Let's talk about birthdays. They just keep coming and I just keep turning whatever number I'm given. In previous years I've never been too hung up on the actual number I'm turning--and I actually really love this decade that starts with 4. Still, when I turned 45 a couple of weeks ago I was surprised that I did stutter over it a bit!
The birthday itself was really great. I got to have two days' worth of birthday wishes--my Australian birthday and my American one. G had conducted sneaky reconnaissance on my Pinterest boards and had thoughtfully chosen some things that I had been secretly (but not so secretly, after all) pining for, like:
- three lovely thin silver stacking rings ("one for each child!" I happily exclaimed when I unwrapped them. "....Um, yeah!" Greg almost successfully improvised),
- a luscious fountain pen,
- a wooden pineapple-shaped chalkboard (because I sometimes text my signature celebratory pineapple emoji to my kids).
That guy is pretty fluent in my love languages by now, one of which is thoughtful (not expensive, not outrageous, just lovingly selected) gift giving. And maybe I have finally internalized that you have to actually articulate your expectations rather than expecting miracles of mind reading and other such sorcery. (Remember last year's birthday lesson?)
And yet 45 was unexpectedly hard! I had planted it in my head that it's pretty much smack dab middle age. And it kind of is, you know? (If I'm lucky, that is.) It feels like a time for re-evaluation and recalibration and reorientation. Lots of re. It's a time to wash the metaphorical laundry midway through this mortal journey before repacking it all up again and figuring out the path ahead. Dante nailed it:
In the middle of the journey of our life
I found myself astray in a dark wood
where the straight road had been lost
G and I went to lunch that day and I confessed and warned him that that precise, particular moment--the noontime on my 45th birthday--marked the apex of my life. All downhill from here, buddy. Undaunted, he seems convinced that the next 45 can be pretty terrific and is willing to continue to blaze the trail ahead a couple of years.
It's just a day, this birthday, another in the long string of days I'm blessed to have. Still, it has me a bit more tender than usual. Passages in books have me weepy with love for the beauty of words and the accompanying twinge to string together a few of my own--almost an anticipatory regret if I don't find my voice and just do it. And my dissertation is ripening on the shelf. And I want to walk places, see things, deepen my compassion and cultivate my corner of the garden. I'm reading Wendell Berry's book Hannah Coulter (so good!); midway through Hannah says "I began to know my story then."
45 sounds as good a time as any, yes?
What's your approach to birthdays and turning another year older? Do you celebrate or mourn? And, perhaps more importantly, what's your signature emoji?
p.s. Parts of this post appeared first in a birthday post on my personal blog last week so if it sounded familiar to some of you, that's why. Yup, I stole liberally from myself.