Birthday: What it births within us.

Birthday party pose.
Me at my 60th birthday party, before the festivities.

Today, I am 59 and 364/365ths. Tomorrow, I turn 60. Happy Birthday to me.

Other than semantics—“I am 59” vs. “I am 60”—the difference between today and tomorrow for me isn’t insignificant.

Sometimes one day does make a huge difference. Yesterday’s mid-term elections, for example. And, of course, the presidential election of 2016. That year, my birthday—November 8—fell on election day. All I asked for was that our country heal from its deep divisions.

That wish didn’t come true, but I haven’t given up.

I threw myself a birthday party a few days ago on Sunday, November 4. My husband Michael would have planned something special to mark my turn of a decade, but I had a vision of how I wanted to celebrate, so I planned it myself. 

Half the excitement was planning my own birthday party.

I rented a room, selected hors d’oeuvres, and ordered a white cake with vanilla frosting and lots of chocolate roses. I downloaded music, and invited some of my closest friends.

Friends—a room full of them. Something that eluded me for good chunks of my life. And this year, I have more friends than I could invite. 

The party was symbolic of the personal growth I’ve experienced in my 50s, especially in the last two years as I’ve launched my writing career. The celebration filled me with such gratitude, I was moved to tears. Repeatedly. 

The day gave birth to a whirlwind of emotions.

I’ll need time unravel the tangle, and after I’ve done that, I’ll fill you in. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy my down time tomorrow. When Michael gets home from work, we’ll order some takeout, have a drink, and savor the last two pieces of birthday cake left over from the party. (I claim the one with more frosting.) It will be the perfect counterweight to Sunday’s frenzy. 

Finally, as my 59th year ends and my 60th begins, I am starting to truly understand who I am. I like the woman I’ve discovered more than I thought I would. 

Maybe it’s time to rethink birthdays. Maybe when we’re well into adulthood, it’s not as important that a birthday commemorates the day of our birth. Instead of looking back, maybe we should look forward. 

Maybe the real importance of a birthday is to see what it births–within us.

Blessings on my memoir.

I don’t even know where to start when I’ve not written in so long.

My husband Michael and I were in California visiting my parents. While we were there, I coordinated an 85th birthday celebration for my mom. It was a production—a live digital video virtual party (is that even the right way to say it?)—so my five siblings from all over the US could participate. This is not my forte, in case you don’t know—neither the organizing nor the “digital-izing.”

A few times, when I woke up at the crack of dawn, as I tend to do, I worked on an essay about D-day—the day my son Matthew was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I plan to submit the piece to a literary magazine, but every time I looked at it, it seemed more and more flawed and I was close to trashing it.

Writing-wise, the week was a bust.

Except.

Except that I asked my parents to read part of my memoir manuscript–the story about how ill-prepared I was as a person and a mom for a rumble with a brain tumor.

I asked them for two reasons. First, I want them to know the full story—the parts that they could not have known being 500 miles away at the time; the parts of my pain that I never shared. My own husband, who lived our drama with me, didn’t know about some of that pain until I asked him to read it last fall.

The other reason I asked my parents to read my manuscript is that I want their blessing on it. Not on my story, but on their story within it—who they are and how they raised me, which made me the parent I was and the person I am.

There’s nothing really unflattering about them in it; my Mom and Dad are the nicest people you ever could meet, and I was raised to be nice. But when you’re faced with a serious life challenge, “nice” doesn’t cut it. And I didn’t know how not to be nice because I had no role models for it. It was on-the-job-training for me.

It’s very possible the book will be published after my parents have died, which is why I asked  for their blessing on it now. And I got it. Thank you, Mom and Dad.

So I haven’t done much new writing. I didn’t finish that essay. I didn’t submit to any magazines.

But I crossed a threshold and I’m energized to get back on track. I have a memoir to finish.