Some years ago, I spent my birthday packing my belongings into the car and eating Chinese takeout at the kitchen table with the real estate agent who was helping to sell my house. It was a kind gesture that she had brought me lunch. She knew I had few friends where I lived and I was alone in so many ways. Later that day, as soon as my child stepped off the school bus, we drove 3 states away from the abusive home we were living in to start our lives over. That night was filled with harassing phone calls and threats.
It was a cathartic and frankly very shitty birthday. My life is a lot better now.
I have a successful business centered on building communities of women and making them strong. I'm surrounded by powerful, passionate friends who inspire me. My relationship is happy, my kids are healthy. I get to travel a lot. We have more than enough money. I've finally mastered liquid eyeliner. I have a Jeep and I reeeaally like it.
For my birthday this year, I drove said Jeep to the beautiful, wild and quiet beach at Plum Island Nature Preserve, alone. I wanted some time to think. I walked along the water's edge letting my bare feet sink into the wet sand.
Among the things I pondered:
I am in awe of the team that keeps Barre & Soul running. Having been on vacation for a week, it felt like if I had decided not to return, the studios would keep on kicking ass without me. I make my job harder than it has to be. One of the ways I do that is by writing this blog. I see that very clearly, yet I think I'll continue writing it.
Because of my sensitivity to others' pain, I don't watch or read the news. I just can't wallow in tragedy. Somehow, I seem to stay informed about current events.
But is there a right amount of happiness one should feel? Is there a right amount of outrage? I may be living a great life now, but what about all the women out there who are still suffering in abusive and unhappy relationships like the one I left all those years ago? What about victims of rape, assault, war, poverty? How much time should we spend confronting the suffering of others, lest we forget how privileged we truly are?
There is still so much work to do to make the world better.
Life is short. We have no idea how short exactly, since most of us don't know when we're going to die. But even if I get a relatively long life, I fear it still won't be enough time to achieve all the things I believe I am here to do.
I know that every passing birthday is an occasion to be thankful for another year of life. But I won't pretend to like birthdays any more than the average person over 30. They are a reminder of how quickly our time here passes.
As a woman, I struggle with the more secretive fear of fading beauty, that in a world that unfairly privileges youth and good looks, my influence and power will wear away a little with each new wrinkle in my skin. (Think about it, when will salt and pepper hair be considered "hot" and "distinguished" on women, the way it is on men?)
My analytical mind wants to figure out the most efficient way to do things. What is the secret to changing the world? Is it scholarship, research and the advancement of new ideas? Or is it just making noise, speaking your beliefs and starting important conversations? What makes revolutionary ideas go mainstream, and how do we mobilize people around them?
These questions are important to me because I want to spend my time here as fully and productively as I possibly can. I want to leave a David Bowie-esque body of work behind, creating until the very end of my life. There is so much work to do and so little time.
I don't know if this is an essay, or just a stream-of-consciousness journal entry. It doesn't matter. I promised myself I would publish something today, and so I will. I will keep talking about the things that matter to me. I will keep speaking up until the day I die.