My Odyssey hugs the curves, gliding along the road as if on muscle memory. I relish this feeling of controlled power, of being able to direct the vehicle with an expertise I have no recollection of acquiring. Laddu is chatting merrily in the backseat. I am in the moment, experiencing exhilaration in the very ordinary of things.
I am standing in my closet inspecting each piece of clothing. There are a few I hold dear, I hug them close, release them into the pile I am accumulating for Goodwill. The last to go is a still encased in plastic wrap formal attire. A set I wore just once to a job interview. I have held on to it for ten years. Letting go of it feels like catharsis.
I look at myself in the mirror as I apply eyeliner. Ammu stands behind me keenly observing what seems to be a very womanly ritual. Next, I make a perfect circle at the center of my forehead with the saandhu. “You look beautiful Amma,” she says simply as she walks away. I look at myself again with newly critical eyes. I am beautiful, despite the bags under my eyes, the worry lines, the laugh lines, the crows feet, the grey roots, the double chin. I feel beautiful.
I am folding clothes as I speak to my cousin over the phone. We trade notes, we commiserate, we talk about our children. We talk about holding jobs, earning money, about our past, about our future. The hormone induced ugly cry from the morning gives way to a contentment that comes from sharing and dissipating negative thoughts into the void.
I am in the grocery store, my heart filling with happiness at the sight of four organic whole milk cans. The specific kind only found at this particular store. The ones that are always out of stock. I fill my cart. I am practically singing as I check out.
I am standing in the walk-in closet that shares a wall with my bathroom. Laddu is on the potty. Ammu is helping her. A minute earlier Laddu made her decision clear. “Amma you stay downstairs. Akka will help me.” I waited until the girls walked upstairs and followed them as quietly as I could. I hear the sound that makes me want to break down into tears. I wait a minute more and peek. Ammu is helping clean her sister. Laddu is chattering nineteen to a dozen. They seem like they have been doing this for years. Later at the kitchen island, Pattu tells Ammu “you are ready to be a mom.” I smile and tuck away this moment for posterity.
I am post forty. For the first time in my life, I am pleased with what I am, whom I have become, how I look and the life I live. I am at peace. I own my choices. I am flawed and I am accepting of my flaws. I have my rough patches but I wait them out. I have my highs but I temper them with the weight of my experience. I am privileged and I am woke enough to realize it. I am indebted and know enough to pay it forward. To know enough not to confuse success with happiness, solitude for loneliness, company for friendship, achievements for actualization.
All of my life has been building to this point. That to enjoy the day for what it is knowing everything could and will be different tomorrow. It will not be the end of my world either. I am thankful for what I am. I am free to be me.