Today is the last day in my thirties. Generally on birthdays I like to reflect a bit on the year that lies behind me — what it brought me, what I am grateful for, what I fucked up, what surprised me…
Today I look back on a decade. A decade that perhaps could not have been more tumultuous and even outdid my twenties in that regard (and they, by god, were tumultuous enough).
Now I can list the facts — but they probably don’t quite express the seismic shifts within myself that took place. I can reel off numbers — of places travelled to and lived in, people met, slept with, danced with, partied until dawn with, fought with, laughed with, made love to, and discovered more of this intriguing place we inhabit with. The lists would be long and sometimes terribly exhausting.
What I do know, from the bottom of my heart without an inkling of self defence is that I am whole heartedly embracing forty. Nay, I am proud of turning forty. What an achievement to have gotten here and to be of relatively sound mind and with such an abundance of everything and more than I truly could have possibly asked for as I set out on this last decade…
So, I am not going to tell you to dream big, or live life to the fullest or any other such platitude. But I will say that the one thing that radically changed my thirties was to do some things that utterly terrified me. They weren’t the obvious things… like Afghanistan.
It was getting on a plane despite being severely depressed and opening up to friends and colleagues about it — being vulnerable like that was terrifying. It was committing to a man that loved me and trusting that. Trusting a good man, someone that treated me right and allowing myself to believe that that was a good thing (!) and not that assholes are what most women deserve. (How I wish I had learned that earlier! I would have put up with so.much.less.shit) It was giving myself over to motherhood when initially I felt as though I might lose all sense of identity while I was pregnant. It was making new friends and letting them into my life in real ways. It was being blown away by the fierce love for my two daughters and learning to love this world in a new way — committing to it in a new way, because I have just placed two people in it. That is and remains quite terrifying.
Voila a rewritten Manifesto inspired by one I wrote in my twenties and by an old friend that was once in my life.
Here’s to one day off forty.
Before all else comes my family. I will put aside time for them no matter how busy my life may become because nothing is more important to me.
Instead of being ‘comfortable’ and unthreatening for people, I will continue to work on bringing in my diverse cultures and experiences even if these are ‘uncomfortable’. I do this to be true to myself.
I will find my voice where I am, speak my perspective in how I live and I will endeavour to help others do the same.
I will commit to dealing with conflict and pain in relationships and in my life — To fight bitterness, I will “embrace the pain and burn it as fuel for my journey” (Kenji Miyazawa)
I will make plans and have goals. I know now that sometimes despite giving up, “you live the surprise results of old plans” (Jenny Holzer)
I will express, be creative with, verbalise, cry out, feel and own my emotions. I will do so out of respect to my whole being and my body, knowing my mind/body/soul are all connected and that a body remembers.
I will never take for granted all that is mine: familial, relational, material, cultural, health, education…I am among the most privileged people and should not forget that.
I will remember the lows, the debilitating pain, the uncertainty, the alienation, and exhausting confusion and remember it wasn’t me that brought me where I am today alone. I will remember grace.
I take financial control of my life. I spend my money mindfully and buy only what I truly need and what I truly love.
I will not be impressed by nor use titles to gain privilege and be part of a self-perpetuating elite.I will persist in having deep friendships, risk vulnerability, and find people that really see me.
I want to continue being someone that is ‘home’ to those that don’t feel at home in this world, either because they feel marginalised, disenfranchised, hurting, confused or just different. I do this to create space for what is “other”.
I will be intentionally inside a complex range of stories, recognising that from these my life unintentionally flows. This is my narrative and I am part of many narratives.
I will trust myself and listen to my inner voice. I have usually been right to do so.I
will recognise my limitations and know it is a good thing to have them. I want to learn to allow myself to be loved with these limitations.
I make my home my sacred space and I will always open it up to others.
I will privilege a creative embrace of real living — anything that can be purchased is not friendship, truth, meaning, community, life, love or spirituality.
I will be in and of communities that I do not control.
I will tell people what they mean to me.
I will never use age as an exclusive filter for anything, knowing that sometimes the youngest voices teach us the most and that I essentially still want to give the middle finger to the same people I did when I was sixteen.
I will not waste my time or others, knowing that life is only short if not lived well. I will value time as a precious commodity but also know that ‘wasting time’ is not bound up with constant utilitarianism and efficiency.
I know that beauty and newness happens at the edge of chaos. I will be chaos, I will let chaos find me, I will not avoid what is ambiguous, uncomfortable and terrifying, because “you must have chaos in you to give birth to a dancing star” (Nietzsche)
I will raise my daughters to know they are deeply and unconditionally loved — and deserve to express their unique selves in this world.
My supreme goal is to live well, allowing meaning to emerge in the truth of real events. I swear to do so by all means available and at the cost of perceived good taste and aesthetic considerations.