You were the decade that made me a wife.
Again. A better wife this time. This time I knew better than to throw the dishes against the wall. This time I knew better than to demand answers, honesty, attention. This time I knew what a good man looked like. He was made from the same earth I was: lower, middle-class dirt that clumped and stuck against you, refused to let you fly away. This time I knew where I ended and he began. This time I knew weddings didn’t matter, marriage mattered. This time, this marriage, was about us.
You were the decade that made me a mother.
When I was younger, my body wracked with a silent disorder, PCOS they called it, and PCOS made having children seem like a river I could never cross. I watched The Hours and heard the line about a woman never truly being a woman until she becomes a mother. The truth of that idea drowned me, night after night after night until I couldn’t find the air I needed to survive. Then, they appeared-like two sunrises pressed against a dark night-my twin daughters. I spent the entire decade learning them, knowing them, feeling for them.
You were the decade that made me a writer.
When I was a teenager, I wrote poems about girls in peril, dangerous boys, and dead men. I read A Farewell to Arms and I wrote like Hemingway for a month. I read The Great Gatsby and wrote like Fitzgerald for three years. I quit my job and went to writing school. I earned two degrees and spine made of steel that could only be bent by adding heat. I read Safekeeping and wrote like me. I wrote the story of my marriage, my divorce, and my mistakes. I wrote the story of my heart.
You were the decade that made me an activist.
Obama was elected when I was 31. I was proud to be an American. The night he spoke in Grant Park with his daughters by his side, I couldn’t stop crying. I had daughters who would age under the canopy of inclusion. I didn’t have to fight. The harsh edges had blurred and we all seemed to fit together. I grew soft. We all did. Then, bad things happened. Guns. Schools. Children. At Sandy Hook, a gunman killed twenty first-graders. My children were six. This event changed the way I parented, the way I thought about my country, the way I slept at night. I couldn’t keep crying, I had to start screaming.
You were the decade that made me.
It hasn’t been perfect, but I’m finally starting to like this body I’m walking around in and this big, gushy heart pumping inside of me. I’m beginning to like the words in my brain, the passion on my tongue. I’m standing and won’t sit down and be quiet for anyone, ever again.
This is 40.