In The Middle

I have a lipoma. This sounds worse than it is – it’s technically a tumor, yes, but it’s not cancer; it’s just a “fatty globule” (hot) the size of a walnut. It’s tucked underneath my left armpit, sort of towards my back. I can get it removed, but there’s really no reason to other than vanity.

David Sedaris has a lipoma. So does my father-in-law. A couple of weeks ago I had an extended conversation about lipomas with a friend who runs a tattoo parlor in Los Angeles. He has one, too.

All of a sudden, lipomas are popping up everywhere in my life. According to my doctor, they’re pretty common in middle age.

I’m not a kid anymore, even if I feel like one most of the time. I’m not a “young adult,” either. I’m not even young. The skin on my chest looks like my mother’s now; like it’s been out in the sun a bit too long. When I put my feet up on the dashboard in the car, I bend my knees so that the skin tightens up and I don’t have to stare at the folds that didn’t used to be there. I have permanent lumps up and down my shins from decades of bumping into things, and when I take a photograph of myself with one of my children the difference between their skin and my own makes me want to cry, because they are angels and I am the crypt-keeper.

I usually cry on my birthday. Not because of the aging thing – I mean, obviously I’m not especially at peace with the idea of aging, but that’s not what does it; it’s a combination of the pressure of having A Wonderful Day (which always freaks me out; see: New Year’s Eve and weddings), plus my parents being around, as they often are this time of year. Thinking about them thinking about me. My feeling is that when you’re an adult and have to entertain your parents in your own home and show them what their child’s life is like now, tears are always just below the surface.

This birthday is an especially tough one for me. The ectopic pregnancy – that was a big one. Confronting the fact that your childbearing years are almost certainly in the past is hard to face regardless of whether or not you *wanted* more children; there’s a necessary mourning period after you realize that there will be no more chances to feel little feet kicking you from inside, or to watch a tiny face smile in his sleep. There’s also the fact that my career trajectory has reached critical mass, and I’m likely going to make a sharp turn in another direction, and soon – both because I want to and because think I might have to. There’s the kids, who are technically “easier” now that they’re older, but really so much harder in so many ways. And the marriage, which I’ve learned is about 50% work and 50% luck, and that’s a whole lot of luck to put your money on when what you’re gambling is everything.

But I didn’t cry on my birthday this year. I cried the night before, when my parents arrived from the airport late at night, after my kids and my husband were asleep. We talked about money, and children, and life, and after awhile I crawled into my mother’s lap and sobbed on her shoulder while she rubbed my back. That’s something that I don’t think I’ve done in years, if not decades.

I said I was scared that I wasn’t a good parent. That I hadn’t made them proud. That I’ve made bad choices. That I don’t know what’s next for us.

I hate not knowing what’s next. It makes me feel ashamed.

Eventually I stopped crying, and put on a face mask because that’s what I have to do now if I cry late at night, and I went to sleep. In the morning Kendrick and I went to a yoga class. The instructor started the session by talking about silence: about how it’s only in the absence of the noise that surrounds us that we can see what’s real, and what’s just another lie. When the class was over, we got into the car and pulled over to the side of the road a few blocks away. We sat there in the front seat of our Subaru Outback and told each other the things that we had to say. We yelled, and fought, and made each other laugh.

Then we pulled into our driveway and went inside, where we found my mom and our daughter baking a birthday cake. Our friends Elise and Miles came over with their kids, some prosecco, and Costco pizza, and we floated around on inflatable unicorns for awhile. We ended the day with the kids in the garage watching cartoons while the grownups ate Thai takeout on paper plates around the coffee table with This is 40 in the background (and just FYI, this is most accurate movie that has ever been made).

I am not zen about aging. I do not feel like I’m exactly where I want to be at this point in my life, or like I’m ready to take the fairly enormous next steps that I have a feeling this year will bring. I sort of just want to take a nap, even though I know that’s not where we are, and that relaxing isn’t an option.

But on my birthday I did not cry. I laughed. A lot. I ate too much cake and drank too much wine. I hid in the backyard with Elise and smoked a cigarette, just to be bad. I sat on my mom’s lap and she scratched my back like she used to when I was little.

I am 37. I have a lipoma, and old lady knees, and high cholesterol and too many bills to pay. But I also have the kind of friends I didn’t know a grown-up could have, and two parents who will fly across the country to sing happy birthday to me. A husband who I love, and who loves me. My kids.

I am 37. And I am a lucky, lucky woman.

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