Sunday, April 1, 2012

on turning 30.

 I started to write this post a few days before I turned 30.  I started to write this in a little purple notebook while sitting on the couch holding Jubilee in my lap, facing me, letting her smile at me like I'm the most amazing person she's ever seen - eyes crinkly, nose scrunched up.  This was the moment:

But now that notebook is missing (as are so many things these days it seems - is that part of having a 20 month old?) and so I begin again, this time on the other side of 30.  30 years + 5 days.

I turned 20 in Cairo and got my ears pierced to mark the occasion.  I also got my nose pierced a few weeks later (back alley, Istanbul) for two dollars.  Worldview shattering, everything on the change.   Twenty-three was Cape Town, sleeping under the stars and waking to my birthday and Easter Sunday all in one; we flew a kite and played soccer in a field, covered in mud.  Twenty-five was India and a park and an epic game of 'In the Manner of the Adverb'; twenty-six was northern Uganda, I wore a white skirt on the back of a motor bike, my feet still etched with the black dirt of South Sudan. Twenty-eight was India again, this time married and expecting a baby - had a birthday party with so many new friends wearing gorgeous sarees and I even made a speech, because that's what you do at an Indian birthday party.

Reading through old journals this week, I'm remembering.  The dreams on my heart were all so close then, when I was pumping water and dodging malarious mosquitoes, taking auto rickshaws and hanging out with pregnant women in slum communities.  My friend Hollie was my dreaming companion - 'Should we travel from Cape Town to Cairo by chicken bus stopping in villages for a month at a time to do mother and child healthcare seminars?' - yes, please.  'How about we open a home in a major Indian city where women can come from rural areas to stay near the hospital if they have a high risk pregnancy?' - perfect.   

wearing ridiculous skirts and asking for diarrhea in Cairo (with Hollie, circa 2006)

I met Chris along the way, and we chose each other.  Our dating months were full of hard, hard, hard conversations - what really were our values, deep down, that we would end up living by even if we thought we might be able to change?  What would drive me crazy?  Could I be the one to give him the love that he needs?  A few times it was so tough, hearing his voice tell the truth - 'becca, if you want to be living in East Africa in the next two years, I need to be honest and say I can't do it, I can't be that person for you.  That could be possible someday, but I would need to take it step by step.'  And I chose him, because fantastical dreams with no roots couldn't compare to building a home, planting a garden and bearing children with Chris, even in exile.

Reading my journals reminded me of all my dreams, although I'm not sure how much they were of God and how much they were of me escaping reality.  Either way, a lot of them are still in there, lying dormant, waiting.  Reading through my old emails with Chris reminded me that I knew exactly what I was getting.  I read a conversation we were having about future children if we got married - why, how many, how soon, possible effects on our life and work - and Chris is saying the same exact thing three years and two children later. 

It's another layer of letting go - nothing has been taken from me.  In freely saying yes to marriage and children and to the sense that it's good for us to be in this community now, there are other things that aren't happening, that might or might not ever happen.  Its okay, on my thirtieth birthday to be a little sad, to grieve a bit, to let go of the where's and what's that I imagined in my mid-twenties.

Grief and processing doesn't in any way negate my joy and wonder over life right now:  the sacrament of marriage that I partake in daily, forgiveness and friendship our bread and wine; the spiritual rituals of washing, hanging, and putting away cloth nappies in a way that reminds me of eternity in its endlessness; nursing my children to sleep every night and caring for them in the dark hours when the rest of the world spins and sleeps.  This is my life and it is good.  My days are long and slow and as sacred as my steps on the dusty red road to Congo.

We will see what happens, where I am on my fourtieth birthday, when my children can survive longer periods of the day without me.  But until then, I will be here, typing with my right hand, Jubilee balanced on my left knee, dishes to do and songs to sing.

"Holiness lies spread and borne over the surface of time and stuff like colour." - Annie Dillard


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