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In which these are the tired thirties

I am reading Madeline L’Engle’s first volume of memoirs from the Crosswicks Journals, A Circle of Quiet. In it, she writes – for me, I am convinced – about this time of her life, this one that I am in right now, as “the tired thirties.” And I nearly wept with relief.

If one of the greatest and most creative writers of our time, a woman whom I so admire, can write this about her thirties:

“I was always tired. So was Hugh. During the decade between thirty and forty, most couples are raising small children, and we were no exception.  Hugh was struggling to support his growing family…And there was I, absolutely stuck in bucology, with the washing machine freezing at least once a week, the kitchen never above 55 degrees when the wind blew from the northwest, not able to write until after my little ones were in bed, by which time I was so tired that I often quite literally fell asleep with my head on the typewriter.”

Evelynn has been sick for three days. Just a minor head cold but she can’t sleep unless she’s being held upright and I am more tired than a tired thing. When I get tired, I begin to make delirious references to my period immersed in 90s rap and so I have been lamely informing everyone that “Damn, it feels good to be a homeschooler” because it’s pouring rain, everyone is tired, we’re all coming down with the cold and I’m so thankful I don’t have to do drop-off this morning. The quilt is spread on the floor, Evelynn is finally sleeping (now, of course, during the day) and the tinies are in the jammies still (me, too, I’m not too proud to admit) and we’re watching Sesame Street so I can think for three seconds. I have a candle burning that smells like fall, the french press is steeping and it’s comforting me.

Cookie Monster: “That what wrong with the media today. All they have are questions, questions, questions. And no one have any COOKIES.”

I feel ya, Cookie Monster.

Last night, Brian was out working late again and when my mother called at 7:30, I think I talked for thirty minutes straight about 87 different things because I was just so happy to talk to another grown-up.

I can feel the tension between the big things that grieve me to my over-sensitive core – like the execution of Troy Davis that took place last night – and the little things that tick me off – like folding laundry again, the big things that overwhelm me with gratitude – beauty, truth, love, friendship, kinship – and the little things that make me want to weep with joy – the gap between Joseph’s teeth, Evelynn’s toothless smiles, Anne perched in a chair for an hour with a book. I feel it all, too much, and then I feel this yearning to create but it’s just not always my time because this is such a short season of my life, constantly on some kind of a balance bar but the truth is, most of my moments are every one else’s needs first – and that’s okay to me. I wonder if I should just give up trying to write anything more than a blog post these days and then I have moments exactly like this one:

Madeline L’Engle writes about her fortieth birthday and her eagerness for change after her thirties, particularly as a writer. But instead, she receives a major rejection from a publishing house for her book The Lost Innocent.

This seemed an obvious sign from heaven. I should stop trying to write. All during the decade of my thirties, I went through spasms of guilt because I spent so much time writing, because I wasn’t a good New England housewife and mother.  When I scrubbed the kitchen floor, the family cheered. I couldn’t make decent pie crust. I always managed to get something red in with the white laundry in the washing machine, so that everybody wore streaky pink underwear. And with all the hours I spent writing, I was still not pulling my own weight financially.

So the rejection on the fortieth birthday seemed an unmistakable command: Stop this foolishness and learn to make cherry pie. 

I covered the typewriter in a great gesture of renunciation. Then I walked around and around the room, bawling my head off. I was totally, unutterably miserable. 

Suddenly I stopped, because I realised what my subconscious mind was doing while I was sobbing: my subconscious mind was busy working out a novel about failure.

Evelynn has eyelashes like the Snuffleupagus. Even when I am rocking in the chair at 2:37 AM, I am so aware of how fast she is growing, so intent to not miss this moment, so I am writing it out in my head, finding solace in the creak of the chair, the sound of the wind in the trees and I am praying praying praying for eyes to see it and hands that will love well.  And even when I am tired – so tired today – I am okay, joyful even, in my choices because of the company like Madeline L’Engle, Sesame Street, writers, mamas, believers and zealots, all of us just a bit tired in our thirties.

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Reposted from 5 months ago.

books, parenting, women, writing
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  • Guest

    love this. thank you so much for sharing this. I am also in “the tired thirties” It is a relief to read someone putting to words this stage of my life. Now I need to get off this computer and get to bed before my little one wakes for another night feeding :)

  • jenna

    love this! I am also in “the tired thirties”. Thank you for putting words to this stage we’re in. It is a relief and a comfort to read. Now I need to get off this computer and get to bed before my little one wakes for another night feeding :)

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  • Sara Bee

    This is the first post from your blog that I’ve read. Thank you (times a million) for being a voice I can relate to…I’m experiencing every bit of this right now…thank you!

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