I”ll just say this straight: I had no idea what I was doing when you were born.
I had a book — Your Baby and Child, by Penelope Leach (your father always pronounced it Pen-lope, so in my head I hear her name that way, poor lady). And I had a lot of desire. You were wanted. Very wanted. Have you ever seen the episode of I Love Lucy where Lucy is pregnant and tries to tell Ricky but he’s too busy to listen so she goes down to the club where he works and he figures it out while he’s singing to her? I was newly married, not even 20 years old, and bawled my eyes out when I saw that show. It had to mean something, right? Obviously, the next thing was to have a baby. That’s what Lucy and Ricky were telling me.
Now I think I understand the looks I got from people back then. I was 20 years old and had no clue what it meant to have a baby. No clue that maybe I was kind of young. I was 20 and pregnant, standing in the grocery store checkout line reading the headlines on the magazines at the checkout counter — “Stop Wrinkles Now! Beef Stew Tonight for Your Man!”. We were playing house, your dad and me, but I had no idea. You were my practice kid. I loved it.
I know you remember things. Like when we lived in Phoenix, just you and me, and drove real fast out in the desert in my Mazda RX-7, windows down, a Melissa Etheridge cassette blasting from the speakers. Or our road trip, just you and me, to Pennsylvania when we moved there from Arizona. Our deal was that you got a souvenir from each state along the way. Or our vacation — our first ever — to Ocean City, where we walked to the beach every day from our motel and whacked crabs with mallets at a restaurant. Or our walks, just you and me, around our neighborhood in Pittsburgh to get ready for the annual Cystic Fibrosis Walk and picnic my company held in honor of my coworker’s daughter. One year you won a TV, remember?
The things I think you remember are the times when it was just you and me.
I remember things too. I remember things I feel ashamed about. Mistakes I made. Babysitters I had weird feelings about but left you with anyway because I didn’t know what else to do and didn’t make enough as a fledgling property manager to make better, more expensive, child care choices. Taking parenting cues from an episode of The Brady Bunch where the mom says Okay, go ahead when the kid threatens to run away and you went anyway so I combed the neighborhood for hours calling your name. Not standing up for you — my daughter — when you were a teenager and your new stepfather gave you a hard time. There were many, many mistakes. We learn from mistakes and we go on. We went on.
I see now that your memories of us might be of the you-and-me times, while mine might be of the things I wish I did better. Not sure what to make of that.
So, what now? You’re 29. In astrological terms, you’ve entered your Saturn Return, the time when Saturn occupies the same place in the heavens as it did when you were born. It’s a big deal. Here’s a nice piece on how to survive it relatively unscathed. Some people say when we turn 30 we’re supposed to have life all figured out. Good luck with that. I’m still working on it myself.
If it helps, I have ideas. The ones in the link are good. Think about your relationship with time, with organization, and with men-who-remind-you-of-your-father, or maybe who you want to occupy a place in your life that your father didn’t. Think about what in your life that you want to change. I believe in you. I believe you have the power to create change in your life if you want it. The whole world is open to you. This is your year.
List your strengths. They are your foundation and you can build upon them. Make them stronger. Add to them. Bring them to the surface. You have a huge heart. You want to help. You really care about the people around you. Those are awesome qualities. People want to be around the people who come from their hearts. Focus on that part of you and you’ll find yourself surrounded by people who value it, who value YOU.
Dream big. So often we limit ourselves by thinking about what is possible based on the limitations we see, not what we really want. And then we just stay stuck within our limitations and never get beyond them. Don’t limit your life. This is your year. Dream it into being. What does your heart want? How does your soul want to experience life? Get quiet and ask those questions, because the answers are already in you.
Make a plan. Dreaming is one thing, but making stuff happen is another. Make a plan and work the plan until you are where you want to be. Don’t let obstacles stop you. Enlist help —you have allies all around you if you open yourself to them — and find answers if you feel stuck. Somewhere, someone has already encountered every obstacle you’ve ever thought of. Find those people (they write books, they post on the internet, they speak to groups, but they are out there wanting to help you) and tap into their wisdom to add to your own. There is no shame in getting help. If there is something you want, then it has importance just because you want it. Don’t let anything or anyone stop you from living the way you want to.
Lighten up. There are people who go through life like it’s one big amusement park. There is wisdom in that. If you’re having fun and feeling pleasure, half the battle is won already. I don’t mean shrug off responsibilities, quit your job and move to the Bahamas (actually that last thing sounds pretty good), but approaching life like it’s a new and fun experience goes a long way toward experiencing life like it’s a new and fun experience.
Remember that you rock. Here’s an idea. Every night, list in your mind all the good things you did that day, the things that you feel proud of or that you know made a positive difference to someone else. I know what you do for a living so I know that in a given day there are at least 100 of those things. Your life makes a difference. YOU make a difference.
I love you, Jess. Happy birthday.