Wednesday, July 25, 2007

They Say It's Your Birthday

There's a myth out there that aging is not for wimps.
Not true.
We wimps do age. We just bitch about it more.
I'm about to have a birthday and I'm having a lot of ambivalence about it. It's not the fact that I'm turning fifty-three. Hell, how much worse is that than fifty-two? Not a whole lot. And how much better is it than fifty-four? I guess we'll see. But frankly, fifty-one, fifty-two, fifty-three, fifty-four- they all sound really tired to me. Boringish birthdays, wouldn't you say? What's to celebrate?
I have a good friend who always loved to celebrate her birthday. She was of the opinion that her life had positively impacted a lot of people and that it was a fine thing for those people to get together with her and celebrate that life on her birthday. She was right and always had huge parties with lots of friends who agreed with her.
But when it comes to me, celebrating my birthday, I have some real issues. And this year, they seem to be getting out of hand, making me sort of crazy.
Last year, I had a fabulous birthday. I got on the road the day before my birthday and drove down to Tampa where I met up with my best friends from nursing school. Back in the mid-eighties, we four women were tight. You have to have good friends in nursing school to get you through it. We studied together, partied together, cried together, laughed together. No one but someone who's been through it can understand what a summer of clinical experience at Chattahoochee State Hospital is like. It's a bonding experience- nursing school.
But we'd gone our separate ways and this was going to be our first coming together in years and years. Between us, we'd had eight children since we graduated and one of us was pregnant. Not me!
We had a wonderful little reunion and it was great to catch up. I was the only one who didn't bring kids, though, and I felt a bit old and a lot happy to have gotten through the years of child-raising that all my friends were still firmly involved with. And when I left, the next day, on my birthday, it felt like I was driving away from all responsibility and care. I drove across the state to Roseland, the little town where I spent my childhood and which I blogged about earlier. It was an incredibly beautiful drive, and it was with true happiness that I sat on the dock over the river the night of my birthday and watched the sun go down. I spent almost a week there, eating what I wanted to eat, going where I wanted to go, having adventures on my own, writing for hours every day, taking care of no one but me. Any mother knows what I'm talking about here.
And that was just a great birthday. I celebrated me and it was perfect.
I should have remembered that for this year, and it's not like I didn't, but I just felt like for some reason, I shouldn't go off this year. We've got a trip planned for next month with all the kids to go down to Weeki Wachee Springs where we're going to meet up with my nursing school buddies again and that's going to be swell. And my husband and I were just in Roseland last month for his birthday.
So what do I want to do for this one?
Everyone keeps asking me. Kids, husband. A precious girlfriend called me and asked me if I'd like her to cook a meal for me, have everyone over to her house. That was a gift in and of itself.
But I'm so weird about all of this.
I love getting presents and having a fuss made over me as much as the next person. BUT, I don't.
I get very uncomfortable when given presents, and despite the fact that I've given literally hundreds of birthday parties for my own family alone, when it comes time for my birthday, I just get all Old Jewish Mother and martyrly. No fusses for me, please! I don't need a cake. I don't want anything. I don't need a thing in this world.
And yet, if no one makes a fuss, I get hurt. I know this is crazy. No one needs to point this fact out to me.
And I'm trying to figure out why.
I keep thinking about how I used to go out with another dear friend on her birthday, which was the day before mine. We'd go out on her birthday and come home on mine. We'd have dinner, go listen to some music, have some drinks, dance, laugh, and give each other our presents.
She's dead now. Died fifteen years ago and I miss her every day and when her birthday comes around, I miss her bad. So there's that.
And my friend who believed that her life was worth celebrating? She's in a nursing home, suffering from a horrendous neurological disorder that makes it almost impossible to take her out, much less throw a big wingding for her. And all those friends? They never come visit her. So there she is, her fifties passing her by as she spends her days sitting in the hallway of a nursing home, unable to communicate or do one damn thing for herself. She can't even turn on her CD player, put a little Beatles in to dance to.
And all of this should make me realize how precious the years are, make me want to celebrate them.
Somehow, though, I just mostly get sad.
And since I'm a wimp, I bitch about it.
And I have no idea what I want to do for my birthday. Today it feels like I want to dig a hole and crawl into it.
I hope I feel differently by Saturday, I truly do.


  1. Digging that hole is sometimes the right thing to do. It's cool and quiet down there (I've recently had quite a bit of experience down deep, the trick is entering with full knowledge that you will leave it once you've purged the feelings - the "full knowledge" part is key, as well as permission to purge :)

    Sounds like the annual b-day has a lot of reflections built in. I can relate to the freedom, beauty of your Roseland trip.... sounds wonderful, sounds like you will be doing it again soon, on your own.

  2. Phew! What a hole it was. I was not expecting it, either. Was just blithely walking along, ta-ta-ta-da, you know?
    But I knew there was light up there somewhere.

  3. Wow. We're the same person, aren't we?

  4. Very similar in some ways I would say.
    Yesterday I asked my kids, "So- what do you think we're doing for my birthday this year?"
    They said, "What?"
    I said, "Whatever you want. I ain't gonna be here."
    They laughed.


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