This is thirty eight


I loved our This is Childhood series this winter.  I loved writing This Is Ten about my first child, my pioneer, my grace, my Grace.

I keep thinking of things that describe my now, and thought I would write my own grown-up version.

So: this is thirty eight.

Thirty eight is solidly in the middle of my life.  Thirty eight is realizing that there are likely as many years behind me as there are ahead.  It is acknowledging that life is no longer a green field, that certain doors are closed, that some choices are irrevocable, and that many of the big what-ifs that haunted my childhood have been answered.  Thirty eight is also realizing that despite these answers, there are far, far more new questions.

Thirty eight is new lines at the sides of my eyes and mouth.  From smiling, maybe, but still.

Thirty eight is wearing my wedding ring all the time though my engagement ring rarely.  Thirty eight is not knowing which band was my wedding band and which my husband gave me on the day our daughter was born, because they are identical.  I don’t think it matters.  Thirty eight is wearing my mother’s wedding ring for a time, when she was unable to.  Thirty eight is knowing that one of my favorite pictures from our long-ago wedding shows that I wore my grandmother’s ring on my right hand when I walked down the aisle.

Thirty eight is realizing that certain shorts and skirts are now just too short.  Thirty eight is wondering if this is the summer to put away the bikinis.

Thirty eight is thirteen years of marriage.  It is knowing all the ways that marriage is both less and more than I thought it was, when I walked into a church wearing white and hearing thunder.  Less score-keeping, less candlelight, less drama.  More small acts of kindness, more forgiveness, more abiding.  Fewer flowers, but more cups of coffee made exactly how I like them, without being asked, brought to me in bed in the morning.

Thirty eight is realizing that my lifetime passion for peonies probably has something to do with their life span, which is as short as it is spectacular.  It can’t be an accident that I love best of all the flowers that blaze more brightly and most briefly.

Thirty eight is not having any more grandparents.  It is hearing about the illness and death of my friends’ parents.  It is going to funerals, and also christenings, more often than weddings.  Thirty eight was leaving my injured mother’s side before surgery a couple of years ago to run home to my daughter, who was crying that I wasn’t spending enough time with her.  Thirty eight is the middle place.

Thirty eight is knowing who your friends are, for real, for certain.  It is understanding that though there will be a small handful of true native speakers, it is okay for many friends to access only certain parts of you.  These friendships, while different, can offer great joy, deep laughter, and tremendous companionship.  Thirty eight is still learning that not everybody will like you, no matter what you do.

Thirty eight is drinking homemade green juice and Diet Coke most days.  It is developing a taste for kombucha, and drinking coffee with coconut milk and xylitol.  It is drinking wine still, but not as much, because I’d rather sleep and I’ve realized that alcohol interferes with that.

Thirty eight is finding that each year she grows more sensitive, more aware of life’s beauty and pain, more attuned to the world around her.  Thirty eight cries every single day, and laughs that much too (see: lines on my face).

Thirty eight is in the heart of the grand love affair that is motherhood, both smitten by and exasperated by her daughter and son. Thirty eight is watching, awestruck, as these children develop into people in whom bloom traits uncomfortably familiar and absolutely foreign in equal measure.  Thirty eight reads Harry Potter aloud, packs lunches, drives to and from soccer and hockey and baseball practices and games (see photo), plans surprise adventure outings, and can still make a bruised knee feel better with a kiss.

Thirty eight is its own kind of phosphorescence.  Different than ten’s ephemeral incandescence, but no less dazzling and no less fleeting.  Just like ten, just like life itself, thirty eight is bewilderingly beautiful, maddeningly confusing, achingly bittersweet, and vanishingly transient.


104 thoughts on “This is thirty eight”

  1. Beautiful Lindsey! So well written and loving. I have struggled with 40 this year, and this reminded me that fortunately at this stage in my life I have gained a lot of wisdom and lost a lot of drama. Thank you.

  2. I turned 38 this year too! For me, it’s realizing how much younger I look in those wedding pictures (from 11 years ago now!). Though I like to think of myself as only about a third of the way through life right now {even though I know that doesn’t quite work mathematically… 40 will be midlife!). Beautiful post (again!)

  3. I will actually turn 39 in August!
    I thought of myself in midlife starting at 35 (also when Jung says middle age starts!)
    Thanks for your comment. Love knowing of others alongside me.

  4. Wow. You once again blow me away. Beautiful. For what it’s worth, for me there hasn’t been much difference between 38 and 46, but that’s because my kids are young and I don’t have a spouse, but you write so beautifully about being in the middle of life caring for youngsters and aging parents while your own mind and body are both changing and settling in. I always love how beautifully and simply you seem to capture such complex emotions. LOVED this!

  5. Beautifully captured thoughts here. At 35 I can relate to many of your experiences, but some are still on the horizon for me. I think what’s most beautiful is that you chose to acknowledge a non-milestone age. We all spend the majority of our lives moving between milestones, so I find the documentation of those in-between phases to be woefully overlooked. Thanks for this lovely reflection. (And I love that Matt brings you coffee in bed each morning, and that you recognize how very sweet that is.)

  6. Love this, Lindsey. I’ll join you in the ranks of thirty eight just over a week from now. Some similarities, some differences, all of which remind me that thirty eight is a good year–regardless of the circumstances that surround us, because just being here at all is really something to be proud of (for me, anyway). And that makes me want to notice the little and big things about life that make it worth being here for.

    I can SO relate about marriage… “Fewer flowers, but more cups of coffee made exactly how I like them, without being asked, brought to me in bed in the morning.” I’m marveling because as I read this, my wife was walking out of the bedroom after having dropped off a perfectly made cup of coffee to me.

    Thank you for the reminder of how meaningful life is by sharing yours so beautifully. xoxo

  7. I’m a 70+admirer, who knows you will love reading this when you are 76.
    Thank you for all the smiles and tears reading your blog have brought me.
    You constantly remind me to be mindful.

  8. Not sure I have ever read anything with which I resonated more than your line with “the grand affair…of motherhood”.
    Thank you for these words!

  9. I’m 38 too, Lindsey. You’ve captured it perfectly. I feel neither old nor young. Not at the beginning or the end. Aware of the fragility of life, but not afraid of it.

  10. Thank you so much. I really, really appreciate hearing that you’re reading and that my words are resonating. xox

  11. Thank you!! I’m looking at some right now as I write … but already mourning their inevitable passing, which has already begun. xo

  12. I’ve championed the thirties…all eight of them so far. I find I like myself more and more, so I’m anticipating that what Oprah says about the 40s and 50s are going to be true. Fingers crossed. Thanks for a stunning post.

  13. WOW — this is the first time I’ve read your blog, and I’ve never read anything that rang more true. I’ll be 38 this year, and I’m going to print this now and post it on my fridge. Amazingly true for me, down to my soul

    (I have a son and daughter too, but younger…4.5 and 2.5…no sports practices — yet).

  14. Lindsey, I love this. I have always had a fascination with watching those around me who are just a few years ahead of where I am (maybe because I’m not a very good “five year plan” type of person -ha). In high school I peeked on college and wondered about it; in my early twenties I’d watch engaged and young married couples with awe. Before babies, I took mental notes on pregnant friends, and now with young ones at home and the very beginnings of a writing career I look at a handful of wise women around me and imagine life like theirs in a few years. So you being five years older than me, with a marriage five years older than mine, and an oldest child also five years older than my own, allows me to peek ahead at 38. Mine will look different, of course, but I appreciate the glimpse. And your lovely words, always. 🙂 -Sarah

  15. Lovely post. “I feel neither old nor young”. . . I will be 57 next week and this is exactly how I feel. After reading this piece I decided part of my birthday will be spent reflecting on 57. Thank you.

  16. I love this. I turned 40 in April and have been thinking about writing something similar but it has felt too big. This is perfect. While I relate to so much of this, the one that has appeared in my life suddenly is the fact that wine keeps me awake at night. How unfair is that!?

  17. This post was so moving. Reading your words makes me feel so much emotion, and frankly, connected. I adore your writing!

  18. Oh, happy to know of a fellow born-in-the-70s parent out there. Thank you for saying that – so glad you relate. xox

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