I woke up from my slumber party for my 11th birthday, and playing with my new Sky Dancer doll, that Barbie-ish doll with the wings that flew up into the air when you pull the seahorse cord.
I can remember distinctly I was in the space between my ears, for the first time in my little life really starting to think about what it means to get older. How its supposed to feel. The gift giving. What’s with the Barbies? Parties? What does it all MEAN? Even as a younger kid, I wondered “how am I supposed to feel” …one day I am 10… the next I am 11. Do I feel older? Not really. Am I supposed to?
Why is it this anticipation, excitement in the days before and the day of, and then especially the day after its like… ok? Thats it? Thats all it is?
You made it another full year of not dying, congrats, whew… thank God! Lets have some cake.
You get your one day of hoop-lah and the rest of the year you’re alive it’s white knuckles.
Of course I’m joking a little. But you know.. thats kind of how it feels.
The birthdays between now and the one I celebrated yesterday have looked completely different, felt completely different… but one thing remains constant: I am still here to tell about them. Right? The whole damn big poetic point… I’m still here.
I was going through the roll call of birthdays past, like I typically do around this time of year, taking inventory of my birthday memories. I remember them ALL. Because I’ve always had this sense that the day actually means something, it all means something. I just didn’t really know what it meant to me, or was going to mean to me later in life. But I took good notes on those days to remember details.
All of them have settled into special places in my heart, some make me laugh hysterically, but really, all of them make me feel extremely grateful. At the core of it all, why? Because. I’m still here.
And there have been moments in my life I didn’t want to be.
I was brought to this, …born…, to life. And I get to do it however I want. And I am still here to create and mold and paint my masterpiece.
THAT is pretty remarkable.
All that to say, I wasn’t feeling those vibes last year around birthday time.
Sure, I went galloping toward experiences, to feel something other than grief… pain… loneliness…heartache…depression. I really did. I wanted to chase and experience joy. I didn’t want to wallow in widowhood. I deeply desired more for myself than misery.
But, even so.
I still woke up several mornings thinking, nope. I don’t want to do this. Any of it.
Why was I brought to this life to feel such pain and heartbreak?
Why wasn’t I the one who didn’t wake up? Why can’t I just be done with all this? Why can’t the world, this life, universe, be done with me?
Up until recently I felt shame and embarrassment for thinking those things.
But not only is it truthful, but the beautiful thing about it is, if you can believe there is one, is that I never let those thoughts overcome my strongest desire to live this life.
The misery never trumped my gratitude. Ever. Not once.
How do I know? I’m still here.
I have gathered from reading a lot about grief and overcoming that the best defense in the fight for your own life is an attitude of gratitude. And I get it. I really do get it now. And it’s not a lightbulb that flickers, and finally pings on… its a practice, its a flexing and working of a muscle. Its not intrinsic. Its a commitment to yourself to love yourself enough to do it.
Gratitude breeds joy.
The more gratitude I felt about my own heart beating, the more joy I would feel and emit.
I get that now. More so than I ever have in my life. At 31, if nothing else, I have figured that out.
When I am beginning to feel the surge of pain, or gush of guilt, I choke it with a swell of thankfulness. About something as simple as a friend checking in or having my toes in the sand or hearing my ladies tell me they love me or my handsome grinding the coffee beans for our morning coffee. I may be reemerging out of a very dark place and have miles to go, but damnit… I’m still here.
And if you’re reading this, you are too. And that’s some mighty good news. We still get to do this. Look at the people we love, and who love us, and do life. Look at those people and be thankful they are still sitting next to us, showing up. Just the presence in each other’s lives should be enough, right, but we don’t always stay mindful of that. And we swerve. And settle in to the echo that everyone and everything is going to show up tomorrow all the same, as is.
We aren’t guaranteed a moment later than now.
Celebrate every birthday, shit go crazy… every day, like it is your last.
Truth is… it very well may could be.
I’m grateful, for each trip around the sun I have managed to pull off. And in whatever way, the universe has conspired to provide. Feeling these boisterous, wild waves crash against my legs, after Nate blew through the panhandle… felt like I belonged, right there in that moment. It was all meant to be. It reminded me of who I am. Where I am. And how I want to leave this life, no matter when that is. Raging. Against the dying of the light. Quietly rage against living small.