Something struck me recently, while reading Siddhartha Mukherjee’s book, The Gene. Mutations in phenotypes (physical traits) caused scientists to dig deeper; to find the mechanisms of diversity in humans and discovering the gene. It is only when something appears abnormal that we try to figure things out. Otherwise, we would never have known something was abnormal to begin with.
Usually when I type, I am working something out and seeking the simplest answer to the lowest common denominator. It is rare to share things when things are going well. They always have to contrast with something bad; something relatable to the faults of the human condition. Nobody likes to hear someone toot their own horn in jubilant bliss.
Today I celebrate a birthday. It is usually a day I try to forget; to avoid the inevitable feeling sorry for myself funk as an only child with deceased parents. It’s only taken me two-and-a-half decades to work through this day but this year, I am finally over it. In fact, my youngest son had to yell upstairs for me to turn my music down.
I know it’s your birthday, Mom, but you need to turn it down. You’re going to lose hearing in your ears.
I can embrace life with open arms, singing at the top of my lungs. The greatest birthday gift not being presents; but presence among those who love me. Love never felt so good.
‘Cause, baby, every time I love you, in and out my life, in out, baby,
Tell me, if you really love me it’s in and out my life, in out, baby
So, baby, yes, love never felt so good.
It took hearing this song, in a sushi cafe with my husband and three sons, to finally feel the joy in aging another year. The boys laughed as I pulled out my cell, frantically using my Shazam app to identify what song played in the muted, blue-light background. This song was reminiscent of the Jackon 5 music played in our household as a child. My father loved Motown and this song by MJ/JT brought happy memories of my youth flooding back.
I spent years of my life anxious about what-ifs. I wasted time ruminating about past things that I could not control. Rarely do I plant myself in the present. And when I do, I have to type it for myself to believe it. It’s the reason I am obsessed with photos. If it’s captured on camera, it really did happen. But sadly I am usually looking through a viewfinder behind the lens versus being an active participant.
Lately I’ve taken great joy in mundane things. Driving with my eldest son, soon to be sixteen, hasn’t been the harrowing, stressful experience I’ve heard from fellow parents. We found ourselves hysterically laughing as my son discovered how to turn left when there are two turn lanes.
Mom!? How do I stay in my lane? he asked (while actively turning and venturing dangerously close to the curb). I had braced myself; thinking I would be constantly yelling at and correcting my son. It’s been a nice surprise to discover I am the opposite. I enjoy being driven by my teenage son. The hubs; not so much.
These are my favorite ages; the tween/teen stages. There is pride in watching your children grow before your very eyes into young men.
Yesterday we had arrived home after a long work day with one thing after another going wrong. I had been physically and emotionally drained and the hubs and I sat in the quiet of our vehicle sans kids. We had arrived at the high school and our three sons dutifully came into our vehicle; protesting that we were not heading straight home. They had mounds of homework; grumbling the entire drive to the sushi restaurant. My actual birthday is chock full of appointments and late night practices and so we had dinner the night before (besides the fact that our refrigerator is empty and we haven’t had time to go to the grocery store).
My husband usually over compensates for my birthday; knowing my predilection for wanting to be left alone. My girlfriends, over the years, have celebrated me in various ways and I am always grateful for their love, acknowledgement and friendship. But the feeling of birthday happy has never truly come from within; all joyful moments external to those around me. The best gifts have been friendships; not in the items they give but in the act of accepting my quirks and idiosyncrasies. All relational.
In learning to love others I have learned to love myself.
For years I blamed myself for my losses. Bad things happen. Friendships come and go. People die. I found myself whining and complaining; fighting for things to work in my favor. But with age and time I’ve come to discover that all of us have something to contribute. It doesn’t have to be big (I won’t be winning the Nobel Prize) nor expensive. If I share my gifts, my time without any expectations in return; then I’ve done my fair share.
I close my eyes and make my birthday wishes.
- With my voice I can make a conscious choice to seek the good things. I can choose to sing.
- When I look in the mirror I see health versus girth. I am able to walk and jog in the great outdoors.
- I can’t force my opinions or will on those I love. I must accept them as they are and hope they make good choices, for themselves.
- What I have is enough. I don’t need more, I must learn to live simply with less.
- I don’t need others to know what I do. I do things because I want to.
- If I’m trying too hard, it’s not meant to be. Things happen naturally.
And so I celebrate these kernels of knowledge, gained from my years of birth. Not just today, but every day. Crank up the volume of your life and dance to the music.