The inevitable mid-life birthday reflection post

Me atop Twin Sisters peak yesterday, Estes Park, CO. Geez, I hope it's not ALL downhill from here!... (Click to enlarge)

I’ve always said that my one true goal in life is to be a crotchety old bitch, sitting on the deck of my mountain cabin, a cup of tea or jug of wine and a plate of smoked salmon or trout at my side. I’ll have a shotgun across my knee, ready to cock it at anyone coming down the driveway and yell, “You from the gummint?”

I’m actually not kidding.

I’m not saying I’ll shoot anyone (necessarily), but crotchety old bitches tend to be able to get away with stuff like that, so why not?

The good thing about having this kind of life goal is that simply by continuing to exist, I’m progressing toward it. Today is my 45th birthday, and I’m starting it right — sitting on the deck of my cabin in the Rockies, still shaded by aspen…

I’ve been here for most of a week and have done two fabulous mountain hikes, hung out with good friends in Boulder and up here at the cabin, enjoyed an excellent motorcycle ride with a good friend, spent a day helping another friend in need, cooked some wonderful meals, spent lots of quality time with one of the most important people in the world to me, and generally enjoyed the peace and rhythm that settles over me once I’m much closer to treeline than sea level.

The only thing missing is my cats, who are probably shredding something in my honor right now back in my Oakland apartment. And my sweetheart George — but he got to enjoy this little slice of mountain heaven last month. And my friends and family who are too distant to join me here today.

I was saying to George last night that he’s much braver than I am for daring to be lyrical and personal in his blog. He’s a wonderful writer, and that’s his writing practice. Meanwhile, I’ve been neglecting my blog again — but dry spells happen, and it’s something I can always come back to.

So here I am, daring to be just a bit personal here. Roll with it, it’s an experiment. (UPDATE: This experiment mostly had good results, but led to a notable clueless PR encounter.)

I guess turning 45 makes me officially middle aged (unless you’re a singularity devotee, which I’m not), so that’s good in terms of hitting a milestone toward my life goal. But it does make me wonder: Is this the middle of my life? What do I want to do with the other half, at least en route toward eventual crotchety-old-cabin-bitchedness?

Right off the bat I’m striking off this list anything having to do with grand world-changing achievements or a personal legacy that outlasts my mortal existence. Someday I will vanish from the face of this world, no one will remember me, and that will be OK. The future shouldn’t be too heavily anchored to the past, and I’m happy not to become historical ballast.

I’ve chosen never to have children (and at 45, let’s say I’m safely past that risk) in part because I’m not maternal, but also in part because I seem to lack that craving for immortality that seems to drive why so many people become parents. I love kids and have had many in my life — and hope to always have some in my life. Kids can be amazing friends and teachers. But I don’t want them to owe me anything. Except maybe my Social Security check, but I’m not counting too heavily on that.

That said, I have always had an irrational compulsion to help, and to learn. I feel good about the work I do mainly because, more often than not, what I learn and say and teach about media and technology generally seems to help people.

Even when people disagree with me, or dispute me, or even prove me wrong, it seems I contribute value to the conversation so we all can try more new stuff and figure out what works. So that’s okay. I didn’t become a journalist so that everyone would like me or agree with me, after all.

I have lots of flaws, and I’ll always have lots of flaws. During the rest of my life I’d like to continue working on them. That’s been a pretty rewarding effort — if at times awkward, difficult, and painful.

I’ve realized, though, that in working on my flaws I must be guided mostly by my own internal compass about what kind of person I want to be. Too often in my life I’ve taken to heart criticism from others that’s rooted mostly in their own expectations or fears. That’s not to say I ignore criticism from others; but I need to consider it carefully, to figure out if their motives and goals jibe with mine, before attempting to reshape myself in light of that information.

Because this life I have — it’s mine. What I do with it needs to matter to me, and feel right to me. Especially since I’m eschewing the whole legacy deal.

For too long, I suppressed what I really felt and wanted in life. Often it didn’t seem to be what other people wanted, and it definitely didn’t seem to be what social norms said I should want — so just being one person, I had to be wrong, right? Wrong!

One of the most important things I’ve learned is that — despite entrenched social norms — relationships are not one-size-fits all. So when someone matters to me, it rarely makes sense to cut them out of my life just because the nature of our relationship shifts. Which is why I’m spending a week at my cabin with my former spouse Tom, who is (and has always been) one of my closest friends and confidantes.

The few times in my life I’ve had to remove people from my life, that’s been very difficult and painful for me. But mostly, I can find ways to accommodate changes, and additions.

My inclinations for almost all kinds of relationships are mostly “both/and” not “either/or” — which is why I’m polyamorous, and probably also why I’ve been self employed for so long. I’m often amazed, amused, puzzled, or dismayed when I encounter people who require hard lines and clear roles in their connections with others — as if things like monogamy, a full-time job, a college degree, a conventional family, or legal recognition will ensure safety or happiness. I’m not saying they’re wrong and I’m right. I’m just saying, it’s a mindset I have a hard time understanding. But I respect that these things mean a lot to people, including many very smart people I care about and respect deeply.

In the past decade especially I’ve really grown to love diversity in most aspects of life: Diversity of thought, diversity of people, diversity of cultures and ethnicities, diversity of age, diversity of experience, diversity of desires, you name it. And I am part of that diversity.

This doesn’t mean I need to (or can) learn to appreciate or like everything — for instance, creationism? Oppression and racism? Iceberg lettuce? The Iraq war? Anime? Las Vegas? Humid weather? I don’t think so. But I generally have found that understanding why other people fiercely embrace and enjoy things I find abhorrent helps me navigate this world better. And I don’t need to agree with people in order to learn from them.

In the last few years especially I’ve become keenly aware of how much place matters to my sense of well being. I need to feel like I have a home, in a place I can love. I can live other places for a while, and enjoy that — but eventually I feel the need to go home. I’m at one of those points now. I’ve lived for a few years in Oakland, a city that has taught me much, where I’ve found many friends and amazing love. But it’s not home for me, and I need to start searching for home.

Fortunately, I don’t have to rush. Since I’m self-employed and can work from anywhere with internet access and that’s not too far from an airport, I’m not tied to any one location for external reasons. And I also don’t have to have a hard deadline for moving. I’ve arranged my life to offer lots of flexibility, and that’s perhaps the smartest thing I’ve ever done.

I’m not sure where I’ll live next. I’d always assumed I’d eventually just go back to Boulder, Colorado — a place that I’ve always loved and that was a wonderful home to me for many years. And I may still do that. But right now, at this point in my life, Boulder feels a little small and insular to me.

So I’m considering some cities like Portland and Denver. I need to live in a place that’s not totally ruled by cars, near real mountains, where the summers aren’t humid and the winters aren’t relentlessly frigid. And where there are people I enjoy, with a culture that’s diverse and generally friendly and flexible.

Oakland offers many of those things, but I feel constantly hemmed in by concrete and cars there. And California’s mountains are too far away. But there may be other California options for me, I’m not ruling it out. Mostly I’m hoping to find a place I love that doesn’t requiring owning a car.

Life can change drastically or end at any moment. While I’m here, I want to experience it, and enjoy it, and to be good to others and to myself. I’ve been gratified to have so many wonderful people in my life: family, friends, lovers, colleagues, teachers, and more.

I’ve been surprised to realize what a social creature I am, but I need my private time too. So I’m really glad to be around at the dawn of social media — a tool that allows me to foster and maintain a wide range of connections from all parts of my world. One of the first things I did today was post to social media, to let people know it’s my birthday, because birthdays actually matter to me and I’ve learned it’s not reasonable to expect people to be telepaths.

Anything that helps me communicate with and connect with people is probably mostly good, as far as I’m concerned. And I’ve tried to learn how communication can do the most good and the least harm. I think the ability to communicate has largely defined how humans have evolved, for better or worse. It’s powerful. I enjoy learning how to do it better — even though it hurts like hell when I screw it up.

So this post is rambling, and personal, and it may or may not make sense. But it’s just where I’m at right now, a snapshot of a work in progress. And since I’m scared to post it, for fear of embarrassment or criticism, that’s exactly what I’m going to do. I’ve learned the most from facing my fears and inhibitions.

Thanks for reading, if you’ve read this far. The direct sun is hitting my cabin deck now, so I’ll take a deep breath and post this — and then make some more tea and breakfast, and get ready to welcome some friends up here to celebrate later today.

If you come down my cabin driveway today, I promise not to shoot.

Crotchety old bitch, in progress....

9 thoughts on The inevitable mid-life birthday reflection post

  1. You fuckin’ RAWK. This is your best post ever. And for the record, I would consider it a great honor if you tried to pepper my ass with rock salt from your front porch out there in Impending Crotchetyville. Yes.

    Here’s to future adventures and being inimitably your wonderous self. Stay golden.

  2. Happy birthday!!!! Great post. There’s no reason for you to fear the personal material. You’re a terrific writer. As someone who is slightly older than you (47), I can relate to much of what you wrote.

  3. Amy! Hooray!!!!!
    Your raw truth makes me smile. Opening up helps us all open up. Humorous of course and beautiful…. May I join you as a crotchity bitch XOXO

  4. This was an awesome post. I’ve not read any of your other posts yet, but I bet I’ll like this one the most.

    Personal always engages people more.

    (I am nearing the same age as you… and my plan doesn’t include the smoked salmon, but I have reserved the right to take up chain smoking on the porch when I get to the full-on crotchety old bitch phase… I also plan to sport really long, white, crazy-curly hair by then…)

    And I won’t be coming down the driveway… but as I look out my window at the concrete, cars and highway – I really miss my old driveway into the woods…

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