midlife but I've resisted fleshing it out in my writing because I didn't want you to notice that I'm older than you. That I'm not like so many of you. And I think part of that is wrapped up in my need to be liked and for us to connect and I've feared driving away younger readers because Holy hell, Robin is old, and *I'm* 20 years away from menopause!
Until recently, I could not see what I was wrestling with; even now, I only see it in part.
There are a few of you who are fanning a flame inside of me (recently Mollianne, Lib, Jill, Kelly, Gina, Crystal, Beth...) who are convincing me I need to step out, be brave, chart new waters. Share what I know, what I'm learning, what this side of the hill looks like.
1) Listen. This one has been stirring for almost a year, coming first to a friend in a dream about me.
2) Cease striving.
3) Give from your void.
4) Lead out.
I'm not sure what they all mean but I am sure they have something to do with Holy work.
I'm not exactly sure when, but sometime today or tomorrow my blog is going offline while my designer works hard to help me change into a new outfit (I think you'll still be able to read if you go to http://pensieve.typepad.com).
When I return, I hope you'll sense the fire in my belly, an abandon and strength that is not my own. A change of heart. New direction...
The Wonder of a Woman...
Robin Dance dot me.