I am forty years old today. My body bears scars and wrinkles appropriate to its age, but in many ways, I feel surprisingly young–especially when viewed through the gaze– of society. By which I mean simply that I approach forty with delight and curiosity and a sense that life keeps getting better and more interesting, not with panic, dread or any of the emotions that our culture traditionally offers to unpartnered, childless, femme folk such as myself. My body has been fat and thin, unhoused and abundantly resourced (sometimes both of these things at the same time). I have been fit and active and I have been immobilised by illness and injury. I have treated my body and mind with callous disregard and with the greatest devotion. What follows is a letter to my past self, to all of their iterations, especially the ones who never thought we would reach this day.
Blessed are you who for surviving so much. You have survived things that felt unsurvivable when you were in the thick of them and yet, here you are. You are breathing. You are taking up space in the world. Your body moves differently through the world than it used to, you are surer of yourself and less afraid. You stopped along the way to look at so many flowers, you craned your neck to look up at the stars until it hurt. You have put your broken heart back together more times than you ever imagined you would. You have cast spells and forgotten about them and been held by them anyway. You found threads and followed them and let them go and picked them back up again in ways that don’t make any sense at all if you look at time as a river but make perfect sense if you look at time as a spiral. You learned along the way how to look at time in this way.
Blessed are you for ignoring all the rules. You sometimes like to tell yourself a story about how you have spent so much time trying to please other people and how you don’t know what you want, but, honestly, that’s just your brain’s favourite way to be mean to yourself on a bad day. None of that is true. You have never been afraid to take risks and try things. You’ve persistently done things that were uncomfortable and scary, things that people told you were risky or foolish or bad decisions. You did them all anyway and they always worked out just fine. You’ve left relationships that weren’t working. You chose to try teaching and writing. You chose to stop trying those things and try new ones even when it was costly. You moved home even when it was sad and scary. Success isn’t just about security and money for you, it is a bigger, multi-faceted thing. You’ve always understood systems and chosen not to fit into them, not to take the path everyone else was on. You never wanted to choose between science or magic or story– you wanted science and magic and story. You still do.
Blessed are you for reading widely and wildly and for trusting your discernment more than canon. You’ve found great value in books and art that some people around you called trash. You’ve been in conversation with people whose experiences differ greatly from your own. You’ve learned how to listen and to listen across time and space, to find the clues left by ancestors, to fill in the gaps between words. You found safety in stories and learned to understand that you were not alone at the times you felt most lonely.
Blessed are you for making many mistakes. Every mistake you made belongs in your story. Yeah, you spent time trying to do what you thought would please other people. You ignored what you wanted. You tried to keep yourself safe and hurt others in the process. You worked until your body wouldn’t take it anymore. It was never enough. You put your work above people who loved you. You put other people before yourself. It was never enough. You felt angry about this, but you believed that anger was bad, so you pushed it down, covered it up with shame. You were scared of hurting others, so you hurt yourself. You started and gave up on things. You blamed yourself for not being good enough at sticking to things. You blamed your body for getting in the way of things you wanted to do. You got really good at looking forwards and backwards and really bad at being present in your body. Your read words about caring for yourself and for others that sounded really nice, but you told yourself you didn’t have time for any to live in the way you wanted to live, because you just had to survive. You wanted to write, but you never liked your writing very much, you dreaded writing because you didn’t allow your writing the time and attention it deserved. You were always shouting at yourself that you were too slow, like the bosses and cops you professed to hate. You always got out of bed and you got really good at pretending that everything was okay. So what? Your story is still being written. The one thing I know for sure is that there are many more mistakes still to come.
Blessed are you for choosing love and for choosing not to settle for things other people told you were love, but that didn’t feel like love. You’ve learned how to love yourself at the same time as loving others. You’ve learned to love people and accept their imperfections. You’ve learned how to love people through conflicts. You’ve learned how to love yourself when you mess up or your body doesn’t work the way you want it to, and I think that makes you pretty much unstoppable now. Your commitment to love is deep. The more you love yourself the more you grow, and the more your love for others grows too.
Blessed are you for coming home to your truth over and over. Sometimes in small ways and sometimes in big ones. All that matters here is that you kept following signs and clues and you kept asking questions and making choices and learning and unlearning and getting closer to a life that fits, a life that feels spacious and allows thriving. You have had plenty of wobbles and doubts, but your curiosity remained intact and you kept following where it was leading. Time after time you trusted yourself. You built practices to hold you. You are still building. You trust in your bones that you will always be building and that is okay. Sometimes other people even tell you that your commitment to truth helps them find their truth too. And that’s really cool, but that’s not why you do it.
Blessed are you for learning from all of this and for always trying to listen and do better. You haven’t always done this with grace, but who has? You have learned so much. And yet the most important lesson you have learned is that the learning will never be over. You know enough to let go when your brain insists that learning should be easy. Remember when you were two and learning to paint and you made a giant mess that nobody but you could understand? Remember when you first picked up a violin thinking you could play Mozart and all that came out for weeks was a screech, and then, one day, you could play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star? That’s what learning is always like, messy and hard and yet also joyous. Understanding that the journey isn’t ever really over is a form of liberation and what is liberation if not blessing?
I have survived. And you, too, dear reader, have survived. We have survived. How do I know this? Because I am here writing these words. You are reading them, wherever you are. However hard it feels to have got to this point, you did it, I did it, we did it. Maybe we did it together (or maybe you’re new here, in which case, welcome!). The details of how we each got here don’t matter. Now it is time to stop and acknowledge the enormity of that. Take a deep, deep breath, one that fills your body from the inside out. Let your breath fill you with gratitude for all that has come before, for all that is right now and for everything is still to come, the good bits and the bad.