When Dave asked me a while ago -- you're turning 40, it's a new decade, what are you thinking about....? I honestly hadn't given that particular set of transitions much thought. I didn't dread them. I embrace rites of passage, publicly shared celebrations, but how did this moment of betweenness shed light on the past decade, or the first forty years? How does that understanding shape my vision of the future?
I have to be honest and say that a great deal of "growing up" for me -- of truly inheriting and embodying adulthood -- has been about *disappointment*. The disappointments of career and work, the small betrayals of friends and family - accidental and intentional. The disappointments (mostly) of personal inadequacy. The disappointed feeling that everything you thought was promised in early life was misunderstood or not really promised at all.
But disappointment isn't really the right word. Disappointment doesn't have enough nuance, complexity and subtlety to describe the actual experience that I'm talking about.
Because I am talking about something that is tinged with sadness. But it is not an emotion that is defined by sadness. It isn't even mostly sad. It's a kind of reckoning that entails seeing things with clearer eyes and seeing in those things BOTH the surprisingly smaller dimensions than you expected AND considerably more beauty, complexity, surprise and hope than you might have thought possible.
I said to Dave and my other friends at the little cafe, "the last decade has been about recognizing how much smaller the scale of my life would be than I thought it would be....and how much better that small scale would be than I could have imagined."
A while ago, I wrote about an idea my friend Connie has been passionate about -- a renaissance of the small.
We live in a time where it is hard to imagine good that doesn't get big. We work in worlds where scale is rewarded. We consume stories that are distributed to us through massive industries of copying and transformation. We recognize that things are valuable or meaningful or worthwhile once they are popular, well-known or huge.
And while we simulatneously recognize that there is a great deal of untruth in this way of thinking about the world, it is hard to imagine an alternative.
I am learning to embrace what my life is. Where I am. How things are for me. In all it's smallness, imperfection, disappointment, and beauty. I am grateful.