I could lie and tell you I’m younger, but I don’t know why I would do that. Forty-three is fine. It’s odd and prime, divisible by nothing…which is kind of how I feel lately: Odd and prime and divisible by nothing.
I took the afternoon off work Wednesday and asked myself, “What do you want to do, Puddin?” After much consideration, I realized the honest answer was: Turn on a podcast and clean the house.
This is 43, I guess.
I also rehearsed a bit.
Took my son out for dinner.
And got a massage. But I do that every year on my birthday and also once every other month or so. Because I am a cat. (Rub me when I say. Don’t touch me when I don’t say. And then leave me alone, please.)
My massage therapist has a box of angel cards on her desk. I always pull one before I leave. Wednesday, my card was “Simplicity.” It was good timing.
Shortly before, I’d had a text conversation with a friend about the phrase “plain and simple,” specifically, becoming “plain and simple.” Some think “plain and simple” means boring. I do not. I think “plain and simple” means “free of bullshit.”
Bullshit has never been the excitement I seek. Simplicity, on the other hand, sounds true and wonderful; and it was the perfect card for my birthday.
What I like the most about aging is that I feel more like myself. It feels honest and light—even the heavier parts of my psychology. There is something liberating and streamlined about figuring out who you are and then just being that. Not talking about it, not explaining it, not hauling it around in a tote bag… just being it. It takes the guesswork out of decision-making and frees up your hands: You don’t have to carry around as much bullshit.
I don’t know exactly what this process is, but I think it’s more about the unload than the upload, if that makes any sense at all.
I know that when I was younger, I tried on a lot of things. Is this who I am? Is this what I like? Is this what I do? I uploaded costumes and accessories and roles and scripts and props trying to figure out what fit and what felt right. I wobbled around in them like too-tall heels until I either fell or needed a nap.
And in a lot of cases, I think Other People put stuff on you, too. It’s such a subtle process, you hardly notice. Family, friends, society-in-general have ideas about who you should be, what you should be wearing, what you should be doing, and the things you should carry. You suddenly feel very heavy, look down, and realize you’ve been wandering around in someone else’s wet denim.
In this sense and at this age, I think figuring out who you are is less about finding the new costume that fits or prop that makes sense and more about taking off and putting down all the ones you’ve accumulated that don’t.
The process itself is simple enough—getting undressed. I think it’s the “Now what?” part that mucks it up for most of us. If you’ve built your entire identity and life around something that no longer feels true, and then you take it off and put it down: Now what? Ego loses its marbles and cries: “If I’m not this, then I’ll be nothing!”
I think about this pretty regularly when I think about music: Ego. In order to keep playing music, I juggle a lot: Job, Child, and Self-Care, and I get tired (I’m 43 now, afterall.). Practically speaking, Music is the only negotiable in that equation. I can't put down being a Mom. I can't put down the job that pays for food and shelter for my son and me. And I can't put down Self-Care because then I don't function in any capacity. So, music: Is it okay to keep doing this? And for how long?
I do regular Ego Checks. Does this still feel right? Does this still fit? Who is sitting at this piano? Who is holding this guitar? Little P or Ego-P?
likes the music;
likes to express and connect;
likes how it feels when voice and melody and words all slip into a crazy soul frequency that opens all the windows the day tried to paint shut.
Little P is sustainable, because she is honest and does things for the joy of it. (Plain and Simple.)
likes applause and compliments;
likes to see her name on show flyers at popular venues;
likes to feel a little cooler and a little more interesting when she goes to her day job or does her Mom Thing.
Ego-P is not sustainable, because she deflates when there is no applause, crumples when there are no compliments, self-doubts when she doesn’t get the gig, and finds herself feeling lost and old in comparison and competition.
Ego-P shows up from time to time and sucks the joy out of things. I don't know how to eradicate her completely, so I measure frequency of her visits and how long she sticks around. The day I find her sitting at the helm too much is the day I know it's time to step back and recalibrate.
These are the things I think about as I age and metaphorically undress: Who is sitting at the piano? What am I wearing that no longer fits? What am I carrying that doesn’t feel true? And will the neighbors call the police if I wander around my backyard naked?
At any rate, it was a fine birthday, a simple and uneventful one. And I am grateful.