A Birthday Wish

I had a birthday this week, and it was lovely and full of sweetness despite falling right in the wake of Sunday’s horrifying massacre. The thing is, after you reach a certain age, death always seems to show up for your birthday. It’s not like you invite the Grim Reaper to the party, but you look up from your cake and there he is, lurking in the corner with a smug grin whispering, “One year closer.”

snake at the party

So in a way, it didn’t seem that unusual to be surrounded by death on my birthday. But in spite of all the darkness, I couldn’t help allowing in some joy. Yes, Mr. Reaper, I’m a year closer to death, but that’s not all I am.

  • I’m a year stronger and more flexible than I was last June. You’re not supposed to brag about such things, but honest to God, y’all, I did a mother friggin forearm headstand in yoga yesterday. That’s not something I could’ve done last year, and certainly not something I thought was possible up until the moment that somehow, before I knew it, it happened.
  • I’m better at my job than I was a year ago. Like all workplaces, conditions at mine aren’t perfect, but I’ve stuck it out and figured out a way to figure out what the hell I’m supposed to be doing. At least most days.
  • I’ve written more than I had a year ago, and I’ve made more collages. I got some animal hands to fit in places I didn’t think I could. And y’all don’t know it yet, but I managed to get a house cat and a sun bear to loll about together lewdly in a hammock, in the bodies of some awesome 70s swingers. This collage isn’t finished yet, but here’s a “before” picture to whet your appetite and give you an idea of what’s possible:

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  • More shockingly to myself, this year, I’ve put my writing and collages out there on this blog for people to see, which isn’t something I ever thought I could do.
  • I have made some downright epic clothing and shoe acquisitions this year.
  • The number of cats in our household doubled. We have a crazy kitten who wasn’t even born yet last June, and who very thoughtfully festooned the bathroom with homemade decorative streamers on the morning of my birthday while I was in the shower.

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  • The number of woodland creatures in our home has increased several-fold. (I briefly considered trying to calculate that exact percentage of annual increase, but I’m a year wiser and realize that I don’t have to attempt to quantify reality and provide numerical evidence for my every statement, at least not when I’m off the clock). The most recent additions are this drawer pull, obtained on clearance for 80% off from Anthropologie:

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And this everlasting fox/squirrel dance-off that’s happening in our bathroom.

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These weren’t on sale, but I did get 15% off thanks to it being my birthday month, and despite the website saying they were on backorder and wouldn’t ship till July 18, they inexplicably arrived on June 10. Inarguable wins.

  • The dress my husband got me for my birthday has polka dots that perfectly match the cute shoes I got on clearance but was starting to wonder if I’d ever have anything to wear with:

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  • I have wonderful friends who buffered me from all the bad news in a warm embrace of Facebook birthday greetings, on a day when we all had more important things to preoccupy us.
  • The best present of all is that I now have an amazing, kind, generous, fun-loving family of in-laws, a stepson, and a husband, most of whom I didn’t even know as few as five years ago, who are a joy to be around and who make every day a resounding victory.

Admittedly, I have more wrinkles, gray hairs, and age spots than I did a year ago, but there’s no escaping change. To quote one of my favorite poems* of all time, “Death is no different whined at than withstood.” All we can do is allow ourselves to relish and rejoice in our growth more than we mourn the past or dread the future.

And while we’re at it, let’s strive to remember that when one disturbed, hate-filled person takes it upon himself to ruin many lives, that person is by far outnumbered by the countless others who respond by risking their own lives to rescue victims, who care for and comfort strangers in need, who work around the clock to try to sew up the wounds and repair the damage, who line up around the block to donate blood, who flood survivors and the families of the fallen with gestures of loving kindness and support. Let us all commit to being one of the millions of helpers, not one of the handful of hurters.

 

*”Aubade” by Philip Larkin

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