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My Fortieth Year and A Dream Inventory


I’m in my fortieth year of life, and although I always told myself to not make a big deal about this when it came, I can’t stop myself from thinking about it at least once a day. It’s like knowing there’s chocolate in the house, and no matter how many times I tell myself to leave it, at some point during the day, I’m going to reach for it and eat it. So, turning forty is like eating chocolate? Well, yeah. I’d like to make it feel like that. The paradox of knowing I shouldn’t and the joy in eating and indulging. Not that I can control Time and turning forty like I can control whether or not I buy the chocolate in the first place, but I’m sticking with this idea.

So forty.

I wish I could remember what is like being in my mother’s womb. That I could remember being born. The first time my skin felt air, my ears heard her voice unwatered and pure, the first time I felt another human touch me. Maybe deep down the memories and sensory firsts are there. Maybe the sensation and awareness has happened throughout my life…the first time I kissed a boy I loved, being pregnant and giving birth, kissing and holding my own children for the first times. This life is incredible and wild and hard and deep.

And I’m acutely aware of the moments connected to each other by love and fear and joy and adventure, and so much more, but always connected. Now, this ‘milestone’ birthday. This year of living that we hold up differently than others. Like twelve, thirteen, sixteen, nineteen, twenty, twenty-five, thirty, thirty-five…Am I really half-way through this life? Will I live ’till I’m eighty? What will my quality of life be? How will the earth be? Will humanity still be…in existence how it is today? How will I feel about death? About living? It’s shocking and interesting to me that these thoughts are banging around in my head. At the forefront now…when maybe before they were only on passing trains of thoughts…speeding through the stations of the hours of my day. Now, they’re slowing down. Some of them are stopping and questions are getting off and taking a seat near the vending machine.

I ask people who’ve turned forty already – do you feel different? Mostly, they say no. But maybe that’s because a deeper answer takes time and emotions…and maybe these living of life transitions are more internal than external. I know for sure that I’ve been feeling ‘age’ since I turned 34. When I turned 34, my body went through a change that surprised and frustrated, and scared me, quite frankly. I had aches and pains I couldn’t get rid of as easily. I couldn’t go for a run and feel better. My hips and boobs changed – and there was nothing I could do about it. But…those physical changes didn’t penetrate my thoughts more than in passing worries. I think last year, living in 39, was another year of physical changes…but still, I didn’t feel in my mind, different.

I feel different in my mind now. I didn’t ask for this. In fact, I’m trying to avoid it, but there’s a new voice in my head. She’s a woman. She’s wise. She’s a ‘me’ who is coaxing me into loving exactly who, how and what I am. She’s the station manager, maybe. I’ve actually thought for the first time in my life, I don’t want to be twenty anymore. That’s the age I’ve always wanted to feel – twenty. Vibrant. Flexible. Spontaneous. Like a nimble, unsinkable boat ready to blast off into a sea of possibilities.

Nah. Now, I want a houseboat. I want an anchor. I want to stay near the shore and admire the hugeness of the sea. Count the colours – name them, write poetry about them – that dapple the surface from the sun and the moon. It feels different in my head. It feels different in my body.

Time feels different – and that’s a new sensation. Like I’m coming out of a new womb…except I’m not exactly sure who my mother is! Or how long I’ve been in utero. I can hear new voices, and I feel comfort and safety – also new types of peacefulness. And acceptance. Yet…I don’t quite understand this new recipe. I want to dip my finger in this batter of forty and figure out if I like the taste…what I need to add or subtract. Do I want a cake or cupcakes? Or nothing sweet at all? I don’t know. And it’s totally fine that I don’t know.

This houseboat is real and metaphorical. I’ve been dreaming about owning and living on a houseboat for about five years now. I feel like it will be the perfect place to live out my new dreams. I want to be on water, near water, feel water.

Here…take a look at this blog about living on a houseboat in Amsterdam. I just googled ‘interior houseboats’ and this came up. 

I watched a film called ‘Miss You Already’ starring Drew Barrymore and Toni Colette (it’ll make you sob-cry, so heads up) a couple of years ago. Barrymore’s character lives on a house boat. I couldn’t find images of it, but if you watch the film, you can see it. That’s kinda what I’d like to live on. Also, the images in the blog show how I’d like to decorate too.

I think what also draws me to this is that it’s small. Or, at least, I’d want it to be. I want to get a place in my life where all I need are the few books I’m reading, my laptop, my journal, my photos, and that’s it. Where would I dock this boat? Manhattan, of course. *She throws her head back and laughs.* That’s the ultimate dream, but I’ll take any shore that keeps me close to Jett and Miller…wherever they’ll be at that point in their lives. The hubby? Of course he’ll be right my side!

This living-on-a-houseboat dream is fairly new.

But this aging thing, it shifts one’s dream inventory, doesn’t it? So what are we supposed to do with all the dreams we’d thought we’d have achieved by 40? Those bucket list lines that we promised ourselves we’d achieve ‘by the time I’m 40!’.

Here are mine:

  1. Go skydiving.
  2. Run a marathon.
  3. Go to Greece.
  4. Meet Tom Cruise.
  5. Win a writing award.
  6. Be a famous writer.
  7. Learn how to sail.
  8. Be a lead in a broadway show.
  9. Live in NYC.
  10. Be in a film.
  11. Go to the Academy Awards.
  12. Be nominated for a Best Original Screenplay Oscar.
  13. Be interviewed by 1-2 CBC radio shows about writing. (‘Q’ or ‘The Next Chapter’)
  14. Be interviewed by Terry Gross on ‘Fresh Air’.
  15. Do a dance recital (hip-hop).
  16. Travel a lot.
  17. Live in Paris.
  18. Get an agent and book deals.
  19. Teach at university.
  20. Own a cottage.
  21. Eat healthy and love my body.
  22. Be rich. (In money!)
  23. Own Gertrude’s Literary Cafe – and it be one of the world’s ‘must visit’ for writers/artists/creatives.

When I type out this list, I feel a bit embarrassed, and shy, and sad, and hopeful. I haven’t seen a list like this outside of my head in years. But it’s time. It’s time to be real about these dreams and decide which ones I want to keep on the list. And think about adding new dreams.

I’m missing some dreams that I’ve had since I was a teenager, I’m sure! I think those are more courage and ‘single-person’ based than the dreams I can think of now. I feel like many of the dreams I had a kid/teenager weren’t attached to being a mother/wife. Dreams change when you become a mother. It’s not right or wrong or good or bad. It’s just the truth. It doesn’t mean you can’t still have dreams or that you can’t still achieve dreams, but it means your priorities change enough that your dream list has to shift…at least for a time.

I think that our ability to be courageous changes too. Not necessarily attached to being a parent, but in general. Like, when I was twenty, I was gung-ho about jumping out of a plane to sky dive. Now, it makes my stomach shrink and hide, and I feel like puking. I don’t have the courage to do that anymore. Nor the desire. But, the courage to be on a Broadway stage, yes, I still have that courage, I think!

Other dreams – the vast and romantic ones – ‘be rich!’, ‘be famous’ – these make me giggle and smile at myself. At the kind of  blanket ease of them. Like the statement could make it so. And these are ‘be famous’ dreams pre-Internet and going ‘viral’. If I got famous today, I wouldn’t necessarily want it to be via the Internet, would I? The hubby always says he should video record me dancing and singing. ‘Mom of two dancing in her pjs’ could definitely go viral. I’d hit the talk show circuit. Maybe be on The View. See, it makes me laugh too! But, would that be enough to get Tom Cruise’s attention? Would we both be invited on Jimmy Fallon’s show, and I’d go first and tell Jimmy that I’ve always dreamed of meeting Tom? Would Tom come out and surprise me? Would we grab a coffee at a dive-y diner after the show? Wow. You can see how some dreams just keep on giving.

Some dreams I’ve had aren’t specific. There’s no actual plan to make them happen. Just ‘be famous’. ‘Be rich’. Maybe we all have these types of grand dreams on our childhood lists because we believe in the magic of them. Because we are so hopeful and so beautifully naive, that these dreams allow us to take changes maybe we wouldn’t otherwise. That on some level, reaching for these common, crazy, silly or serious dreams is what essentially allows us to learn how to create dreams and live them out.

Maybe I’ll never meet Tom Cruise (NOOOOOO!), but I tell you, having the dream keeps my heart-a-flutter at the bigness of it all. Having this dream keeps my focused on the dream size ‘outrageously massive’. Just like, ‘be famous’ and ‘be rich’.

Is it fair to amend a childhood dream list? Is a ‘hope’ or a ‘wish’ in the same realm of a ‘dream’? Is it dangerous for my soul to take a dream off this list? I suppose I could always add it back on, right?

What is life without dreaming? Hoping? Wishing? Failing and being disappointed? And how and why does ‘age’ hold up these god-like stop signs for us – to dare us to take stock of what dreams we began holding as children…and what dreams we still want to hold in our nows?

I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever make it to a Broadway stage. But the dream still makes my chest tighten. Perhaps that’s the way to go about assessing this dream inventory. Think of the dream – pay attention to how my body reacts to it – decide if I want to keep it on the list.

  1. Go skydiving. – Ew. Puke. Terrified. Nope. Stomach hiding.
  2. Run a marathon. – Deep sigh. My joints flicker in pain. Probably not. Maybe if I walk it?!
  3. Go to Greece. – Heat over my heart. YES!
  4. Meet Tom Cruise. – Heart flutter. YES!
  5. Win a writing award. – Weight on my chest. Only when I don’t care about winning. Then the dream will feel real.
  6. Be a famous writer. – Gentle smile. It would be really nice. Yes.
  7. Learn how to sail. – Yes but on a small sail boat on a calm water. Nothing too scary.
  8. Be a lead in a broadway show. – Gentle nervous squeeze in my chest. Yes. Yes, please.
  9. Live in NYC. – YES! On a houseboat, right?
  10. Be in a film. – I mean, I’ve had small roles in films, but I’m talking…a lead. Crooked smile. Not holding my breath on this one. Maybe a cameo in my book-to-film film?
  11. Go to the Academy Awards. – Absolutely. Without question. YES.
  12. Be nominated for a Best Original Screenplay Oscar. – See above.
  13. Be interviewed by 1-2 CBC radio shows about writing. (‘Q’ or ‘The Next Chapter’) Sigh. This one is in shadow carried over from 2017. Yes, but…it feels nearly impossible.
  14. Be interviewed by Terry Gross on ‘Fresh Air’. – See above.
  15. Do a dance recital (hip-hop). – Giggling. I’d like to but it’s silly and, can my body do hip hop?!
  16. Travel a lot. – YES. With the family. With the Hubby. Alone.
  17. Live in Paris. – The writer in me reaches out with both hands for this dream, but the rest of me…isn’t sure. Maybe for a summer?
  18. Get an agent and book deals. -Teeth grind. Anger heat. YES. This process is so hard. It feels unintuitive. The process. The waiting. The unwavering waiting of it all. But, yes. It’s a dream.
  19. Teach at university.- Eye brow furrows. Yes? But on my terms so not sure how realistic. And where?
  20. Own a cottage.- Shoulder shrug. It would be icing, darling, icing.
  21. Eat healthy and love my body. – Yeah. Pull shoulders back. Suck in belly. Rolls remain. Ah, how about – be nice to myself?
  22. Be rich. (In money!) – The voice of a psychic sings to me: you will always have enough. My response: But will I have lots of money and not have to worry? The psychic: you will always have enough. I’d like to have lots of money. For the kids. For our dreams. But…I also don’t want to think about it!
  23. Own Gertrude’s Literary Cafe – and it be one of the world’s ‘must visit’ for writers/artists/creatives. – YES. YES.SUPER. UBER. YES.

Dreams feel different as we age. Like our bodies. Like our minds. It’s all related, isn’t it?

And dreams I’d like to add?

  1. Be a grandmother.
  2. Own a new[er] car. Something electric.
  3. Self-publish books (photography?).
  4. Play the guitar really well then do an open mic.
  5. Take a cooking/baking class.
  6. Learn how to box.
  7. Take a ballroom dance class and learn how to Tango.
  8. Go back to school. Take classes I want to take because I want to learn about the subject.
  9. Meditate every day.
  10. Go on a writing retreat in Europe (Italy/Greece/?).
  11. Go on an all-inclusive holiday with the family.
  12. Learn how to sew and make my own clothes.
  13. Go to a Country Living vintage fair.
  14. Have lunch with Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep and Diane Keaton.
  15. Attend a Stephen King event.
  16. Publish more poetry books.
  17. Hire a chef.
  18. Renew our wedding vows and have a ridiculous party.

This is really fun! I haven’t made a dream list in years. Probably twenty!

Some dreams feel a little like goals…which, maybe are a bit quicker/easier to achieve? It doesn’t matter. I like having dreams to look forward to living. I like having dreams to make me feel like the impossible is possible, even when sometimes they feel impossible! I like having dreams because how else would I share a meal with Julia, Meryl and Diane?

It feels important to do a dream inventory in this, my fortieth year of life. I want to celebrate every day, not just on my birthday. I want to embrace it…even though it feels new and different and sometimes a little scary. I want to understand this new deepness…this age-ing-ness.

In the last few days, I’ve watched several shows where characters are in tears, regret piercing their lives like a double-edged knife. They’ve wished they’d known when they were ‘living the good old days’ when they were living them so they would know the feeling of them as they were living them. It made me sad. And it made me think about dreams and aging. And regrets, of which I have none. I think that the good old days are every day. They are every moment. They are every dream. So, if you think about them as being the ‘bests’ of your each days – then you’re always living them. The good old days are every days.

I want to make sure I feel this life as much as I can. Use love as the sponge that saturates and releases each day. So forty – every day of this year and the years beyond it – is just another set of dreams to hold and live or release peacefully.

Thank you for reading.


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