Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Birthday Musings

Today I am 45 years old, and this is going to be my best year yet.  That's what I'm hoping, wishing and praying for, anyway, and I have every reason to be optimistic that it might come true.

First of all, I got the results of my annual cancer testing back yesterday evening: Cancer FREE!  The best of possible news.

Secondly, I've learned how to make my birthday fabulous.

Last night I threw myself a birthday party.  I invited a dozen of my closest friends and their families, and ten of them (with families, maybe 25 people?) were able to attend.  I kept it simple - it is the beginning of the school year, and a weekday, and I have no desire to torture myself with elaborate anything.  On Sunday, Katherine and I baked: she made a brownie torte with chocolate ganache, and I made an old fashioned layer cake with oodles of frosting.  Another friend contributed another layer cake, and her daughter made mini-cupcakes. The house was clean-ish (this is my new standard: far from perfection, but good enough!), and the cakes on stands on the dining room table, with stacks of plates and such, were the only "decorations" required.  I opened a bottle of red and a bottle of white, made a giant pitcher of lemonade, and a pot of decaf coffee, and set up a beverage area in the kitchen.

And my home filled with beautiful friends and their funny, smart, energetic children.  It was hot out, and so some of the party moved outside, with a group chatting on the deck, another in chairs in the back yard, and others who didn't mind the warm house sitting in the living room.  The children roamed in a pack, shrieking with the sugar high of all that dessert.

Conversation was light, as befitting the occasion.

My heart was light.

Birthdays in my marriage were, for me, a sad affair.  My ex not only didn't make me feel special, but he treated my desire to celebrate as a burden.  Mostly, I threw my own parties then, too, but I had to manage his moods and his lack of support or understanding.  It gives me a bit of  shiver to think of it: it was just so LONELY.  It was on my birthday each year that I felt the most unloved, the least understood.  Not only did he not want to treat me as a gift in his life, he didn't support my desire to celebrate, complaining about the effort it took me to throw a party and saying it was stupid to put that on myself.

But now?  Now, I surround myself with those who love me.  And indeed, I am surrounded.  Remembering that room full of people last night brings tears of gratitude to my eyes: they love me, as I love them.  They found time between sports practice and homework and family dinner and demanding jobs to come to my house to celebrate me, and that is such a gift.  One brought gorgeous roses from her garden; another brought a momento from her trip to Italy that reminded her of me.  The wrote funny, sweet cards that showed just how well they know me.  They baked.  They filled up my wine rack.  Two of them snuck into the kitchen at the end of the party and loaded the dishwasher and tidied up for me.

The children helped me to blow out my candles, all 45 of them.  They went out in a singular whoosh, guaranteeing that my wish would come true.

Maybe it already has - I only want more of the same.  This life of mine is good, even when it's complicated and messy.  I'm learning to accept that life is always complicated and messy: there's waiting for medical test results, imperfect parents, financial strain, creaky old houses, homework, overscheduling, chores, co-parenting and the rest.  But I think it's okay.  It'll never be perfect, and accepting that has made me feel like it's much closer to perfection than I dreamed possible, despite the imperfections.

This morning the alarm went off at 4:30am.  I dragged myself out of bed, bleary eyed, to make coffee and unload the dishwasher before putting on workout gear.  My dear friend showed up at 5:15, and we took a long walk together down to the beach, filled with conversation and friendship and a bit of exercise and a dose of nature.

This morning Katherine made me a smoothie and brought me her home made card and home made gifts, friendship bracelets in my favorite colors.  I wear them with pride, their bright blues and greens a contrast to my business attire.  They are a far cry from what I normally wear, but they are instant favorites: my daughter labored over them, and tied them on my wrists....and they are, indeed, about friendship.  Katherine and I like each other, and I am blessed by that.  Deeply, deeply blessed.

Today life will be busy: I'm recovering from the blue screen of death at work last week (I got a new computer yesterday), and there's a new AmeriCorps volunteer on board to help with some upcoming projects, and tonight is a board meeting and who knows how late I'll get home for a belated birthday dinner (quite possibly, leftovers).  But this morning, I'm taking this little moment to myself, with my coffee in a favorite mug and a piece of chocolate cake (hey! it's my birthday!  I can do that!) for breakfast in the still house.

I'm tired, but I'm happy.  This is my life, and I celebrate it.  I earned every single one of those candles, and I'm so grateful for all that they represent.  I am alive, and well, and filled with hope.

Happy birthday to me!


How do you celebrate your birthday?  How do you nurture yourself?  How do you find joy in an imperfect life, seeing past the imperfections to the beauty?

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