before I ever knew you
And now we've come full circle.
I'm a storyteller. I said it last fall, in a post weaved through the crappy Snow Patrol song that is somehow marking time around the beginning of it all. I may not do it well, or properly, but it's never so much about the story as it is about the telling, the things I learn about myself as I pour words onto a blank page. Hoping for nothing more than to dig through the tumbling waterfall of adverbs and commas and murk in order to unearth the mirror I'd like to hold up to my soul. I've learned over the last few months, maybe in the hardest possible ways, that sharing my story is what creates forward motion. It's how I grow, and to hell with anyone who judges me for what I have to say or how I choose to say it. I'm not going to stop being who I am. And who I am is ready, now, to weave an intricate thread through this particular story, of how I've arrived into my stunning and startling destiny, to tell the tale that the universe has unrolled in front of me. Who I am is proud to share every over-adjective'd detail about how I have, finally, crashed back into song. (I think I was about twenty-seven minutes pregnant here).
I firmly believe that there are an infinite number of ways that we, as human beings, can find meaning in life. I've been fortuitous enough to explore the outer reaches of myself, of the planet, of my physical, mental, and (sigh) emotional limits. I've dropped everything and gone to France to eat cake and cry about how hard and stupid mountain biking is, raced 112 miles on the wrong side of the road, booked post-crash flights to Hawaii to swim with sea turtles and my best friend, natch. I've climbed up mountains, flung myself out of perfectly good airplanes, been run over by the training partner on my wheel, eaten the worm, hit on 17. I've collected a half-dozen degrees in my irritating quest to deposit myself in rooms where I am the dumbest statistics bonehead for miles, gone to ridiculous lengths for people that I love, made the grand gesture, boarded the plane, written the letters, driven thousands of miles, continued to hope even after I thought all was positively lost. So I'm definitely not one of those people who believes that having a baby is the only, or even the most important, way to find meaning. Finding meaning in life can come from anywhere and everywhere, and the astonishing and magical thing is that sometimes, we get to decide. Not always are we blessed enough to turn up with handfuls of what our secret heart pines for, deep in the wistful night, but there are moments when the universe lines up the dominos and we can choose to either knock 'em down, or instead, back away into a lifetime of regret. And while I am filled to the unequivocal brim with massive, complicated emotions about being pregnant, the one that consistently boils to the top is: lucky. I am incredibly fortunate that the stars have aligned in such a way that I can seize, with both hands, this effulgent and intimidating new adventure, a spine-tingling marvel of providential timing. So here we go again, off to be swept along by the motion of the song, for maybe the last time, as the circle gently closes, if our hearts are never broken, there's no joy in the mending.
A week or so after I found out I was pregnant, I went out for my normal Sunday long run. I hoped, as I've found again and again, that the routine of my life would comfort me, calm me. I was still reeling with shock, if we're being honest, and I think we should be, after all our years together here. It wasn't an accident. I've been sharing this freely, to the hilarious delight of my swimming friends who have now heard me say at least seven thousand times: I'm pregnant! On purpose! Pregnancy at forty is more often a miracle, not a mistake. That doesn't mean that watching those pink lines appear wasn't one of the most terrifying moments of my entire life. I've gone over one hundred miles an hour on a motorcycle, sailed weightless across the sky between the two trapeze, moved thousands of miles away without knowing a soul, even kept four golden retrievers leashed when a bunny ran across the sidewalk three inches in front of us, and I am here to say, that positive test scared the absolute shit out of me. I couldn't put together a complete sentence for hours. I think I forgot how to blink, every sarcastic synapse I have short-circuited at once, how ironic and truly devastating is it that at the precise moment you could most use a hearty shot of whiskey, you probably shouldn't, unless you want to build some sort of FAS monster with three eyeballs or a prehensile tail (I promise to keep it to two fat belly bump shots, max).
So I did what I always do when life turns upside-down, and I went for a run. I think I ran somewhere around ten miles that morning. I shuffled the "new music of the week" playlist on my way out the door, and the first song that came up was a single by Joshua Radin called, Better Life. I hit the rewind button again and again, letting it roll on repeat for just one line, I hear the rhythm of your heartbeat, running through me like a drum...there's a better life here. Until I arrived back home, settled and square, maybe not exactly ready, but firmly decided that I still wanted the future that I thought I wanted even though it might not ever look anything like the future I thought I wanted, and if you can follow that bumpy train of thought, a round of margaritas for the table. The physiological reality is that I had to decide if it was more important to do this now, to accept the mischievous good fortune from the universe on my own, or to roll an entirely different set of dice and hope that I might stumble into someone else's traditional picket-fenced fairytale before my egg factory shuts down for good. And any ironman athlete I've ever coached is laughing right now, reciting along with me, because as we all know, hope is not a strategy! (Plus that second option really just makes me want to vomit). It's the same choice I've made a thousand times. I can choose to sit here, sullen and small, and get the shit kicked out of me, let the bullies of the world run me ragged until I'm cowering in the corner, trapped in an unhappy existence. Or I can take a deep breath and leap, once again, into my fierce and beautiful fate. Into the light. So I am doing this, now, and just for me, and there's mostly gratitude and only a little bit of honest grief in saying so. My path might look different, but it doesn't mean I'm lost, or ashamed, or afraid of the truth. I am forty, I am pregnant, I am goddamned fucking thrilled about it, and this little one and I (and my herd of golden retrievers) are going to have the most dazzling, radiant, beaming life that I can build, deliver, and unfold forward for all of us, together. I'll tell you that I loved you, before I ever knew you, 'cause I loved the simple thought of you.
I hope you'll pardon my French (again) for a moment, although if you won't, you're definitely in the wrong place, but either way, pregnancy is pretty fucking weird. I remember exactly where I was, one Sunday evening, when a very specific craving for the cherry-flavored bubbly water hit me like a sledgehammer. Speaking of sledgehammers, my ridiculously enormous and painful boobs feel like I've been smashed by a 2x4, they wake me up in the night when I roll over on them (WHY). There was a 6-day period of time where I ate almost nothing except for the pre-cut-up stupidly-expensive watermelon they sell in the plastic container at Whole Foods. Everything between my sternum and my kneecaps feels kinda....jammed, but stretched. I've been completely exhausted since the first week, which didn't make sense, because the blastocyst was the size of half a poppy seed or whatever, but also, it made total sense because I was manufacturing a central nervous system which actually does seem like a fair bit of work. The baby loved running for a while in the earliest days and kinda hated being on the bike, a bizarre flipped switch which made me idly comment to a few people, okay, so, I'm not actually sure this child is mine.
I know that it will be hard. It's already been ridiculously hard, and scary, in a dozen ways I never would have anticipated. But I'm not here to talk about those things today. Today I'm here to talk about joy. It's easy to romanticize it now, while this little peanut is still snuggled safely inside of me, and I know the reality is nothing more than sleepless nights and endless barf and having my nipples shredded and being convinced in every moment that I am royally screwing up and there will never be enough therapy in the world to make up for my imperfections, my inadequacies, the infinite number of ways I will let my tiny human down. All I can do is my very best, and I know that it won't be enough, but it's all I have. All I am is all I have. (Last one, I swear, it's just totally insane that there's a person in there).
I thought about pulling everyone's favorite social media heist, which is to say nothing for months and then turn up with an infant, hey, you guys, look what I found in my uterus today! I'm all for the mind-bending shocks. But I said it here, not too long ago, that not wanting to talk about my life out loud is a red flag that my values and actions are out of whack. And I do want to talk about this out loud. If I'm going to force everyone to listen to months of whining about how my life is crap and I've collapsed under the strain, the least I can do is let a little bit of joy rip to two million of my favorite internet strangers not to mention the double fistful of laughing friends who all immediately texted to say, wow, you held out a lot longer than I thought you would! And rip it did. I was astonished by the amount of love and enthusiasm, the breathtaking support and staggering delight that boomeranged back to me. From all over the world, from people I haven't talked to in years, and I am charmed by, and grateful for, every ounce of it, because there is just so much joy in this goddamned mending. Everyone opened their arms wide to me, to my humble happiness, and I've never experienced anything so sunny and lighthearted in my entire life. Sharing this thrilling news seems to have unintentionally flipped a hive switch of some sort, and it turned on the euphoria of the collective, a light shining ever so brightly, bigger and grander than any of us. It's one more thing that makes it real, and that is why I'm here. To rejoice with laughter. To plow through life with my earnest and reverent heart at the wheel, to realize that optimism won out in the end, to acknowledge that hope never really dies, it just sometimes needs space to heal before depositing you gracefully into the next enchanting moment of whatever may be your latest, and most magnificent, adventure.
Life is an impatient holding pattern right now as I dwell in the calm before this most ferocious and fantastic storm. I've hunkered down into quiet days of walking dogs and sleeping like a champ and taking a million ridiculous photos of my stomach and stuffing down all the vegetables (and tootsie rolls) that I can tolerate. I'm working my tail off to fill my work pipeline before productivity goes on a major bender and doing every little superstitious thing I can imagine to try and keep this child inside me as long as I possibly can. And every night, once I close the laptop away and change into my stretchy white pajamas, dotted with stars, I pull down the shades, crank up the music, and we dance to a lifetime of my own personal greatest hits. We started with Terry Kath, because we had to; Chicago, The Who, Journey, every moment of the Doobies, Quiet Riot and AC/DC and Steely Dan, I'm not planning on raising a snob over here. The Allman Brothers, Todd Rundgren, Billy Joel and both sides of Clapton, I squashed some Rory Gallagher in there between the Eagles and Bob Dylan, all the old ballads of my life, Dan Fogelberg and Extreme and the Bee Gees and Peter Gabriel and Diana Krall and days of James Taylor until my heart just broke and hell, good music is good music is good music and we're working through every minute of it. And it's probably unsurprising that a song already belongs to the baby, or maybe the baby already belongs to a song. The last thing we do is to turn the lights down soft and low and press play on the Andy Grammer, because if the man gets one thing right, it is this. I've been lost, I've been found, but I know who I am now, I am yours. I am yours, now and always, wouldn't dream to be anything more.
Whatever else is true, little one, I am yours. I can't wait for you to come wailing into the world. You'll probably be spitting out watermelon seeds or belching cherry seltzer (sorry) or singing, that deaf, dumb, and blind kid SURE PLAYS A MEAN PINBALL at the top of your lungs. You'll definitely tear me in half with that nose of yours on the way out, or maybe you'll surprise us and come quietly, all wide and brilliant blue eyes blinking around at the abrupt weirdness of becoming alive. Maybe you'll play piano with those long fingers, or fall in love with cycling, or decide to paint houses or study time travel or simply just drive me bonkers hiding frogs under the bed. Maybe you'll shave your head, or swim a million laps by my side after so many spent nestled under my heart, maybe we'll have cinnamon raisin toast together every morning in the peaceful quiet (this mama needs her caffeinated coffee back and for real). Maybe you'll love bugs, maybe you'll hate the rain, maybe you'll read books under the covers with a flashlight until the wee hours of the morning, just like I did. I don't know who you will be, and it doesn't so much matter who you are, it only matters that you are here (and I'm probably going to write about every minute of it, as long as we both shall live). Just like it only matters that I am here now, that I have found my way; ten thousand angels have lit my pathway, surrounded me, and made my way straight.
There is one more thing that matters, and listen carefully, because this is maybe the most important thing I know. The world can be confusing and challenging and heartbreaking. It is easy to feel like you've lost your way, and I've learned that sometimes the intention of what I truly mean gets lost between the saying and the hearing (you can blame too many adjectives or maybe emotions for that). But from the very first incredulous moments of this wild ride that we are now on together, we have been guarded, cherished, carried forward by the infinite energy of an unstoppable force. I was free falling through the open sky, 'til you smiled at me, and you saved my life, and I knew I was put here to love you. Life is about love, it's the phenomenally important legacy that we leave behind us when we move on. Give it freely, like you have nothing to lose, launch it into the sky, let your untamed heart guide you above all, because that's what life is hungry for, the pure and intoxicating freedom of love. Hear me now, and pay attention, so I don't have to get my BFF the universe to smash you in the brain with a piano. I'll tell you that I loved you, before I ever knew you. I know you. I adore you; you can set your watch to it, build a house on it, bet your life on it. I belong to you, darling. I have since the start, this is bigger than the both of us; I am yours, for now, and for always. And you are, forever, mine.