In less than 20 days I cross over from my thirties into my forties. I think about this single fact and it offers comfort and sadness. As the years fall like slow-motion dominoes, my view of life is a kaleidoscope of both happiness and sorrow. Juggling these emotions complicates my internal cadence, but I am learning to accept the swing of my personal pendulum, instead of fighting it and asking, “What is wrong with me?”  For years I questioned why I failed to gravitate toward the carefree spirit that allow some people to step on the escalator without looking. I will never be that girl. I will always look below before stepping on my moving staircase.

My staircase represents more of a spiral. The path is never linear. Because I am a planner and steeped in my disdain for the unknown, I always hoped that were some iron-clad certainties present in my life. The more I live, the less I believe in absolutes, hypotheticals, and that word, certainty. The curve of my spine stood straight at times and slumped over with no support in the decade that comprised my thirties. I ushered in my thirties with a trip to New York. My husband and I watched our first Broadway play, The Producers, while looking up at the actors and the playbill at the same time. That girl, yes girl, reveled in awe at the tempo of New York. Much of my life resembled the fast shuffling feet of the typical New Yorker. At thirty-one, I worked as a lawyer and carved out very little time to really look up and take a breath. Then the spiral staircase started taking a turn in a different direction. In 2006, I crossed the first line when our daughter was born. Motherhood marked an important passage. Ambition became secondary. In 2007, I made the decision to leave behind a career that I convinced myself was my life’s work. I crossed a professional line that I have not revisited in almost 7 years.

The death of my father in 2009 is when that girl morphed into an adult. When I lost my father, the spiral staircase took a steep turn. In one instant, nothing would ever be the same. Witnessing the slow death of someone I loved made all the dominoes all fall down at once. One particular moment wrenched my gut. As it happened, I screamed inside so nobody could hear the noise in my heart. My father suffocated to death and as I write this, I still hear the oxygen machine making tha swoosh-swoosh sound, as he kept telling me,  “Rudri, is it working? Check if it is working. Please, check. I still cannot breathe.” The truth was the oxygen  setting was on max, but how could I reveal that he would spend the remaining days of his life starving for air? The grief of those long days still linger even in my happiest of moments. Some moments remain etched and no matter how hard I yearn to go back, I never will.

The latter part of my thirties created a maelstrom of various undercurrents. Moving to another state, exploring another career, struggling and reveling in motherhood, and learning to navigate some very difficult terrain in my most personal relationships created a whirlpool of  conflicting emotions. Each one of these places represented a physical, metaphorical, and emotional crossing of the line.

Which lines will I cross next? I suspect there will be ambiguities and more uncertainties. There will be sheer happiness, shocking disbelief, and aching sadness. Winding through this staircase, that’s how my pendulum finds its balance. Happiness and sadness, that’s how it is meant to be.