When I was a little kid, I dreamed of being a writer. Sometimes I would crawl out my bedroom window and sit on my parents' roof just staring at the horizon, wondering where I would roam. Other times I would ride my horse Tango as far as I could from the house to this towering cottonwood tree with twisted branches that sat alone between two corn fields under a gigantic blue South Dakota sky. I would tie Tango up and sit in the shade with a notebook, doodling stories and wishes.
Now I am turning 50 and I can't help but think of that little girl. In some ways, I have let her down, but in other ways I've done her proud. I still believe in fairy tales and magic, even though some of my life has been tragic.
Rebuilding my life after having the very foundation of it crumble beneath me has been hard. My confidence eroded. My heart took a beating. I developed an edge born out of needing to defend myself and my family and fight, fight, fight for over a decade.
What to do when the fight is over? That's the question.
Romancing myself in this new era is uncovering glimpses of that little girl I used to be. The more I learn to indulge curiosity, to play with my passions, and to encourage myself, the closer I become to that woman I always wanted to be.
Why is it that we are able to encourage others but have a hard time doing that for ourselves? Why is it that we can easily be compassionate toward a friend or our children but not ourselves?
A year ago I couldn't look myself in the eye because the sorrow I saw in them shamed me. How could I let this happen, I would ask. When did I deviate from my path?
Decade birthdays are significant, wouldn't you say? I'm talking about the birthdays like 20, 30, 40, 50...the birthdays that are mile markers on our journey through life.
My 20s were spent proving myself to the world, discovering who I was as a new adult. I was still pretty wild then--maybe I still am. I traveled the world, had some great jobs and some shitty ones, loved a few great guys and a few shitty ones...and married the blue-eyed boy with the quick smile.
My 30s were filled with big moments--bought my first house on my thirtieth birthday, quit my bigshot job to be a full-time mom of toddlers. My life became solely focused on my family and I loved it. Playdates. Tumbletots. School plays. Swim lessons. Soccer games. Lots of friends. Lots of laughter.
I became a widow at age 37.
My 40s were hectic. Single mom trying to rebuild a career. Daughter with anxiety issues. Teaching the kids to drive. Teenage hormone-fueled dramas. Highschool graduations. College. Selling the family home. Moving to a new state alone. Lots of huge life changes and upheavals. Chaos.
Now here I am staring the 50's decade in the face. I think of that little girl all the time now, not only her but the Amber I was in my 20s. For some reason, those two images come to mind often. I now know I have the power to create the life I want. I get to choose. I'm at no one's mercy anymore. I'm no longer a wife--haven't been for a long, long time. I'm still a mom but my kids are adults with busy lives of their own, which is a good thing. I am content. I am happy. I'm still edgy--but I've earned a bit of grit so am good with it.
What will this next decade bring? What do I do now that the fight is over? Why is it hard for me to show my joy?
I can look myself in the eye these days. No more flinching away, no more hiding. I devote myself to my writing, my editing, my reading, my self-discovery. A few years ago I wouldn't have been able to say I believed in much. I felt like I was living in hell, trapped, flailing about like a fish struggling to breathe on land. Yet here I am--looking myself in the eye again and smiling 'just because." I can honestly say now that I believe in magic, in faith, in miracles, and in me.
Decade birthdays are significant. They give us a chance to look back with reflection while embracing the hope of a clean slate--a fresh decade to become the best version of ourselves. It's sort of fun for me to think of life in ten year increments. Perhaps it's the writer in me that likes to think of them as chapters with twists and turns and heroes and villains. Now the 40s are done, the page has turned, and I am eager to see what happens next.
My romance with myself continues. As with any date, I am asking the hard questions, peeling back the layers, and learning to love both the dark and the light in the person staring back at me.
I leave you with wise old Jimmy Buffet who sang, "Some of it's magic, some of it's tragic, but I've had a good life all the way."
Amber Lea Easton is a multi-published author of romantic thrillers, contemporary romance, women's fiction, and nonfiction. In addition, Easton also writes under two pen names--Dakota Skye (erotic paranormal romance thrillers) and Cassidy Springfield (new adult). She also works as a professional editor and creativity coach, takes road trips with her dogs whenever the mood strikes, and advocates for suicide awareness. To find out more about her books, please visit http://www.amberleaeaston.com.