Another winter holiday season is upon us, so light up another candle on the cake for me.
We joke that the women in our family are fertile once annually, in March, as we celebrate birthdays all December long. My sisters (twins on the 10th), my mom’s (the 19th), mine (the 19th – yes on the same day, I cannot imagine a worse birthday dinner than hospital food!), baby Jesus, my first son (the 28th) and my third son (the 29th). You think you have it rough buying Christmas gifts and whipping up turkey dinner for 20? Try hosting 5 birthday parties – the invites, the goody bags, the gifts, the thank you cards – and toss non-stop feasting and drinking into the mix. December is my Ironman, my Everest, except I get to do it every year.
My husband is still scarred from my 29th birthday, when I spent the day in inexplicable waterworks (better left for another post). Turning 40 was, a blissful non-event, as my (relieved) husband swept me away to sunny Maui. The heat (and champagne!) made me forget it was my birthday at all, which is what I wanted. As I look back on how much I stressed about turning 40, I was quite shocked at how much it felt like 35, or even what I imagine 45 to be for that matter. I counted my many blessings and thought to myself, well if I’m halfway there, I’ve still got a good chunk of living left to do! After all, my grandmother kept smiling her sweet smile till she was 95! While I may have good odds in the genetic lottery in terms of longevity, lately I’ve noticed that others are not as lucky. This August, I met a wonderful woman who had been battling colon cancer for the last 12 months. She was so quick with her dazzling smile, you hardly noticed her chemo port and we shared a few chats about our similarly aged children poolside. I recently learned that she had died a few weeks after our chat and while I didn’t know her well, I was devastated. She was my age, an Iron(wo)man, with 2 young kids and a husband who needed her. I spent an hour bawling inexplicably to a dear friend, crying about a woman I didn’t know. My wise friend hugged me close and then told me that recognizing my own vulnerability was what was making me weep. This vulnerability, the fact that I really could be here today and gone tomorrow, she said, is making me realize how very precious every waking moment is and it scares me. It really does.
So this December birthday marathon, I turned 42. I was celebrated and felt the love, but instead of brushing the attention away as I normally do, this year I savoured it, like a Lindt chocolate truffle after a 2 week cleanse. This birthday probably (hopefully!) won’t be my last, but when you live as though it might, you don’t waste your time on the cheap Cadbury stuff.
Its taken me awhile to get back here, to be able to live in the present like my 5 year old. And I don’t stay here all the time, I’m still dogged by what I should be doing rather than focusing on what’s really important, but it’s nice to be able to recognize when I’ve gone off the rails and then make my way back again.
As a fallen Catholic, the new year always gives me that fresh “I just got out of the confessional” feeling, a feeling where anything is possible. Like the blank pages of a new notebook, or putting on a crisp white shirt before heading out for dinner, new years bring new ventures, new resolutions, new goals and new dreams. But how long before the perfection, the freshness and newness, fades? How long before it becomes a tattered old notebook or a spaghetti sauce splattered shirt? How long before I fall off the resolution wagon? And even worse, how much longer till a new year presents itself?
How about now?