Photo credit Kelly Sauer.
Growing up, I’d lie on the driveway with my best friend Marie, looking up at the Carolina sky. We’d call out years into the future and figure out how old we’d be and describe what we’d be like then, how our lives would look. I don’t remember if either of us ever called out 2012, but I do remember the time we vetted 2007. That was the year I turned 40.
Today, I’m 45. I’m 45 years old, so you can hardly expect me to remember all the details of my 10-year-old’s mental portrait of a 40-year-old me. I can tell you that my own mother wasn’t even 40 yet and my grandmothers were absolutely ancient to me, somewhere into their early 60s. This left me with pretty much zero empirical data on which to base my vision -- so it was all hunch and extrapolation -- about as accurate as that same 10-year-old’s notion of romantic love, which at the time consisted of Shaun Cassidy’s concert-dripping hair draping over one of his gorgeous dark brown eyes as he looked down with the other into the front row, spied me and immediately jumped off the stage, grabbed my hand and Da Doo Ron Ronned out of the arena all the way to the nearest wedding chapel.
I had the notion in my head somehow that 40-year-old Megan would be, well... old, and pointedly maternal in aura, with hair as coarse and grey as Brillo, round of face and body, wrinkled and worn. As I tried to feel my 40-year-old-me feelings and think her thoughts, what came to me was a sense of surety, of establishment, of knowing. Having married Shaun and born his children and provided a shoulder to cry on when The Hardy Boys didn’t get picked up for a fourth season, and then somewhere squeezing in a powerful, memorable career as The President of Something Huge and Important Involving the Stock Market from which I’d already retired, my life and times would have by forty made me into someone firm and sure and permanent and impervious to the shifting world around her.
I’m here to remind you that at 45, I’m not Mrs. Shaun Cassidy. I’m not any of those other things, either, and OMG AM I SO RELIEVED ABOUT THAT. Because how boring was she, completely flat and devoid of the ever-evolving, ponderous wonder and always-hopeful potential of the real me?
Also? Her hair was hideous.
I spent this past weekend at a writer’s retreat with some precious heart-friends of all ages, lo, even way down in their 20s (this meant I had to keep my stupid bra on all weekend) and as a few of us sat ruminating on life and love and the happy-angsty burden of writing about it all, a sage old 30-something shared with some of the younger girls a thought I’ve thought a million times, “Yeah. I’ve been about three different people since I was in my twenties.”
And well... Yeah. Me too.
But I had to add to her very astute observation that while I’ve been three different people too, lived three completely different lives or more since I lay on the driveway with my childhood bestie, there's this critical caveat: Deep in the core of me, I’ve always and ever still been just me. I still look out the eyes of that same 10-year-old and see things from exactly and only my own unique and individual place in this world. I’m still full of wonder and doubt and hope and discovery and despair. I'm still carrying the same innate fears and pain and desperation to be loved and unwavering hope and creativity and naivete and wit.
Even though life has never for a moment stopped giving to or taking away from this girl, by God's grace I've responded by growing and changing and becoming new. Even through the many long, terrible years of denying my own truth and toiling to be all that I'm just not, everything I bloomed and became, good and bad, managed to bloom right out of the epicenter of that original me God first set in motion. Even when I've tried to escape her, I've felt deeply His created, gut-level Megan - the girl I’m pretty sure now that I’ll never stop being - in every joyous laugh and broken sob. And I may stormily blame the sobs on her and criticize and question God about her tragic flaws and ineptitude, but I've also learned to bear each joyful laugh back to her and Him as conciliatory reminder and reward for never giving up on one another.
I hope I still have two or three more people left in me before my true self meets her crazy, wise Maker, (I’m sorry I called God crazy, but if you knew me, really knew the real me, you’d see I’m totally right about this. I’m living testament to His completely inexplicable ways.) I hope to have much more given and taken away, I hope for many more broken sobs and joyous laughter.
And now more than ever, at 45, I fervently hope that through it all, I'll just keep being Me.