Project 40 // Month One

I turn forty this year. You may or may not regard forty as something to remark over but considering that I refused to call my thirtieth birthday for what it was and instead insisted upon calling it my twenty-ten birthday, forty is something I’m taking notice of. It’s landing on me so very much differently than my thirtieth did, though. Whereas that one came rolling in like the giant stone boulder on Indiana Jones, this one is every bit as fluttery as a single feather, drifting from the sky.

There were at least a dozen ideas floating around in my head–how I wanted to honor the occasion. Some were elaborate, like giving $40 to 40 people and telling them to spend it kindly. Others were too cliche, like list 40 things I’m grateful for. In the end, I decided against capitalizing on the round number (see also: I couldn’t come up with anything kitschy that moved me) and settled on a casual, meandering approach. One thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to spend twelve whole months reflecting on this to-date life of mine. At the end of this calendar year, I want to look back and be able to see a bread crumb trail of moments and memories. I want the day itself to mean less than the sum of the year surrounding it. I want to etch in the fact that who I am this year is not a solvable equation represented by a number on a page but more a graph plotted with the most distinctly poignant highs and the most achingly desperate, woeful lows.

I talked to Gramps the other day and when I hung up the phone I cried. He’s lived twice my lifetimes; he’s eighty. In many ways, he’s the same now as he was all those years ago when he teased with the wrassling song.

Sissy is a friend of mine. Me and her wrassle all the time.

Same in that he’s an excellent conversationalist and that if I get him going on certain things (like the current state of political correctness) the tone of his voice alone betrays his facial expression–an indignant grimace that a sketch artist and I as a team could perfectly illustrate. But he’s different in many ways, too. At eighty, he’s lived a lifetime marked by all those things that bring us joy and many of the things that grow us both older and weary. Very pragmatically he discusses the matter of time left to live as it relates to one’s quality of life. He speaks of logistical arrangements and peppers the conversation with words like will and memorial. I understand that these are among the thoughts that sit with him now but the neon sign quality of them just really pisses me off. Not at him, of course, but at the realization that he won’t always be there to pick up when I call. What he matter-of-factly shrugs off as the circle of life, I crumple beneath the weight of.

So there’s that.

But there’s more. Other.

I have this friend, Heather, who–without fail–knows just what to say. Do you have one of those? I am not that friend. I wish I was. I feel so crippled when someone entrusts me with a heavy moment or a broken heart or really anything that requires the right words. I never have them. It doesn’t matter how long I have to think of them–they don’t come. If it’s someone I love then I’ll nestle up shoulder to shoulder and carry the weight right along with them but they might never know it because the words catch like moths in my throat and for fear of sounding trite I might say nothing at all. I pray instead, because prayer is my super power. This friend of mine is really the superest superhero among us though because she does both and she does them so well. Together with Jesus, Grams and my husband, she has carried me through so many of those achingly desperate, woeful lows. They four are my life pallbearers.

These are the January graph points that stood out to me: Gramps and Heather. On the surface each can be so easily classified as either high or low. But it’s never so simple as that, is it? Without forty years worth of love lived out, I wouldn’t shed any tears over Gramps. And without the pierce of pain shared, Heather’s words would be weightless. It’s that. It’s that razor-sharp line bled over by moments too stunningly complex to classify. That’s what I want this slice of lifeline to record. That’s what I want to remember about forty–all year long.


  1. Goodness, you’re gorgeous! And you look younger than most 30-year-olds.

    So glad that this milestone birthday is coming up “as fluttery as a feather.”

    P.S. Your skin is positively glowing. Radiant in the best possible way. Will you please do a post about your beauty routine and favorite cosmetic products these days?

    1. You’re too kind to me–but I’ll gladly take it. Thank you. That indeed sounds like a fun blog post to write. I’ll jot that down. Thanks for the idea!

  2. your words, knowledge, insight and life experiences are always helpful. you have such an amazing way of sharing them with friends as well as strangers! you make others feel like they are not alone even though they are not with you…but desperately wish they were. you have made a huge impact in my life, you allowed me experience with your daughter that laid the groundwork for my own life…who would have known…and when the time came you led me through honestly. i appreciate you, you have always had the words for me!! 40 isn’t as scary as it seems and your taking a wonderful approach to it. love you friend.

    1. Oh, my dear friend. I just told your story to my small group from church the other night. To this day I still find it to be one of the most beautiful examples of God’s plan lived out. He was preparing you all along, you just didn’t know it. And clearly He prepared you well because that little man is so loved. We miss you guys so much! I hope you’ll be able to make the trip south when Cass graduates high school. That’s coming right up, believe it or not. Sigh.

      Thank you for these encouraging words. You always have them. Love you!

  3. First of all I thought the word was “rassel” but maybe not. I sang that to Torri & Kennedy too!
    One of the unfortunate things that has happened in the last 50-60 years is the way the American language has slipped into the gutter. When I was a boy, and even later, most people had been raised in a certain manner in that there were words not used in common discourse. Although they knew these words they weren’t used in mixed company or even much in any company. I think people thought more of themselves and their fellow human beings than to have to use such words to explain themselves.
    I referring to your use of “pissed off”. Apparently it’s now a perfectly acceptable form of being “unhappy,irked,dismayed etc. I’m sure it’s acceptable or you wouldn’t use it.
    That’s minor when put beside the F word and other body part words but as I’ve said before it’s a different world than it was even 40 years ago.
    That’s my sermon and I trust it will be just as effective and well received as most preachers from the pulpit.

    1. Have you seen Mad Men, Gramps? It’s a show about advertising agency men in the 60’s. This comment reminds me of it. I don’t know how accurate the show portrays that time period was but I suspect it to be fairly realistic. These guys were such colossal jerks of human beings but they would get their feathers all in a ruffle by the most odd things. When you said, “I think people thought more of themselves and their fellow human beings than to have to use such words to explain themselves” it made me think of that because you speak of that gone-by time period as if it were this unicorn of a respectful society in which people were honorable and had so much integrity that they would never use a mildly inappropriate word, yet they smoked like chimneys and drank like fish and treated their wives as if they were disposable. I’m not trying to imply that you personally can be counted among that population but rather of the era in general and what I consider to be its oddly-misplaced values. It’s interesting to me how different generations value different qualities.

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