10.05.2014

ONE YEAR OLDER (AND WISER TOO)


Last week my friend Justin Hackworth came to the city to photograph a few families. When one of his shoots was cancelled last minute + he found himself in the area with some free time, he asked to come by + do a bit of a stylized shoot with me. He even chose my outfit! You should have seen it, it was like a real-life Sex in The City-type montage of Justin reviewing then rejecting practically all of my wardrobe options. All we were missing was an upbeat pop song in the background, it was fantastic. :) I love the way the photos turned out, but even better than that it was a really dear time spent with a really dear friend. I'll be sharing a few of the photos along with my now-traditional birthday essay below if ya please, cheese. It's horribly gratuitous and self-indulgent of me, which is the point, obviously.


So I've been thinking a lot about trains lately.

Since moving to Brooklyn I spend a lot of time on trains. All these trains, on all these different lines from what I was used to taking on the west side of things, which has had the pleasant side effect of making me feel like I am making all these new friends. Because I rather think the subways are a lot like people.

Take the R, for example. The R is silly. The R takes her sweet ever-loving time. I feel like I age a decade every time I have to wait on an R train. Just... she takes forever. When she finally does arrive it's only v-e-r-r-r-r-y s-l-o-w-w-w-w-l-y. It's quite the ordeal, she sort of reminds me of my grandmother. First you see her headlights, softly blinking in the tunnels far off in the distance. Is that a train? you ask yourself. Is that... MY train?? You catch yourself holding your breath. And then you see her glowing yellow sign, and you pray she's not an N, because the last thing you need is an N, and then it's not an N! And it's an R! And oh glory hallelujah! That sort of thing. But it's not over yet. It's a huge grand process, not at all rushed, as she practically sashays on up to the platform. And then, finally, five minutes later, she stops. She's here. And then she waits an extra second or two before finally opening her doors for you. Because she's classy like that. She plays hard to get, like some difficult southern lady or whatever, and anyway I don't know what her deal is but you wouldn't dare ask her, you're just grateful she decided to show up.

Then there's the F train. I love the F train. The F train comes blaring into the station at you full speed ahead, this whole big rush of BAM, YOU'VE BEEN F TRAINED! And I kind of like it. It makes me feel a little bit giddy, she's just so exuberant about getting here. With an F train you hear her + see her + feel her all at the same time--the frenetic noise of the clanging tracks, the bright lights and her gleaming silver front, that big whoosh of tunnel air as she whisks on in. She's there and stopped before you even thought to notice you'd been waiting. In my imagination she hollers "HERE I AAAAAAAAAAAAMMMMM" as she blasts into the station like hells bells to the bullies. It's all very sudden and exciting. When she opens her doors it's rather cheerily, too, all, "HI I'M THE F TRAIN! HOP ON, WE'RE GOING SOMEWHERE! HEY HURRY HURRY! SO HOW'VE YA BEEN? OMG YOU'RE NEVER GOING TO BELIEVE THIS!--" and then off we go.

(The G train, on the other hand, is a total asshole.)

Me, I am probably not an R train.

In fact, I sometimes suspect I could be an F train.

But this is a post about my birthday.



So I think the lesson of 31 was: Always, You Have To Love Yourself First.

31 will go in the books as a good one. It started out really hard, maybe the worst it's ever been. Anxiety. Family issues. More family issues (followed by ex-family issues). Hormone problems. Woohoo! Hormone problems! Doctors and drugs and diets to try and level out the hormonal imbalances; writing and counseling and meditating to try and level out the emotional. Somehow, the precise way in which it all added up made it very easy for me to finally stop in my tracks all together, and look at things real closely, and really and truly decide what in the hell I wanted out of my life for once, and how exactly I wanted to go about doing it. It's when things feel really wrong that one gets the best sense of what feels really right, you know? I decided it was time to quit dicking around already and start to take my intuitions seriously. It was trial by fire at times but by the end of it I felt like I had gotten through all these unnecessary layers of life and living and heartache that had piled on over the years, and found the person underneath that I'd completely forgotten I was. And then just like that it was as easy as could be to just be, without apology or explanation or pressure. And why hadn't I made these decisions sooner? Did it have to happen this way, maybe? Or maybe not? I don't know. All I know is it's an odd sensation when you suddenly find yourself, all the way under there, and realize how much easier it is to be that than it was to be whatever else you'd become without really meaning to. It sort of feels like being 9 again. I feel really comfortable in my skin these days. It's reminded me of a line from Anne of Green Gables that I always come back to:

"And isn't it jolly when you discard furs and winter garments for the first time and sally forth, like this, in spring attire?"

At 31 I finally did all the things + made all the choices that I'd always wanted to make but hadn't ever found the courage for. I set some much-needed boundaries. I made some way over-due decisions. I removed negative influences that had no business touching me.  

And I did some things just for me, too. Silly things I'd always wanted to do. You know. I'm a girl who's always worn her emotions on her sleeve. And now I also wear them on my skin. ;) I also decided that, rather than continue to resent my nose another dang day, I would give her a bit of jewelry, and try and make peace with her. This is flipping personal growth, people. Anyway, I do have a great sense of smell, these things aren't worth nothing.

I did this part of it all rather quickly, which is half the fun of course. Even though the actual deciding process beforehand was like unto molasses; very sticky and incredibly slow. Like the bit at the end of When Harry Met Sally. Yes, that's it, the part right before the coconut cake:

"Three months later, we were married. It only took three months! . . . Twelve years and three months."

And obviously I kind of like that a lot, too.

(So does Brandon. Inked chicks, I don't know.)

I was talking to my sister the other day about all this, she who's known me best of all and who has been there with me through every bizarre moment of this last year. Growing pains and all that. At one point or another she stopped and told me, kind of out of the blue:

"You know, you finally look like you to me. Maybe for the first time I can remember."

So, does that make me an R train then? Running on the F tracks for just a hot minute?



Anyway, it feels good to be me these days.

If 31 was an exercise of pulling back the layers, then I hope 32 will be an exercise of learning to be proud of what's underneath. All of what's underneath (especially the more embarrassing bits). I figure this will take a lot of work, because--well, isn't it always a lot of work? But it's the kind of work I'm excited to do. It seems like more than ever, especially as a mother, I feel this need to set a strong example of confidence. I want to show Huck that goodness and love are stronger when they come from a feeling of freedom, rather than a sense of obligation. I want Huck to know that outside of himself he is all free expression, but that more importantly, inside of himself he is nothing but love.

Hopefully by the end of 32, I will be nothing but love, as well.

(I also want a baby.)

So yo. Happy Birthday to me and things. Go give somebody a hug for me, will you!? And then tell them something nice about themselves. Give someone the benefit of the doubt when you don't think they deserve it. Stand up for yourself with grace and confidence. Think a kind thought the next time you want to roll your eyes (but then roll your eyes anyway, because sometimes you just have to, you know?). This world has gotten pretty nasty lately, doesn't it seem like? On the Internet especially. I think we have it in us to turn all that around.



And thus concludes the NJH portion of the HBS. Nat the Rat over and out.

58 comments :

  1. Oh, Natalie! This is just something I needed to read, two days before my 31st birthday. I've spent 30 working out who I am & I have the strangest feeling I'm only going to become more me as the years pass on.
    I'm crossing everything for that baby of yours as well.

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  2. praying all. the. time. for that baby of yours to finally come to you! happy birthday season.

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  3. I love this - you deserve all of the happiness in the world!

    Happiest of birthdays (and birthday seasons) to you and yours, and may this year continue to be as wonderful as the last little while has been. You're a wonderful mother, and I have no doubt that a lovely little dumpling of a baby is on their way to you right now. X

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  4. I wish we could sit and chat.....

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  5. They say you get "old" when your memories are more relevant than your dreams...and so this posting says about how young and beautiful you are, happy birthday!

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  6. You aren't writing a Mormon/Mommy blog anymore, are you? I still find it curious, I'll probably always find it curious because it's so completely and totally different from everything I know. Also, you are breaking with your religion and rebelling later in life which is truly surprising. I mean, writing a blog must be so weird because you are giving people pieces of a picture that don't fit together. I always thought your husband was a Mormon too. It's cool that he supports your personal growth but I'm left wondering if he has no personal conviction or if he was never into religion much in the first place and it was you driving the whole go to church thing? I'm not religious nor am I judging, like I said, I just find the whole 180 surprising. I never would have guessed.

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    1. hi sara! I never considered myself a Mormon/Mommy blogger, to be honest. and I don't consider any of what I'm doing to be "rebellious." truly, the notion of rebellion only works when you're doing something you don't consider "good" in order to prove a point. at least, that's how I'd describe rebellion. as far as I'm concerned I'm not doing anything that is bad, nor anything that isn't inherently good. I never believed that stuff, I just wasn't ready to "rock the boat." I guess the difference now is that I realize I was never on the boat to begin with. so there's really nothing to rock. if that makes any sense? I'm not doing any of this for anyone but me. it feels really, really great. :) (also, I totally think I get what you were saying and of course, no offense taken at all! truly appreciate your comment!)

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    2. oh! most importantly. I wouldn't consider it lack of personal conviction at all on Brandon's part. more a desire to support his wife in a decision he's fully supported from the get go. I think, for a lot of children from religious families, you do what you can to please your parents until you realize that it's not something you want to pass on to your kids. I'm really proud of Brandon, he's always been very consistent in his convictions,
      most of which are also in harmony with all sorts of church teachings. it's so interesting how often "modesty" and things gets confused with "being a good Christian." where Mormons are concerned, anyway. (this is me rambling by now haha)

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  7. I adore this post!! I hope you had the happiest birthday! The year of liberation and self realization, what a magical thing. I think I'm in the middle of mine to. XO you're the best

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  8. yup, yup good stuff here miss natalie. makes me not hate being *almost* 36 as much. a good reminder - look how far i've come! experience and finding joy in yourself makes the raising number of birthday candles seem not so scary.
    www.thismomsgonnasnap.com

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  9. Hey! The 5th is my birthday, too! No wonder I like you. You write about big, amazing things in a vague style sometimes which I totally understand and appreciate - but you know I wish for the real details at the same time! Oh well, I will just have to settle for your always good and frequently hilarious writing! Happy birthday to us! I hope you get that baby.

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  10. I love your description of the trains :) It's so nice to feel like you know your city truly and deeply, and know that you're a part of it too.

    I've been reading your blog for a few years and it's been wonderful and strange to watch you grow. I hope you have the happiest of birthdays, and that the 32nd birthday post includes the promise of a dimpled baby.

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  11. Happy birthday lady! You DO look very comfortable (and pretty!) in your own skin, and that's what's most important. so you can be the best mom, wife and friend to all your loved ones, including yourself!
    xx
    Maja

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  12. If the internet can be a nasty place, you are a ray of beauty in it all. Touching lives for the good - light and love radiating from you. Happy Birthday!

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  13. Happy happy birthday Nat!
    I like that you are finding and learning to accept your true self. Me too! Maybe it is something related with 30´s? ;)
    Anyway, I just wanted you to know that I love what you writed about the things you want Henry to learn through your example.
    That´s how it has to be. Facts. They speak louder than any other thing.
    Happy birhtday once again! You look beautiful!

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  14. The best post! I identify with it so much! Thank you for your example! Love your ways.

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    1. Also, happy birthday! You and your photos are beautiful.

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  15. This is the most beautiful post, Natalie. One line really hit me hard: "I want to show Huck that goodness and love are stronger when they come from a feeling of freedom, rather than a sense of obligation." My mother has always taught me that doing good deeds, making others happy, being the best kind of person, that's the reward in and of itself--not getting a free pass into heaven, not waiting for karma to cash in your paycheck. I think it's such an important sentiment to learn in becoming just a good person. All of the lessons in this post are fantastic. Choosing happiness, being yourself, even if that can be hard and scary at times, filling your days with love and things that you love--you're a brilliant role model for not only Huck, but all of us who look forward to reading here each day.
    So happy happy birthday! Here's to the best damn 32 you can have! And your birthday present ink is the coolest.

    The What's In Between

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  16. What is it about your 30s? When I was younger, I thought 30 was so old and people were so unhappy about the age!! I turn 30 next Monday, and I am super excited. I totally feel like I'm on your same page. I've never felt more like myself. More confident. More comfortable. Like I have a real grip on what I want and how I can get there. I'm really excited about this decade. I feel like it might be the best years of my life!! So cheers to 30-somethings and cheers to October birthdays. Happy birthday!

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  17. Yes, so, so good! I just turned 32 also. And i'm finding it so liberating to become more and more of the real me as I get older. Best wishes to you this year! Also, such beautiful pictures!

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  18. My 30s have been the best of my life (just hit 37 on Saturday, yea Libras!) When you are a mother (mother of 2 boys in BK), you give everything to your children, and you are often left behind, sometimes a shell of who you use to be. Congrats on giving yourself the time to heal and grow, and here is to an amazing 32. So happy to see your growth and ability to share this with the world. xo

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  19. What a beautiful post, Natalie! I have loved reading your blog and seeing your Instagrams lately. Though we'll likely never meet beyond the blogosphere, your sister's comment seems so on point--all of the words, photographs, and thoughts you've put out recently have seemed so true to you, so beautifully real. As Zoe mentioned, your words "I want to show Huck that goodness and love are stronger when they come from a feeling of freedom, rather than a sense of obligation" are so meaningful and lovely. Happy birthday to you! xxoo

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  20. Happy birthday! These are beautiful photos of you, by the way. I'm in the process of rediscovering myself, as well, and it feels really good.

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  21. Your R train description is just gorgeous. Happy birthday. :)

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  22. gosh, i love this. and you. and basically everything you do. you are a serious inspiration to me, on the daily, and i'm so grateful that i found you (your blog) all those years ago. thank you thank you thank you.

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  23. Oh gosh, thank you for writing this. I feel like I am now where you were a year ago. I desperately want to peel back the layers and get all authentic about my life for once and for all. I have a young daughter and my hesitation and lack of confidence devastate me when I think about what I want for her in her life. I have a lot of work ahead of me, but I'm inspired by your example. Thank you.

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  25. glad to know I'm not the only one. And your nose is adorable :) Wannna trade?

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  26. Love love love it. I think I must love HBS as much as y'all do.

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  27. what a wonderful post! this is exactly the kind of thing I like to read...and those pictures are fantastic. I hope 32 is equally as amazing!

    love, arielle
    a simple elegance

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  28. your pictures are amazing. you are stunning. Happy Birthday!

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  29. Reading and following along as you've graciously shared parts of this life-alterring journey you've been on has been such a privilege and pleasure. Every time I read some of your reflections on this beautiful journey you're on (we're all on really, but you're doing a damn good job of sharing yours with us) I find a little more motivation to embrace my own journey and the deepest layers of myself. I don't say this next part lightly….You are a true inspiration in personal truth-seeking, vulnerability and self-love. thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing and big hugs on your birthday. 32 will be epic, I'm sure.

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  30. I love love the idea of "standing up for yourself with grace and confidence"! Happy birthday! I have been reading along for quite a while now, and it has been so wonderful to see your change and growth. I love that you feel comfortable in your own skin-I think your sister is right. You certainly do seem very you as of late. I am with one of the earlier commenters- praying for you to get that second baby! P.S. That last second to last pic is the raddest!

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  31. Happy Birthday Natalie! Posts like these are the reason you are my favorite blogger, you share real raw emotions with your readers and that only makes us relate to you more. Digging the tattoos! x

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  32. Happy birthday! I LOVE the photos!!!

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  33. I am in the mid-end of this exact process, and it has huuuuurt so bad! But guess what? Bad decisions turned into good decisions and I'm finally at that fun stage all the books kept telling me about! The hop-on-a-trapeze and put-your-fourth-hole-earring-you-pierced-yourself-in-7th-grade-back-in do-what-i want-to-do stage! Right now, it's feeling freaking amazing, I thought I never would see this stage. And I love that you are at the end stage, and told us (me?) how you're feeling about the whole thing now. Thank you! Also, those pictures are great, love them. Also, thanks for just being awesome and real. All the time. Inspiring! Now, let's all pray for more Huck's for you!

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  34. Great post, I really enjoyed reading it & I am so glad that you start this new year in a really good place. When you were going through a lot, I was reading your blog & never would have guessed that....sorry to read that things have been so challenging & hope that this year is full of good stuff.

    LOVE the photos, you look beautiful & also very peaceful.

    Happy Birthday Xx

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  35. happy happy happy birthday!

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  36. You look. SO GOOD. I love these photos, and I agree with your sister.....though she knows you and I don't....I think you look like yourself very much these days. Also, I'm on the verge of tattooing myself most days, especially when I see your photos. Carry on! Happy Birthday!

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  37. While I don't understand the religious element, I know about the self-discovery path. For the first time in my life, I like 'me'. For just being me... perfectly imperfect. I'm a good mother and a good wife, but I've never been good at being me. I recently turned 32 as well, and I finally feel like everything has fallen into place. Happy birthday to you x

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  38. Your writing is so beautiful. I admire your courage and the fearless sharing of your journey. If I ever meet you (the odds are slim :), we will have a lot to talk about: Mikey's Gyros, moving East, red-bearded husbands, little boys, and figuring out how to make sense of the world when you've always been told who you are instead of finding out who you are. Happy birthday!

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  39. Happy birthday, Natalie Jean!! You look fabulous in these pics. And you hair....wowsers!!

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  40. I got chills reading this. You, lady, are made of impressive stock. So awe-inspiring to see you finally feeling confident in you. Rock on, Mrs. Holbrook. And happy birthday!

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  41. this, so far, has been my favorite piece you've written. from a fellow writer, you are an incredible writer. and i'm hard to impress. happy birthday.

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  42. Happy Birthday! I enjoy your writing so much - thanks for having the courage to blog with such honesty and with an authentic voice; I enjoy your philosophical musings a great deal. You also make me laugh! Hope this year brings all you wish!

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  43. You do look so beautiful and happy and free! And now I am feeling the extra urge to get the tattoos that I have been thinking about (like molasses) for ages.

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  44. Happy Birthday! I absolutely love this post! Praying for you to have a wonderful year of 32!

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  45. You are so beautiful !!!
    I love reading you, you are stunning !

    x,
    Maïa
    http://wildandfolkheart.com/

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  46. Looking back life is such a beautiful essay in her sweet little way!! As always, well written!

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  47. Natalie, I love you and your honesty. your post about all the churchy things a while back was such a building block for me, personally. be what YOU are and let it be, cause you are lovely. I love that little Huck of yours, and I'm happy your handsome husband does you well. YOU are a big boom of light to the big ol' WWW, keep shinin' pretty.

    XO, erika wynn
    www.walkingwithteal.com

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  48. Happy Birthday, Natalie!! I love this post! It's inspiring and refreshing to read. I love to see that you're doing things that make you happy. It's always refreshing reading your blog! I hope 32 is amazing for you... it seems like it already is :)

    xo
    Rachel

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  49. Natalie, just love your writing, posts like this make me impatient for your book.
    Happy happy birthday beautiful lady, xxx

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  50. Happy Birthday! I've been reading your blog for years, and you've turned into my favorite.

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  51. Happy belated birthday! Thank you for sharing your story. As 30 approaches, I find myself doing a lot of soul searching. It is so nice to hear another woman's experience.

    I do not know if I would ever get one, but I find tattoos fascinating, especially the meaning behind them (I guess I just love stories). I'd love to read about the meaning behind yours!

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  52. I'm really, really, really hoping you get your baby. xoxo!

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  53. i don't even know you and yet i also agree with your sis that this look is so much more "you"?! love love love your beautiful soul. thanks for sharing and happy birthday!

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