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Outwardly Calm, Inwardly Turbulent

Outwardly calm, inwardly turbulent.  I took this pic from the window of an airplane yesterday. It was a beautiful, mild, spring day with blue skies and a spackling of fluffy white clouds. The sky looked calm and peaceful, yet the flight was riddled with turbulence. We were instructed by the pilot to stay buckled up as the plane rocked back and forth, up and down through the picture of serenity that I watched pass by through the airplane’s tiny windows.

Only a short time before the roller coaster ride of a flight began, I had been sitting at the crowded gate waiting for my turn to board. The voice from behind the ticket booth said in a muffled tone over the speaker, “1st class passengers, passengers with disabilities, those traveling with children under the age of 2 or active military are welcome to board now.” It is a great time for people watching. Since I always buy the cheapest ticket to get me from point A to point B, I’m normally in zone 4, last to board, and can be found seated no more than 4 feet from the crapper.  I sat and waited as all 120+ people boarded, one by one. I observed as some shoved their way through, as though there was a prize for being the 1st to get on the plane. I saw the ones with rambunctious kids I prayed I wouldn’t be seated near, the panicked person, the one who slows the line by oversharing with the man scanning boarding passes about when, where or why they are traveling despite his obvious disinterest of their unsolicited explanation, the vacationers in Nike shorts and the business people in suits with iPhones to their ears on conference calls. It’s a social experiment I always find entertaining.

This time, a young boy and his mother caught my attention. He was among the 1st in line. I noticed he was holding a carry-on bag and she was not. I also saw that she couldn’t quit touching him. Hug, back rub, hug, kiss on the cheek, hug. The ticket agent scanned the boy’s ticket. The teen then turned to give her one last hug and walked away.  The woman stood waving at him until he was out of her sight. She turned around, wiping tears, and walked back into the hustle-bustle of the airport. As a mom myself, my heart sank in my chest for her. I could feel her pain as she walked away without him…away from her protection…away from her reach.

As usual, I was among the last few to board the crowded plane. I walked to my seat all the way in the back, threw my laptop case into the overhead, and plopped down in my seat. I looked up and saw that the boy I had just observed at the gate was sitting next to me. He seemed uncomfortable. I make it a rule to immediately pretend to be in a coma-like state of consciousness the moment I buckle my seatbelt to help set the expectation to the traveler next to me that I’m not interested. This time, I couldn’t do that. “I saw you at the gate. Was that your mom? Are you okay?” He kept his head down, looked up at me by only moving his eyes, and shook his head yes. “You look 15. I can spot a 15-year-old because I’m a mom of a 15-year-old,” I continued. He finally lifted his head and laughed, “Yep, I’m 15.” I let him be for a while and sat quietly beside him.

We had a bumpy takeoff, which turned into a turbulent first half of the flight. I saw that he began fidgeting and rocking in his seat. “Is this your 1st time flying,” I asked him? “No, but it’s the first time I’ve flown by myself,” he replied. I started engaging him in conversation in effort to help distract him from his anxiety, much in the same way I do with my son when he’s about to get a shot at the doctor’s office. We talked about his dad that he was going to see in Michigan, what he wanted to do after high school and how his parents make him take choir at school even though he hates it. The plane finally found some smooth flying air and the knocking about stopped. Sam, I discovered was his name, seemed to relax and began playing a game on his phone for the rest of the flight. After we landed and walked off the plane, his dad was there waiting for him. Sam looked at me and said, “It was nice meeting you. Bye.” I smiled and nodded as we walked in separate directions within the airport.

Today, when I looked at this photo of the blue sky and thinking of the teenage boy with a wide smile, one wouldn’t guess the turbulence that was going on inside. The sky. Sam. His parent’s divorce.  His unhappiness at school.  Me. I think most all of us at some time or another. Sunny and warm on the outside, but deceivingly peppered with turbulence on the inside. Reminds me of how we are all not that different from each other.  Reminds me how human connection is sometimes all we need to relieve the turbulence. Reminds me to be kind. Reminds me that one day I will be in a zone 1 boarding group and those people will be turbulent too because all zones of people are.

But zone 1 still sounds nice.

Dear 29 Year Old Me

Dear 29 year old me,

You’re here! You didn’t think you’d live long enough to see 40, but unless something unforeseeable happens in the next few months you will be celebrating the big 4-0 this summer. You aren’t even bothered by it that much like you think you will be now. You are counting down the days until your girl’s trip to the beach to celebrate with other friends who are also celebrating milestone birthdays this year.

You aren’t white haired and on a cane. It makes me laugh to think how old 40 seems to you at 29, but now that you are 39 and knocking on the 40 year old door you’ll discover that you don’t feel as old as you thought you would at this age.

That time you were adding up how old the kids would be when you turned 40 and you couldn’t visualize them being teenagers. Well, they are teenagering quite well so don’t worry.

Your daughter who is in preschool now is almost 15. She finally outgrew that embarrassing thing where she thinks she’s a cat and meows all the time. You will even look back on how she use to meow in response to the waiter at a restaurant asking for her drink order and laugh instead of being worried that she would meow like a cat forever. She also doesn’t demand that a high chair be brought to our table to put her baby doll in anymore either. In fact, I’m not even sure where that baby doll is now. I think it’s packed away in a plastic tub with her huge collection of zoo animals and Polly Pockets.

Oh, and your 3 year old son is 13 now and did finally start sleeping in his own bed, but not until he was about 10 years old. Sorry to disappoint. Just try not to overthink it too much for now. I know it’s annoying to always be cramped and not get a good night’s sleep unless you can con his sister into letting him sleep with her every now and then. But trust me, you will look back at all the cute things he said during those quiet nights he was wrapped in your arms and you wouldn’t change anything. Also, at 13 he will still gladly sleep with you in your bed when his dad is out of town on business so don’t listen to what people tell you about how boys close off emotionally as teenagers. It doesn’t happen to your baby, or at least not yet. But the bad news is that he didn’t outgrow being a messy eater. We are still working on that one.

I’m mostly writing to let you know that you are doing a good job. You should let up on yourself some.

All the PTA meetings you’re about to be knee deep in and Saturday birthday parties at the inflatable jump house places are exhausting and not how you want to spend your time exactly, but you did a fine job juggling all that while also working full time. Stop being so hard on yourself when you forget a dentist appointment. Don’t get so stressed out when you have to reschedule a meeting because the kid who was perfectly fine when you left them an hour ago is now vomiting and running a fever. You won’t even remember what meeting you had to reschedule or how frazzled you seemed doing an ill prepared presentation because of it the next week. You will, however, remember sitting in the rocking chair with your sick little girl who wouldn’t allow anyone but you to tend to her and didn’t want you to leave her side because she feels like she “has to fro up”.

In the words of a future Disney movie that will make you thankful you don’t have toddlers anymore, just “Let it go.”

As frustrating as family can be, make more time to be with them. You won’t have everyone that you love right now with you when you get here at 39. By the time you get here you won’t have any grandparents. Make sure to visit them and tell them you love them often. Make sure to write down your Mamaw’s recipe for fried cornbread because she’s the only one who knows it. It hurts me to tell you this, but you won’t have 2 parents with you anymore once you get here. You will be missing one and it will leave a giant hole in your heart. It’s hard to fathom that right now and actually I’d rather you not try to. I’m only telling you because I want you to use this time wisely and soak up all the time you get to spend with those you love. It will be the memories from those days that will carry you through the bad times once their gone.

Take lots of pictures. Record lots of video.

Oh, and just to prepare you, there is going to be a birthday in your son’s life that’s coming up soon where you will go all out and hire a magician to do magic tricks and make the party as perfect as you possibly can. You will give your husband one job. One. Job. His only responsibility that day will be to record the magical birthday party on a ridiculously large camcorder. He will give the illusion he is doing this, but after the party you will discover that he never pushed the record button and so there is no video documentation of the event whatsoever. I only have three words of advice for you. Let. It. Go.

I’d also like to take a moment to tell you to stop worrying about the ending of your 20s. You think that the 20s are the peak of your life, but sitting here on the back side of the third decade I can tell you that you are about to start your peak time. So stop spending so much time worrying about getting old. Take this new decade you are about to enter and hold your head high. Stop worrying about every detail of your appearance. You will look back at pictures of yourself at work parties, at holidays and on vacations and think “damn, I looked good.” As you turn 30 know that you will reflect back on this decade and be proud of your accomplishments. Stop being so hard on yourself and just enjoy. You’re winning!

I hope this was helpful to you. I’d send you a picture of 39 year old you, but I don’t want to give you more to think about….and try to prevent.

So congratulations. You survived your 20s. You navigated through getting married, moving away, coming back home, having kids, messing up and making up. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that any day now a letter from the future 49 year old me will show up and give me some pearls of wisdom.

This decade is about to be a crazy ride and I’m excited for you.

See ya in 10 years. Good Luck!

Sincerely,

39 Year Old Me