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40 days, 40 nights, 40 winks and 40 years
Celebrating "La Cuarenta" and the importance of telling the story even when you don't understand the play.
Hello, from an aqua blue AirBnB in Sayulita, Mexico, where I’ve been celebrating my 40th birthday with my dear friend, Emily.
I chose to spend this milestone birthday in a county I love with a human I love to spend some time thinking about the things about my life that I love.
It’s been a busier month than I expected, and I found myself in the days leading up to the trip scurrying around, trying to finish a bunch of projects and squeeze in some time with my kids and Frank.
Julian and I were going to meet up to watch “Asteroid City,” but a series of SNAFUs left me sitting in the theater alone, feeling sad about not getting to watch this movie with my kid, as planned.
I watched it anyway, oscillating between dozing off and gazing at the desert scenery and feeling confused about the storyline of the movie.
Wes Anderson makes some seriously silly and weird movies — my favorite of which will likely always be “The Life Aquatic” — and this one shows he’s just getting weirder.
It’s a play within a movie, where the characters occasionally leave the brightly colored world of the fictional Asteroid City to go the black-and-white world of the theater where the play is taking place.
The dialogue is intentionally obtuse, so it’s a relief when, toward the end of the movie, one of the main characters, played by Jason Schwartzman, tells another, “I still don’t understand the play.”
The friend, played by Adrian Brody, replies: “You don’t have to, just keep telling the story.”
That was the moment the movie finally made me feel something.
Just keep telling the story, even if you don’t understand the play.
I have so many stories in the Substack queue that I’ve been a little lost about how to go about telling them. One about my visit to the Titanic museum in Branson last month and another about a creative reuse store in Springfield that is near to my heart. Then there’s the sweeping First Americans Museum in Oklahoma City that left me in awe of the 39 tribal nations that call Oklahoma home. And I still haven’t shared the story about walking out of a plantation tour in Nashville because I’m still processing what happened that day.
But I don’t have to understand the play to keep telling the story.
So, as I get working on those other pieces, I want to share the final story that appears in the debut issue of The Feminist Kitchen zine.
The theme was birthdays, and the story is called “La Cuarenta.”
I hope you enjoy it!
Before I go, I wanted to send a quick thank you to all the folks who have reached out to share their thoughts about the zine. I’ve heard from strangers and friends, longtime readers and new, via handwritten letters and texts and Instagram posts, about how my work resonates with them, even when I’m sure it won’t. I shipped nearly 150 copies of that little beauty to readers in 18 states and two countries with seemingly endless stamps. And yes, I can’t wait to do it again in just a few short months.
Sending love to you all,
I am turning 40 this summer.
An age that used to mean “over the hill.” I remember when my mom threw my dad an “Over the Hill” party when I was a kid. We’d just moved into our new house on Sunshine Street.
In my memory now, they seem so young to be joking about being so close to death.
But here I am, a 40-year-old who talks about death more than most 40-year-olds she knows.
I can see why 40 has seemed like such a big deal, for so long.
In tarot, four is a call to pause, and 10 is a threshold, so numerically speaking, I can understand why 40 appears over and over again in cultures all around the world.
40 winks, 40 acres, 40 ounces of beer. 40 weeks of pregnancy. 40 hours in a workweek.
40 days and 40 nights of Jesus wandering the desert.
40 years of Jews living outside the promised land, enough time for a new generation to establish themselves and find their own way home.
We get the word “quarantine” from the time, 40 days, needed to isolate before you can be “cleared” from disease.
And -40 is the only temperature that is the same in both Farenheit and Calsius.
In Spanish, Lent is called “La Cuaresma,” but for all these years, I’ve remembered it as “La Cuarenta,” a little grammatical error that I think I want to keep.
In my first 40 years, I learned about death, and birth, and the never-ending cycle between them.
It's a unit of time, not a deadline. A marker, not a cliff.
I'm approaching 40, not as an excuse to count up all the things I haven’t done or to wring my hands about my pending decline.
I know too many people living very full lives well past 40 to get hung up on that old story.
But maybe by getting comfortable with death, thanks to the losses I've faced during my first Cuarenta, I can make the most of whatever the next Cuarenta might hold.
If I’m lucky to count another whole, fat, juicy block of time on this beautiful planet.
But for these 40 seconds, 40 minutes, or, God willing, 40 years, I’ll keep my eyes and my heart open to see where every precious unit of time takes me.