This is Forty
I’m writing, and that’s what’s important. I have put it off and put it off and put it off, and the thing that plagues me incessantly is that I just don’t write enough. I absolutely LOVE writing, and I truly feel as though I will be unfulfilled as a person until I become a legit published author. I kind of forgot about that goal there for a while, but it started to scratch at my brain like a gnat with a tiny spork. It bore a tunnel through my cerebellum until it T-boned my skull, and it’s gently rapping at the back of my forehead. Silly writing goals. Scrape. Scrape. Scrape. I’ve made new year’s resolutions to write every day or every week. I write stuff and throw it out. I write stuff and find it in a file later and wonder what the hell I was thinking. I write stuff and think I could absolutely be a best-selling author, spending time away in a cabin, cranking out more and more authentic, captivating and recommend-to-your-friends-as-a-must-read original pieces. Then, I don’t write anything. I don’t write anything for a while. Rinse. Repeat. I mean, why can’t Kathy Bates be MY cheerleader and help ME get that novel cranked out, you know? I just need a mentor. A motivator. Also, time. But how much freaking time do you need, Kelly Stone? I turned 40 years old on Tuesday. Forty. Holy cow, Kelly, HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU NEED? ANOTHER FORTY YEARS?!? Scrape. Scrape. My life goal is to break 80, so now I’m halfway there! This 40-year milestone is extremely exciting to me, and I am motivated to be and do the things I said I was gonna be and do when I grew up. But I am grown up now. I. Am. A. Grown Up. *deep breaths* So, what am I going to do with all this growed-upness? I’m gonna write. I’m gonna write well, and I’m gonna write shit. Some of it will be funny. Some of it will be sad (because it really is traumatic and sad), and some of it will be so horribly awfully written that it’s terribly sad just trying to read. This piece here might just be one of those examples. I’ve got some stuff to work through, and I find that some level of public accountability (and to some degree, scrutiny) is extremely helpful in lighting a fire under my tuchus and keeping my ambition burning. I’m not writing this for you right now. This is for me. I owe it to myself to click away on these keys and get it out. Whatever *it* is. *It* needs to come out. This is a start… However, I forget who I am. I forget who I’ve been and who I could be. I’ve lived a lot of lives and tried on many personae in various attempts at being popular, to make relationships work, to be more like the person *you* want me to be, to try to stay sane, to try to be funnier, to be smarter, to be more nurturing, to, to… I forget that I received an award in 6th grade as the most outstanding English student. I forget that I received similar awards in high school and that I was the editor of my school’s enigmatic literary magazine. I remember that I was able to test out of my college English courses due to my great AP scores, and I remember that I still took more English classes in college as electives because I just loved that stuff. I also remember my first college English teacher giving me bad grades. I had never made bad grades on papers, and even when I approached her to gain feedback, she would tell me that the grades of C and D that she kept giving me were actually “good grades” and that I was doing just fine. I remember feeling the wind knocked out of my sails after that class. Then I got sucked into writing papers for classes that didn’t really require me to be creative or inspire me to dig in and write about the things on my mind. It was all a reward and punishment system of getting everything checked off lists. Take this class; do these assignments; read these chapters; meet deadlines; keep finding jobs to pay your bills to just scrape by; keep doing the things to stay on “the path”. The routines and busy-ness of linear living made it easy to suppress my own smoldering desires and helped me slip into a forgetful fog that quelled my love of writing. Gosh, I even forgot that I’d started an advice column for my junior high newspaper. That just came to me. Scrape. Scrape. Okay, what I was doing there was that part of the writing process called “madwoman”. I’m warming up and getting my sea legs. I’ve got something to say. I just don’t have that fully formed yet. But I want to get there. And I will. I have entered a new decade—a new era! I am a fucking grown ass woman now, and I’m going to be the writer that I once aspired to be. I’m going to do other things too, of course, like surf a ton more and eat all the cheeses and exotic fruits and wear shoes less and mix textiles and prints more. Yes, I looked up membership to the Red Hat Society, and yes, I’m very interested. More on that later. But first, I’m writing. It feels good. It’s feels really damn good. Scrape. Scrape. Thanks for making it this far with me. I went to the beach to celebrate my birthday with surfing and camping and eating BEACH STEAK, and I came away utterly inspired. My goal was to be a beach bum. I just wanted to simply exist on the beach for a whole weekend and surf when the waves looked inviting and eat when I wanted to snack and nap when the sun sucked all of the awake out of me. And I did. I savored two sunrises, two sunsets and all of the clouds and tides in between. The waves beat the hell outta me, and I hurt my shoulder. I wondered, “IS THIS WHAT FORTY IS?” Cuz it hurt. Ugh. It still does. I’m not sure if it was the sleeping on the ground in a sandy tent or fighting the unforgiving waves as a novice surfer, but damn, my shoulder hurt(s). Every attempt I’d made at standing up on the board, failed miserably. I even choked on a wave that extracted vomit straight out of my throat in one swift and continuous motion. I woke up on the last morning and devoured every single ounce of the peek-a-boo sunrise that bopped through the giant clouds. I stared at the ocean as I took my morning pee, and I let it know that I was going to ride it before I returned home. I began preparing the percolator for my coffee-fueled girl-power surf action that I was determined to achieve, and I snacked on dark sweet grapes, looking out over the gulf as I waited for the pot to boil. That’s when I saw her. I didn’t see her clearly. She was far away on the beach, there in the surf. I squinted to far-see her a touch more clearly, and I thought “seriously, is THIS forty?!” But no, my vision was fine. I just needed to focus and adjust my gaze over the bright horizon. That’s when I realized what I was watching. There was an older woman, there all by herself, and SHE WAS DANCING! DANCING! I stared, and I couldn’t look away. She faced the sun with big open arms over her head and spun around and high kicked! Then…sashay, sashay, spin, kick, arms pushed out, pulled in, tiny little back steps, pirouette, back to boldly facing the sun… It was magical. I’m serious. MAGIC! I immediately grabbed my flip phone and reflexively pulled open the camera to capture the energy and pizazz of this fearless woman dancing her heart out on the beach. I put it away. She was truly dancing like no one was watching, and no one needed to be watching, not through my social media at least. Saunter, saunter, then left arm, right arm swinging alternately as she covered more distance. The surf of this beach became the longest and biggest stage I’d ever seen performed upon at this point in my life, and I welled up with tears as I reveled in her carefree and uninhibited charismatic dancing. She authentically did not give a flying fuck about what anyone else thought, and she was dancing her truth. In that moment, I knew that the universe was smiling on me and offering an example of what’s to come. Could I grow up to be more like her? Could I be so passionate? So true to myself? Is this forty? I beamed. I pulled my phone back out and snapped a pic, despite my feelings of guilt, as a reminder to maintain my feelings of inspiration, fortunate to witness this cosmic assuredness dance, whispering to me that it’s okay to live my truth, standing tall as life’s waves lap at my feet, brazenly facing the sun, shamelessly dancing, and celebrating all of it. I watched for a good twenty minutes, rivetted. She started to walk across the beach to head back to her condo, and I compulsively chased after her. She was wearing earbuds and couldn’t hear me as I clamored over. I waved my arms to get her attention, and she popped her dance music out of her ears and presented me with the warmest and brightest smile I’d seen in a long time. I told her that I *needed* to tell her how inspired I felt watching her dance, and she replied. “Oh, you should go out there and do it too! It’s much more fun than running!” *swoon* I told her I’d just turned 40. She just turned 71! A fellow Leo! I knew this moment was cosmic. She said that since we were chatting, she’d tell me about a non-profit that she was a part of where they teach dance to at-risk youth in a program called “Leap of Joy”. How wonderful! Leap of Joy. It was the most fitting thing I think she possibly could have told me. I told her that I would message her when I got back home, and one of the first things I did today was internet stalked her. I found her bio, and I started fan-girling her instantly. I even sent her a friend request. (She accepted it while I was writing this!) I want to share some excerpts of her bio right now so that you can share my ooos and ahhhs and why I felt so inspired to get to writing today. From a Leap of Joy blog post: “After establishing her ex-husband’s law office, she returned to school and graduated from Wichita State University in 1978 with minors in Journalism, Creative Writing, RTF, Philosophy and Women’s Studies. While completing her degree, she worked as staff writer for the university paper, The Wichita Sunflower and worked as a radio news reporter for KFDI Radio.” Five minors! Like all the stuff I’d want to study, and it doesn’t even mention the major! Was it dance? AND SHE’S A WRITER! And worked in radio! *swoon* Scrape. Then this… “At the first Austin Woman Magazine, she was fashion editor and the top account executive. She’s done freelance writing for several publications including Third Coast Magazine and West Austin News.” Yeah, how inspired was I reading THAT? Then it went on to say she serves on a board, working to create a shelter for undocumented women and children. Like, holy cow, I really DO want to be her when I grow up! I hadn’t read her bio yet, obviously, when we parted ways on the beach, but I just *knew* she was a significant sign from the universe for me, not only on this day, but moving forward into the future. I couldn’t stop smiling as I felt the joy from seeing her leap around rhythmically in the surf. I felt encouraged. I felt inspired. I felt determined. I loaded myself up with coffee and a hashbrown scramble, and I told my sweetheart that I was not leaving the beach that day until I stood up on a wave. Then I went out there and got pummeled. I lost count of how many times I fell, but I felt relentless. This was what I had come here to do, and by golly, I was gonna ride that surfboard, hurt shoulder or not. And then I did. I stood up on the next wave. And the next one. My boo cheered and wooed loudly, lifting my spirits and encouraging me to try for more. Then, as I was paddling the board back out away from the shore, a giant wave hit me head on, sharply pivoted me around and let me stand right up on it and ride. What joy! What satisfaction! It was as if I’d been stepping on the toes of the sea as I tried to make it succumb to my own version of the cha-cha, and this wave was the stern partner that said, “No, little lady. Hold my hand and let me lead now. I’m gonna give you a little spin and a push.” I just needed to relax and feel the rhythms. This is forty. Relax, feel the rhythm, and unapologetically dance. Thanks, Judy. I wrote more than 2000 words today. I’m not leaving this beach until I ride that publishing wave. Here’s to eighty.