writing to survive
. . . only the retelling counts

It's a very happy day

I hate my birthday.

I love my birthday.

I love things about
my birthday. It’s in the best possible month, October, when the skies are generally blue and the weather is often beautiful, just warm enough with a breeze that brings the tantalizing threat of what is to come. My birthday usually falls on a holiday weekend in the U.S., so I often have the option of getting out of town and making it special. I like the fact that I am here, existing and struggling and sometimes feeling intense joy, or normalcy, or pain in all its exquisiteness. It is cause for celebration even as the years plunk down one on top of the other.

But every year on my birthday, a strange melancholia strikes me, a feeling of distance between me and the world. I am trapped in my own head. This happens on other occasions, too, like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, and even on the birthdays of those who are closest to me.

I remember keeping my birthday a secret in elementary school, avoiding the songs and the typical drawings of birthday cake that each child was required to create and hand to the birthday girl. I was proud of my quiet deception. This may have been because I didn’t want to be noticed. Or maybe I liked holding on to a fact, a piece of me that no one could have.

Later there were slumber party birthdays (six screaming girls conducting séances and looking in the family room mirror for Bloody Mary) and even later the college bacchanals where the drinking started early and I was supposed to consume one drink for every year. Later on things calmed down and I had dinner with other people, my boyfriend’s family and later my husband and then the husband and the kid.

Today, probably tomorrow and on the actual day . . . I’m moody. Clammed up. It’s not the kind of feeling I want to dwell on. I’d like to snap out of it. The day is gorgeous. It’s calling for me. The house is empty. I’ve done my studying and some of the boy's Halloween costume preparations. Even if I didn’t want to go out in the world, there is plenty to do here. Perhaps after I post this, I will do it, get off my ass, get out of my mind, and get back into life.

First, let’s talk about my real birthday, the one coming up on Monday. My 42nd. My former stepfather used to tell me I was like a 42-year-old woman. He meant that I was too serious, a little girl with a furrowed brow who offered smiles only to those she trusted and her trust didn’t come cheap. It wasn’t a kind assessment. As someone who is almost there, I raise the metaphorical finger to him, something I couldn’t have gotten away with as an 11-year old, but can as a 42-year-old woman. One of the benefits of age.

42. It’s the answer
to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything. It’s eight years from 34 and eight years to 50. I’m accepting the fact that I am aging and changing, that there are things that I may never get to do again, but that there are also ways in which I have become more myself, have a deeper understanding of life. There is always a flip side to loss. I have to believe that through loss we gain something intangible, strength, or knowledge, or depth, that each year brings deeper understanding no matter what possibilities fall away.

Enough of the melancholia. I am going to accept my mood, not fight it, but not indulge it either. I am going to turn off the computer and open the door. In the sun-warmed herb-scented air of the garden, I will sit in the light and think about connection and love, feeling the rays of hope shining from my battered heart out into the world.

Happy birthday to me.


Facebook friends -- I am taking a break from the FB, pretending like it's two thousand and five. Or almost like that. But I will be back. You can always drop me a line at writingtosurvive(at)gmail.com

The image is of Nick Cave in his Birthday Party days and the title comes from the lyrics of Happy Birthday by the same band. Not most peoples' cup of tea. You have been warned. Image from Made to Measure NY.
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