Monday, July 22, 2013

On turning 30

Party like it's 1983!

Mm-hmh. Yes. This is it. My birthday. As of today, I am 30 years old.

This milestone can be a fraught one in our culture. Somewhere within the last generation, the age become a de facto benchmark for "having your life together." Are your finances in order? Have you finished your higher education? Have you figured out your career? Have you married, bought a home, borne children, started contributing to your 401k with high risk tolerance?

This approach is stressful. It's also inaccurate. Because to me, the real achievement of reaching 30 is that you lived through your 20s. And no matter how you chose to spend those years, I can bet you took away life lessons that will serve you well in the next decade and beyond.

So in the spirit of using milestones as an opportunity for reflection rather than measurement, I'd like to present to you my unordered list of what I learned in (and from) my 20s, and what I hope to learn in (and from) my 30s.

Ever the prodigy, I learned basic secretarial skills as early as age 2.

What I Learned In My 20s (In No Particular Order)
  • Trust your gut.
  • No really. Trust it.
  • Good relationshops buoy you.
  • Invest in the people who make you feel completely like yourself.
  • Be selfish with your time. It's ok to say no.
  • No one cares about your career. It's up to you to go and fight and work for what you want.
  • Live within your means.
  • You're on your own timeline. Whatever happens will happen when it happens, not a moment sooner or later.
  • Be balanced with travel and time at home.
  • Put down roots, then tend to them.
  • Challenge yourself regularly. Do what scares you, but don't feel obligated to continue it if it's not fulfilling you in the long run.
  • Leave yourself open to surprise.
  • Write regularly.
  • What others think of you is not as important as you once thought it to be.
  • Focus on the positive -- not to the point of naivete, but enough to remove your desire to complain and spew toxins into the air.
  • The house will never be clean.
  • Keep a guest book of your dinner parties.
  • Take pictures.
  • Forgive yourself first.
  • Walk forward, heart out.
  • Pay attention.
  • Be quiet. Make quiet.
  • There's no need for martyrdom.
  • You are in the midst of your life. Enjoy your freedom. Respect your free will. Imagine what can be.
  • Buy clothes that fit you well.
  • Take care of your body, mind, and soul in equal measure. Balance is crucial.
  • You grow into the things you want.

What is a birthday if not a time to take a good, hard look over the edge of the playpen?

Now for its corollary -- what I hope my life will instill in me over the next decade.

What I Want to Learn In My 30s (In No Particular Order)
  • Don't let others' moods dictate your own.
  • Stick to your guns.
  • Keep plants alive (and healthy).
  • Make everyone you meet feel like the most special person you've met to date.
  • Learn some kind of dance move.
  • Own your way through karaoke.
  • Avoid bitterness.
  • Prioritize writing.
  • Accept you can't do everything. Or maybe you can. Find out in the spirit of adventure and be prepared to forgive yourself for failure.
  • Be truly vulnerable.
  • Budget for a housecleaning service.
  • Tend to little projects before they become big ones.
  • Not everything has to be done immediately.
  • Stand behind your choices. Have conviction.
  • Hold onto what the true you feels and knows, and use that self-knowledge, so hard-won, to guide you.
  • Ground your fears in reality. There's enough of those to keep you busy.
  • Let go of past hurts, self-inflicted or otherwise.
  • Stop worrying about what you are not. Accentuate what you are.
  • Act always in a spirit of service.
  • Be generous in all ways and things.
  • Reread old journals.
  • Get published.
  • Stay on top of popular music.
  • See lots of movies.
  • Tell people on a regular basis what they mean to you.
  • Add that little something extra.
  • Travel like an explorer.
  • Be in love with just about everything.

Like this outfit.

That's my list. For people who have reached (or passed) 30 -- what would you add?

Prayer #260: Prayer for the Next Decade

Whatever it brings

Whoever I am

I will be
nothing less
that what You are crafting me to be

and that will be
nothing less
than astounding.

Amen.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Godmother: Part I (Or, can I check this box?)

Bippitt boppity God. Photo by suttonhoo, flickr

 A long-awaited dream is coming true: I'm going to be a godmother.

The little squidget isn't here yet, but oh boy, she better get ready. She's going to get crosses, prayer cards, rosary beads, picture book Bibles, the works. Plus cards and books and little frilly outfits on holidays, birthdays, and special events that only I can deem. I might even share this blog URL with her when she's older.

If I do it right, the poor kid won't know what hit her.

Of course, the opportunity to spoil a godsquidget isn't the real reason I'm excited. My dear friends asked me to be a godparent because I "live my faith." I regularly attend Mass, participate in parish life, and do my best to cultivate my spirituality. The godsquidget's mom, one of my oldest and dearest friends, said I would be a great example for their little girl.

Talk about a most humbling honor. Not to mention a huge responsibility. ("Oh hey, would you mind guiding the spiritual growth of our offspring? Kthxbai.") So I'll be honest -- I'm a little daunted.

How come? you might ask. The godsquidget won't even be aware of faith for a couple years. You have time to perfect your spiel. Well, I'm not thinking of the godsquidget just yet. I'm looking at myself first in an examination of conscience prompted by -- of all things -- paperwork.

Guiding hands. Photo by themooring, flickr

In the steadfast tradition of the Catholic Church, I have filled out a form to become a godparent, which my pastor will sign to vouch that I am indeed a practicing Catholic who has received all her Sacraments. I know I'll pass that part with flying colors. What I'm left to chew over is some of the language from the form:

A. "I believe and hold true all the official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church."

I'm certainly on board with the underpinning theology -- big stuff like the Trinity, Eucharist, love thy neighbor, etc. But I disagree with the Church's stance on homosexuality, its continued refusal to ordain women, and the way it handled/handles sex abuse within its ranks, for example. So how far does "official" go? And does the Church really want me to accept each and every tenet without question? Can I check this box?

B. "I am a practicing Catholic, participate in Mass and other Sacraments regularly, [and] believe and live according to the Church's teachings."

Despite my occasional disagreements, I think the Church's teachings generally outline a good roadmap for a life of service, gratitude, and contemplation. But I also believe in a God that transcends any religious institution, and my decisions and actions derive from the values I have cultivated through that personal relationship, not only through what the Catholic Church has said should be so. Can I check this box?

C. "I agree to support and guide this candidate, most especially by my own Catholic example, my witness and through my prayers."

I literally practice Catholicism; like any discipline, it requires study, reinforcement, and creativity. But even with all that practice, I don't consider myself an exemplary Catholic because I'm not an exemplary human. I try often and fail at the same rate. I neglect to pray. And when I do, sometimes I'm not sure anyone or anything is hearing me on the other side. I doubt and I question and I fall. Is this the example they want? Can I check this box?

Floating lights on the River Ganges. Photo by whl.travel, flickr

Here's what I wish were also on the form: that beyond the crosses and beads, beyond the First Communion cards and Confirmation sponsorship, I will impart to the godsquidget the knowledge that faith is not easy or prescriptive. It is as much about her individual relationship with God as it is about her connection to our chosen religious tradition. Both can be fraught, but both can be fruitful, too, if approached with clear eyes and an open heart.

I hope my example is one of discernment and activity -- that I do not blindly or idly accept my faith, but fight to understand and live it. I want my faith -- and hers -- to come from a place of honesty and integrity. When people ask her why she believes what she believes, whatever it may turn out to be, I want her to know the answer and I want it to be wholly, authentically hers.

Above all, I want my godsquidget to grasp that she is desired beyond measure by a force greater than her mom, her dad, her brother, even her godmother. (Though I intend to give God a run for His money.) It might be years before she can articulate it, but I want her to feel in her bone marrow from the very start that she is loved.

These are the boxes I want to check for my goddaughter. Now where's the form for that?

Prayer #259: Prayer for a Godparent-to-Be

Divine Parent,

My puny human self will never live up to You. Yet I've been tasked with trying, so that another little soul down here can come to know she is part of something greater than herself.

I hope she finds community. I hope she finds wisdom. Comfort. Peace. I hope she finds Your mind-blowing, no-holds-barred, what-did-I-do-to-deserve-this love.

In the meantime, I promise to reflect that love in my puny human way and hold her hand until she's ready to walk to You on her own.

Amen.