I spent the last evening of 2009 going to dinner at the Wallingford Tutta Bella in Seattle with my new husband and 3-year-old stepson. We didn’t have other plans that night, we were in bed at midnight, but to me it was the most exciting New Year’s Eve of my young life so far. I was exactly 37 weeks pregnant. I remember what I wore: my grandmother’s boots and a sheer lavender-gray floral tunic I still own.
I felt beautiful that night. I cherished my big, ripe belly. I finally loved my body. I was happy to be there with my sweet boys and joyful for the baby girl sleeping and squirming inside. Our 6-and-a-half pound daughter would arrive in 20 days and change me in unexpected and profound ways. Four years, one month, and three days later, her little sister would do the same. The moment of birth felt like my body opening wide enough for the whole universe to pass through. My heart doubled and my soul expanded, leaving space for her to tangle my blood with hers. It was such an epic transformation the first time, I wasn’t sure it could happen again. When it did, I became closer to God and the goddess within; I’m capable of infinite love.
Watching my children bloom is my greatest gift. I hope I remember some of the details. The pitch of a giggle, the softness of a cheek, the sound of a little voice calling for me. Their infectious enthusiasm. Our magnetic connection. They change slowly but daily until so many things are different that almost nothing is the same except you can still look at their face and see the tiny baby who slept on your heart.
Much of this decade has been devoted to my children, and since they are a reflection of me, it was also about getting to know myself. Motherhood woke me up to my limiting beliefs. It’s hard for most of us to get through life and stay pure; our shine becomes dulled by the “voice of knowledge,” the snake in the garden, the lies we hear and believe about ourselves and how this strange world works. I saw that some of my beliefs didn’t apply to my children, and realized they also didn’t apply to me.
I found more respect for myself. I stopped turning away from and drowning out my inner voice, the guide that led me to fall in love (again) with the written word. I started reading more, writing more, asking myself again and again what it is I really want to do with my life. I learned (am still learning) how to get still enough to listen. Because the answer changes daily, and it’s often easier to stay with the status quo than listen and make the changes.
At the beginning of the decade, I was nurturing my young family alongside my tea business, Herbal Philosophy, making connections over steaming herbs and paying homage to their medicinal properties. I would set up at the farmer’s market with the help of loved ones who held my baby when she wasn’t strapped to my chest. That baby is now almost 10 years old, an aspiring entrepreneur and budding maker herself, and it seems fitting that she was with me all those weeks, slinging tea at our neighborhood market. Over these years, I learned that I can love making something without wanting to make a business out of it. I let go of Herbal Philosophy, which was my identity as much as my brain-child, almost exactly mid-decade, but I retained my reverence for herbal medicine (and many of my herbs, until my mom helped me throw them away because sometimes we need help).
I also started blogging regularly as a new mother. I wanted to process my experience, share, and connect. This was before I had any friends who were also moms, before everyone’s mom got social media accounts, before “influencers,” before the internet exploded in a mess of new content packaged prettily and ready for consumption. Before smart phones took over, hijacking us by our hormones. Before Instagram became our party of choice. Who has time for writing or reading blogs anymore? I also battled with the old imposter syndrome. Who am I to write about my life?
After all, the older I get the more life stumps me. I faced new challenges this decade. I found new pain, anger, and fear—but it was not actually new, it was old, and I had excavated it. I became less sure of myself, less willing to write about my growth and struggles publicly, especially since reading my old blog posts became uncomfortable. My younger self seems unfamiliar and preachy, though I was only preaching to myself. It’s like listening to a recording of your voice and realizing that you sound nothing like how you do in your head. I stopped wanting to write about myself, but still wanted to write.
Over the decade I attended writing workshops and retreats. I wrote pages and pages of fiction. I found a writing and editing job that I enjoy. I moved to San Francisco and built a life. I made new friends and loved my old friends harder. I chipped away at the proverbial dirt clouding my vision, the old stories that don’t serve me, the new stories that must find a home. I changed my perspective of success.
Success is being present for my family. Success is supporting my husband even when its hard. Success is doing creative work for the love of the process. Success is believing in my worth regardless of external approval. Success is owning my strengths and honoring my weaknesses. Success is leaning into discomfort and serving the community and knowing when to say no. Success is having the energy to help my children find their way, and knowing when to get of their way. Success is taking care of my mental, physical, spiritual, financial, and relationship health. Success is expressing myself honestly and vulnerably. Success is practicing stillness and yoga and faith. Success is heeding gut instincts.
The decade ended perfectly. On 12/30/19, my little family flew back San Francisco from Seattle. We worked together to unpack and clean up and make up the beds for our New Year’s Eve sleepover. On New Year’s Eve, I made dinner for 10, chicken and steak and potatoes and carrots and brussels and butternut and bread sticks and salad and a cheese plate. We toasted with champagne and left the 4 kids with a babysitter so we could see a funk band called Lettuce play at The Independent, an intimate venue 5 minutes away. The band’s potent energy build-up to midnight had me dancing my way out of 2019 into 2020 with some of my favorite people by my side. Our friends stayed over and we started the new decade together. We took our tired children on a long walk, uphill both ways, through the wood line in the Presidio. When we emerged from the woods, we paused to feel the sunshine on our faces.
The challenges and the blessings of this decade have humbled me. I grew up a lot. I tried out different things. I changed. And I learned to love the person I used to be because she made me who I will be in 2020.