August, every year, is a whirlwind. We come back from the lake, pink-nosed and plump from Sherman’s ice cream and donuts from Golden Brown Bakery. It takes us a few days to settle back into life in the suburbs—bike rides to the park, sleeping in our own beds. And then the Leadership Summit is its own swirl of old friends and big ideas, long days, head spinning. It was, of course, a total highlight to introduce Bob Goff and Brene Brown, two people I respect so much, two people who have taught me so much.
And then my birthday: I turned 37 on Saturday. Something about back-to-school and a birthday in the same week forces a little introspection—what will this year hold? What am I leaving behind with 36? What are we building? And maybe I’ll change my tune at some point, but I’m really not one of those women who “turns 29” every year. I earned this year, day by day, trying and failing and starting again. I’m proud to be 37, to have learned some things along the way of this year.
36 was one of the highest change seasons of my life—almost a little midlife-y, or something. I made some fundamental shifts over the course of this year: I finished my third book, I fell apart a little, and most importantly, I think, I confessed that I couldn’t keep pushing as hard as I had been. Something had to give, and it did. I hope that I always look back at 36 as the year I stopped hustling, the year I learned to rest.
36 was also the year that I decided to make fitness and nutrition a priority. Essentially, as I wrote Bread & Wine, I was forced to face the fact that I was still carrying a lot of brokenness about my weight and my relationship to food, and I was ready to repair some things, no matter what it took.
In December I called a friend and asked her for help. I told her I was going to give it one year, and in that year I’d do whatever she told me. At the end of the year, if I found it didn’t make much of a difference, or I didn’t like the process, I’d go back to business as usual.
And this is what happened: my friend helped me change my life. I’m not through the year, and I still have lots of learning to do, but I’m so thankful for the shift that’s taken place inside me. The short version is that I stopped looking at fitness and nutrition as punishment or discipline, and instead began to see them as self-care, ways of being kind to myself, investing in my life and my family and my future. I began to see that running with a friend can be as healing and life-giving as brunch with a friend, and that saying no to the voice inside you that’s demanding a club sandwich immediately will build good things inside you every time you do it.
These are, of course, broad strokes and intimations of much bigger things, things I’m still sifting through and making sense of, things I’ll be writing about for months to come.
I had, as you know, a truly transforming experience at a lodge in British Columbia in July. And I’m still mining through those moments and conversations, finding them rich with wisdom and grace and instruction. You know how sometimes a whole year or a whole season has been building toward something, and then in the course of just a few days, a whole body of learning locks in and finds its target, pierces you with clarity? That. That’s what happened at the Lodge.
At the Lodge, I found a vision for my future that I had almost lost sight of along the way, in the rush of deadlines and babies that don’t sleep and the push to go and achieve and prove. At my core, at my best, I’m silly and warm, able to make people feel comfortable and safe. At my best, I laugh loud and jump into cold water and listen closely. But we almost lost that girl, lost her to a to-do list and what seemed like an endless and inevitable cycle of doing more and more and more so that I’d be invited to do more and more and more.
We’re done with all that. I want to be that girl again—present and warm and grace-soaked, silly and light-hearted, whole-hearted, full-hearted. I’m not going to live in such a way that I’m too tired to live my life or love the people in my life. I’m not going to live in such a way that I miss the sweet, tiny, hidden moments because I’m too bleary-eyed with stress and exhaustion. I saw a glimpse of how my future could be, at a Lodge in BC, and I’m hanging on to it with both hands, so thankful, and so ready to build a new way of living—freer, softer, braver.
For my birthday, the boys and I went to the lake. Aaron and my dad had to work, but my mom and brother were there, and we played on the beach and went paddleboarding and played games with the boys. I took a nap in the hammock and wandered through the farmer’s market. We watched the sunset in near silence, enjoying being together, that perfect familiarity where nothing needs to be said. I went to bed early, snuggled up next to Henry, listening to him snore softly. When we got back Sunday night, the boys fell into bed, happy and worn out, and Aaron and I drank Champagne on the front steps, toasting a year that has held so much change, looking forward to a future that’s wider and sweeter, less hard edges and more moments of grace and mischief.
Last night, the night before school started, Henry was a little nervous, but he wouldn’t admit it. When he was falling asleep, I sat next to him on his bed for a while, and he held out his hand. “Can you put something in here, Mom? Like maybe one of your hands?” Darling big-little boy. We met his first grade teacher yesterday, found his seat, his locker, his mailbox. This morning we woke up early, packed his lunchbox and backpack, stood out in the driveway as he marched on to the bus. And just like that, a first grader.
Next week, Aaron and I will celebrate twelve years of marriage with a couple days in NYC. Before that, I’ll teach our church’s weekend services, all about community and hospitality, what it means to live with honesty and connection, what it means to invite people past their perceptions of you into the true messy human stuff, the beautiful stuff.
But before all that, I’m staring out the window, listening to the Lone Bellow, thinking about the school bus, thinking about what this last year gave me: essentially a hand-written invitation to change my life, to stop, to begin again, to write a new future. I’m so thankful, and I’m diving into this season with bravery and gratitude, letting it shape and remake me at every turn.