That old hag

Dear Heather,

Today you turn four hundred and twenty months old. Yes, this means you’re old enough to have gone insane and are now writing letters to yourself. If the twenty-two-year-old Heather could see you now, she’d fall over from embarrassment. And in that case, please kick that twenty-two-year-old squarely in the stomach. One, she’ll recover much more quickly than you would now. And two, she needs to prepare for the pain of childbirth.

So, what do you have to say for yourself? Well, I think the first thing is, you don’t feel like you’re thirty-five years old. You just don’t, and as that number gets higher each year you get more confused as to why you still feel like you’re in your late twenties. This is called senility, and it means that eventually you’re going to end up in a bed where a nurse has to carry out your pee in a plastic bowl while you scream, “WHATEVER HAPPENED TO SOUL ASYLUM?”

I think you should be proud of yourself, even though right now, this second as you’re writing this letter, you totally feel like shitting your pants. You and Jon just made one of the hugest life-altering decisions of your marriage, and because the dust around this decision hasn’t really settled just yet, you are trying to hold it together moment to moment. More than usual even, and that’s saying a lot since usually you guys wake up and either someone has broken a limb or one of the dogs has dissolved into a four-foot puddle of diarrhea in the kitchen.

You’re married to your soul mate, have given birth to two of the most amazing daughters you could have dreamed of, and all of you have your health. The dogs follow you around the house. You own a home. A dream home. You own a car that doesn’t need any work. Not only do you and your parents still speak to each other, you adore and admire each other equally. You and your sister who have really nothing in common talk to each other on the phone almost every other day. You’ve got an amazing set of friends, many of whom you could call in the middle of the night if you needed anything. You have food to eat, clothes to wear, and a giant bed to hold you at night. Not to mention the fact that you’ve published a New York Times Bestselling book.

You write a website whose audience saved your life.

You’re damn lucky, and I know you work hard because you know just how lucky you are. You probably work too hard at times, and the balance between that drive to work and the need to give more attention to your immediate family eludes you, and maybe that’s the most important reason I’m writing this to you. Because if I take a step back and look at you as a friend and listen to what worries you and gnaws at the back of your brain, it’s not whether you’re good enough at what you do professionally, it’s whether or not you’re living up to what your own mother meant to you.

You have a lot to work on. Mainly, patience. Mainly, letting go. Mainly, releasing the urgency that twists and turns your daily life into knots and stern words and eventual heartbreaking apologies. Because if you make it another thirty-five years, you’re going to look back and want to kick this incarnation of you in the stomach, or at least shake her by the shoulders. You must stop more often. Your kids will never be this age again, will never babble incoherently, will never look at you in total seriousness and say, “But the chore board is boring. I just want to spend the money I would have made if I had done the chores.”

Calm your life down.

I know you’re working on this, but I want you to work harder. I need you to work harder. Don’t let the day-to-day limb breaking or canine diarrhea or the deadline after deadline after deadline get in the way of living the memories you want to create. That’s the wise old thirty-five-year-old speaking to the out of her mind can’t get a moment’s peace thirty-five-year-old who just needs a bit of a nudge, the one who used to babble incoherently herself.

Rewind four hundred and eleven months

Love,
The woman who is going to want to kick you in the stomach in thirty-five-years

PS. HOLY SHIT. After what happened today, maybe this isn’t your fault! Maybe you just attract this kind of chaos into your life! I bet you can’t wait to tell this story!

  • Cooky

    What a wonderful and insightful letter.

    Thank you so much for sharing with all of us.

    You touch all of our lives in so many ways.

  • Jayceekay

    Oh yeah and Happy Birthday too!
    35!?! THIRTY FIVE?!?!
    Shit, I have shoes older than you!

  • cipsi

    Happy Birthday, you young’un, you!

  • Missybeme

    Happy Birthday, Heather. Maybe you writing this website saved your life, but I’m pretty sure it’s saved others in the process. Thank you for this letter, it reminded me of all that I have (minus the soul mate and children). :-)

    Seriously though, the leaving us hanging…terrible!

    We know you aren’t moving or divorcing or having more kids….what could possibly be next? A talk show? Wait…that would just be insane…so….???

  • justplaincat

    Happy Birthday! May the year bring you much happiness, luck and love!

    As someone who also just turned thirty-five…I wish the letter I had written to myself was half as wise and uncrazy as the one you wrote. I’m not even entirely sure the one I crapped out in a haze of panic and desperation is even in English or remotely cohesive. In any event, it felt good to get it out. I’ll be using yours for inspiration though and referring to my own as a reminder to not draft letters-to-self after 4 gin and tonics. Thanks!

  • alexwantsacookie

    Happy Birthday! And you haven’t changed a bit. :)

  • megan_m

    Happy Birthday Heather!! Have a great day!!

  • territorial

    Happy Birthday!! I always look at the pictures before I start reading and I totally thought that was Marlo! HOLY SHIT, she’s your MINIME!!!!

  • nadaliem

    OMG you and Marlo could be twins, too cute! Have a beautiful birthday, Heather!

  • sugarleg

    Happy Birthday Heather! And yes, 35 is a mind-fuck. As I am staring down the barrel of 40 in December however, I’d take 35 again. With all exponential growth of the last five years intact of course. So shit, since that’s not an option, I better deal with 40.

    Back in 2005-6ish (when I was 35!), I wrote an email to you thanking you for dooce, and you replied thanking me for reading and also some very kind words of encouragement as I was in the middle of an incredibly horrible divorce and upheaval to which I had alluded in my email. I remembered that exchange the other day and it gave me a nudge to pick myself out of the rut I was digging and remind me to be nicer to me. Bravo to your Letter to Self, to your gratitude for your blessings, and for being cool. Because you are.

    Again, happiest of days!! And a nice bourbon. (Can highly recommend the Woodford Reserve.)

  • Jessica Eiden Smedley

    Holy crap, I thought that was Marlo!

    Happy Birthday, Heather. You’re awesome.

  • Marissa13

    Happy happy birthday!!!

    You’ve made me laugh, cry, think and laugh a hell of a lot more. Thank you for sharing your life with all of us.

    I look forward to the next 40 years of us all growing into old bitties together.

  • grad.nauseam

    You forgot to mention that your writing has also saved the lives of a good portion of your audience, and for that we will always be grateful.

    PS – Is it kind of weird that you apparently gave birth to yourself?

    PPS – my captcha is “without dramatic”

  • Jessica Eiden Smedley

    Holy crap, I thought that was Marlo!

    Happy Birthday, Heather. You’re awesome.

  • Honey

    Happy Birthday dooce-y dooooo!

  • Dogmom

    A verry merry birthday, Heather. Thank you so much for the reading pleasure you give every day. I was amazed at how much Marlo looks like you in that photo. I haven’t had time to read any other comments, but I’ll bet big money that everyone else has noticed that too. I am 56 years old and still feel like that 20-something inside; it never goes away, even with the creaking bones and sore muscles. The brain is a marvelous (or maybe ridiculously marvelous) thing. All the best to you and your family.

  • SuzRocks

    Happy Birthday! Take a step back, take a deep breath, have a cocktail and then take a nap.

    Then wake up and play with your kids. (and your poopy diarrhea dogs).

  • gavintiegirl

    Happy 35th Birthday Heather!! You are so young!!!!!

    I’m with Daddy Scratches on the whole 40th birthday crisis thing for the sake of it, but in truth, mentally, I don’t feel a day older than 24. I see no point in being “mature” for the sake of my demeanor matching the number of years I have been alive. What a silly concept.

    Oh, and yeah, Marlo looks just like her momma. :)

  • reikigirl73

    Happy Birthday! You are simply an amazing person and I can only hope in my lifetime that I will have been an inspiration to so many like you are.

    Much love to you!

  • patticakes

    Happy Birthday, Heather.

  • pingersgal

    Happy Happy Birthday Heather! If you think 35 is great, wait till 40 (I am now 43)!! It just keeps getting better! I too juggle a family, a job and school…but it is ALL worth it in the end! Live life to the fullest cause you only have one go around on this crazy ride! Enjoy your girls (who apparently are your twins just born 30 years after you according to YOUR baby pic!), enjoy your soulmate…enjoy the pooping dogs and the dream house and the working car and all that life has given you and that you have worked your tookus off for! You go girl!!!

  • NamasteNicole

    Oh Heather, if you figure this out please let me know. Happy Birthday to you!

  • oddFrogg

    Happy Birthday, Heather! Here’s to many more. LOL @ “old hag”. Girl, if you only knew….get ready.

  • d3 voiceworks

    eh, it’s only a number.
    and you really do mellow–like fine wine–with age.

    i was yours 10 years ago …
    and have a 16 month old so–kerpow!

    pegged you for a leo, but close enough!

  • ahensley0024

    Happy birthday Heather! Also, I know you have probably only heard this a million times today, but HOLY SHIT that photo looks JUST LIKE Marlo.

  • rabidcaribou

    Happy Birthday!

    And, as has already been said, I thought that was a photo of Marlo until I read the text around it. Wow.

  • WendyWoo

    Happy birthday! I just celebrated my 35th birthday on the 16th! So we are both Cancers – that explains a lot. I’m on meds too and suffered bad PPD. Ha ha. Marlo does look just like you. Here’s to many more blessings!

  • filmlady

    Hey Heather,

    BTW:
    “I just want to spend the money I would have made if I had done the chores.”

    Guess what? They still say it when they’re 18.

    OK, so obviously I’m late, but HBTY anyway :-) )

  • Becky H

    Happy Birthday!

    The mommy/working thing is super tough, especially when you work from home. Like you guys, my husband and I both work from home. We’ve had sitters come in for a couple of hours a day for certain periods of my son’s life, and then other times I just worked primarily thru his naps and then made up for it on the weekend.

    The balance is difficult, and just today I was struggling with that because it’s summer and I desperately want to be at the beach with my son, not stuck at my desk. He’s getting really close to 5 and full-time school, and I’m realizing more and more that the moments I treasure the most are the ones where I put my work aside and just did something fun with him. I still have my job, it didn’t all disintegrate just because I took some time off. And because that’s the truth, I’ve decided that I’m going to cut back on my hours over the summer so that we have more time together. Once preschool starts up in the fall, there will be plenty of time for working. My boss will probably blow a gasket, but he isn’t the one that makes my heart beat: my husband and son do that.

    Good luck finding the balance! There’s no one answer, and the other thing I’ve learned is that ‘balance’ means something different at each age and just about each day! I do know that work can ALWAYS wait. The internets won’t revolt and come burn down your house if you post less frequently. In fact, we’ll probably just love you all the more b/c you’re harder to find. :-)

  • jessiCat

    Happy Birthday, Heather! Thank you for all of the laughs, tears (happy & sad!), amazing stories and photos you have provided us with. And, I think you should know that although your life was saved by us, that you have saved many more than you realize.

    Did you get chickens? That can do jazz hands? I can’t wait to read the next post!

    Happy Birthday & Many (MANY!!!) More,
    Jess

  • ada

    “You have a lot to work on. Mainly, patience. Mainly, letting go. Mainly, releasing the urgency that twists and turns your daily life into knots and stern words and eventual heartbreaking apologies.”

    Thank you. This speaks to me like you wouldn’t believe! I feel as if I do the same things and it makse me feel so much better to know that someone I admire so much struggles in the same ways. Especially “the eventual heartbreaking apologies.” Please share your insight in how to stop those altogether b/c I feel as I am doing them all the time.

  • scholz252

    Spooky, my birthday to and I turned 35.

  • MainelyMama

    Happy Birthday you hot old hag!!! You might think your readers saved your life, but remember that you’ve saved a few yourself by just sharing your story. I know my family is damn grateful that I happened to catch you on Oprah one rainy afternoon and then race to the library to get your book. Hope you have a fabulous celebration today!!! I’d harp on Jon to go buy you something nice, but I think you recently did, even if it’s got canine diarrhea in places now. ;)

  • Amanda Brumfield

    Happy Birthday Woman. I love you. ;)

  • ss622

    i thought that was a picture of marlo! wow.

    happy birthday.

    im 27 years old, and everyday im surrounded by people who have accomplished so much more in their life then i have at my age. everyday i have to tell myself its not that bad.

    im glad youre doing so great. i hope you keep doing just as amazing. best of luck

  • Ray1987

    HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY, HEATHER! =D

    Great letter to yourself. And ohymygoodness, what a cute baby picture. I can totally see the girls in you. ;o)

  • swingturtle

    heather,

    you have accomplished and overcome so much in only 35 years!
    i am so grateful to you for your inspiring and entertaining blog–i look forward to reading it everyday.
    hope you have the loveliest year yet. happy bday!

  • 7LostNana

    Happy BDay!! I’m actually so impressed about your achievements – I’m almost your age and still I haven’t my dream job, I don’t own a house, and (!!!) I don’t even have a boyfriend… So you’re actually my idol X””’D !!
    But true, live every moment, because time never comes back.

  • luv and kiwi

    happy belated…you save us as well…trust!

  • benoyroma

    happy birthday heather.

    the beauty of turning 35. from here on out, you can always say you are 35…it’s a safe, mature, yet young and hip number. you look fantastic and can still get away with shopping at forever 21, to ensure that you meet the trends!!!

    enjoy!

  • Late Enough

    Happy Birthday!

    PS. I’m already asking what happened to soul asylum. But I haven’t peed in a plastic bowl today so perhaps I still have some life to live.

  • montana mommy

    happy birthday! 35 isn’t so bad. and by the way, are you sure leta and marlo are your daughters…? no resemblance to you at all in that picture :-)

  • Daddy Scratches

    Happy Birthday, Heather.

    I’m far too deeply ensconced in my 40th-birthday-induced midlife crisis to feel sympathy for a young chippie of only 35 … but I hear you about the getting-old thing. ;)

  • tokenblogger

    Oh, my freaking christ! Is Olan Mills everywhere???

  • Robyn L

    Happy Birthday!!!

    Holy shit Marlo looks like you!!!

  • jholland

    Happy Birthday Heather!

  • g.b.

    Happy Birthday! Thank you for giving me a fun place online to hang out & read & laugh & cry & think :)

  • Brookelyn Bridge

    Oh my goodness you make a cute baby! I can see Marlo in that picture!
    Happy Birthday! And take a few minutes to sit back and have a drink. You deserve it.

  • Lala

    Oh my gosh I can’t wait to hear what you have went and done now……
    By the way, I was going to be the first comment EVER and I went and forgot my password!! Ughhh, I suppose that is because I turned 40 in June and I have done lost my mind….maybe I left it in the refrigerator.

  • Lala

    Oh…Happy Birthday and holy CRAP does Marlo look like you are what??? I found myself staring at the photo for quite a while making sure it wasn’t Marlo, well and then I saw “Olen Mills” and knew right away it really was you.