As you’re reading this, it’s my 40th birthday. So I am typing this on Wednesday, because on Friday I plan to be deeply asleep on silky hotel sheets, sleeping the luscious sleep of the mother of five on her own for a rare delicious window of solitude and self-nurturing. I’m not going to wake up for HOURS AND HOURS. AND THEN I’M ORDERING ROOM SERVICE. #BlissScandal
You’re 25, and you feel a million years old.
You’re newly divorced, at an age when your friends haven’t even begun to think about wedding bells yet.
While they went and got masters degrees, you got a PhD in bad decisions.
You royally fucked up. But not the way you think.
Here’s what you can’t possibly see right now, because it took me over a decade to figure it out.
You think you fucked up by not being able to stay married. This is what everyone else thinks, too, so it’s an understandable conclusion. You failed at your marriage.
But here’s the truth:
the moment you failed was when you ignored that little voice inside you that said “Run! Runrunrunrunrunrunnnnnnnn.”
You were so certain that that voice inside you was the bad one.
The selfish one.
The misguided one.
After all, that was the same voice that wanted to take theater class instead of Statistics, and wanted to make out with that hot chick down the hall instead of going to Bible Study, and she is also the one who craved diamond rings and $700 shoes and French champagne and all sorts of ludicrous, extravagant things.
And so you squashed her down, gave her a lecture about conflict stones and child soldiers, and went and did The Right Thing.
Sugarpie, most of the pain in your life has been caused by you trying to do The Right Thing when everything inside you was telling you to do something else…something scandalous.
In church you learned that the voice inside you was always wrong. You strained so hard to hear God’s voice over the clamoring hungers inside you that you basically messed up your own hearing. You got so mixed up.
But here’s the good news: one day, you’re totally going to figure it out.
You’re going to leave the church of your childhood. You’ll walk away from the academic cathedral that felt so safe and sleepy. You’ll leave church after church–The Church Of The Vegan Cleanses And Carrot Juice, and The Church Of Melancholy Artist Hipsterhood And Depression, and The Church Of Wild Sex (that was a good one, actually; that was very healing), and you’ll try The Church Of Guilt (not so good) and The Church Of Logic (never could quite make that one stick) and you’ll sit in The Church Of Quantum Physics in a daze of delighted bafflement.
Nothing is going to go the way you thought.
You’re so sure that you’ll publish a book by the time you’re 30. You’re quietly certain that fame and fortune are going to descend at some point, in spite of your awesome humility, and you’ll get to stand by blinking bashfully, going “Aw shucks, guys, gosh.” Also, you believe completely that you can never be a mother, because you’re too selfish and are prone to depression and plus you don’t even like children. They’re so sticky and LOUD.
Just hold on to those illusions, honey, right up until the moment that they go *POP* in the face of the strange mysterious reality of your actual life. They are harmless soap bubbles.
But here is what I really want to tell you. Two things.
1. It is going to get so, SO much better. You are in despair right now. You are pretty sure your life is over, and the truth is that you are only even actually alive because you decided that you’d rather live and be doomed than be right and good and throw yourself in front of a bus. You don’t even hope for much, certainly not actual happiness, in spite of your grandiose expectations about being rich and famous. You expect that fame and fortune will be nice and all, but you don’t really expect them to penetrate into the devastation of your ragged and horrible heart. Oh girl. The joke is on you. Because it is going to get so good inside your heart. You’re not going to get fame OR fortune, or even a house and a husband, and it turns out it won’t even matter! Ha ha!!! Turns out those things were illusions too! Against all odds, you are going to figure out this one crucial thing: joy. In fact, it’s going to get so good that one night, a dozen years from now, you will lie in bed in the dark next to your just-fallen-asleep daughter, listening to her breathe, and you will grin like a fool at the unbelievable bounty of your beautiful life. You will literally lie there, in your PJs (because you go to bed at 8pm now but don’t worry, it’s actually kind of great) with this big goofy grin on your face.
2. In order for that to happen, you have got to learn to LISTEN to yourself. That voice in you? She is ON YOUR SIDE, honey. For real. All the scandalizing things she tells you to do? With the benefit of hindsight, I can see that in Every Single Case, she was only offering you the most practical, sane options for getting out of the ridiculous situations you put yourself in. At some point you will realize that YOU chose to turn a deaf ear to that voice inside you, and that most of your suffering can be directly traced to this choice. “But no one told me!” you will think, and “They told me she was dangerous!” and that’s a fact, but here is the thing you always knew deep down, underneath that. How could the people around you possibly give you good directions? Isn’t it clear that as much as you love them, you are basically a different species? They love you too, but they have no idea what it’s like to live in your body or inhabit your mind; how could they possibly tell you which way to go?
That’s YOUR job.
And when you figure that out, sweet pea, everything is going to get so, so beautiful.
So hang in there, kiddo. I’ll see you in a dozen.