Friends, family, loved ones–
If I look sad in this picture, I’m not. I’m just experiencing the melancholy that is the kickback to the explosive happiness I experienced today, in turning 32.
I was prepared to write a very different 32nd birthday blog post. Something to do with how everyone prepares you for the emotional jump of turning 30, but says nothing of the thudding realization that accrues throughout the decade following.
When you’re turning 30, they ply you with inanities like “30 is the new 25!” (Or 28, or whatever age they guess you’d prefer to remain.) They invite you to bask in condescending truisms about how they themselves felt so much more at home in themselves during their 30s, as opposed to the decade previous.
By the time I turned 30, I’d been practicing saying “I’m 30” for a good year and a half. It wasn’t too big a blow.
What I hadn’t practiced was saying “I’m in my 30s.” Which is a very different thing. One that nobody prepares you for. 30 feels like a summit; 31 feels like, well, creeping down the other side in gathering ignominy…and winding up at home, by yourself, with nobody waiting there to celebrate you anymore. (They’re all back up on the mountain celebrating with the fresh crop of 30-year-olds.)
Basically, turning 30 is the crowning moment of your 20s.
31 and following is what they were really trying to steel you against.
Age 30 was the first year of my life on the road–I felt like I’d thrown my own self a party, by launching life as I’d always wanted to live it. It helped, of course, that I was in Annapolis, which meant I got to visit Whole Foods with JoAnn and bring home a cake to eat with her and Walter…and Jamie and the kids threw me a Skype dance party…and I ran into Mr. Page in the coffee shop and received his benison upon my hoped-for career.
Last year, I was in Québec City. Anticipating the letdown of 31, I begged Jill to let me come over and eat dinner with her family. Just so I wouldn’t be by myself. Instead, she threw me a party, with a cake and Mexican food and salsa dancing lessons.
This year, I’m in Portland, Or, where I know barely a handful of people, among whom is my lovely friend e.v., whom I haven’t seen since our meeting in Manchester, at this time last year. Having just got here, I only remembered on Wednesday that I had a birthday coming on Friday.
e.v. said, Let’s go to brunch.
What followed was a marathon day of exploring the Rose City.
The best part about this was its unexpectedness. I thought at most I’d be getting a nice meal and heading back home to put on my favorite shirt and do some work, while not minding the fact that I was at home on a Friday night on my birthday. What’s to complain about, really? I live the way I want to, all year long. Some people have only an annual blowout night of indulgence to compensate for living in static frustration all year.
Instead, I got the kind of day that lives in memory, no matter what you do for a living. An objectively perfect day of receiving love from friends in unexpected ways, continually surprised. From phone calls, to Instagram and FB messages (many from people I’ve never actually met), to the book that e.v. slipped into my Powell’s bag when I wasn’t looking, to the surprise on my porch from a certain gentleman in Jackson, Wy. (who remembered not only my favorite flower, but my favorite color of my favorite flower), the whole day was like…well, like a six-year-old who actually gets a pony.
This morning I was reading an interview my friend Heady did with a painter in his hometown of Guthrie, Ok. This painter, in turn, was talking about a conversation she had with a doctor–what, she asked him, are the characteristics of a person who achieves healing, as opposed to one who doesn’t?
His answers were so simple and profound.
He said that a healthy body is organized with symmetry and balance. When he spoke of those individuals who achieved healing, he said that they were very grateful, humble and appreciative, and that they took a very strong initiative in seeking out their own resources for healing. They also took action and were very faithfully obedient with the right choices.
Conversely, when I asked him about the individuals who did NOT receive healing, he had one very memorable comment: “People who do not ever receive healing have an extreme sense of entitlement!” With, he added, a constant and abiding echo of insidious complaining and disobedience with regard to authority. Statements like “You owe me” seem to prevail with the sick, while they wait with indignant pride for others to hand over their due reward.
That picture where I look sad? It’s really not sadness…though it feels kind of similar to sadness. It’s a moment in the midst of all yesterday’s largesse where I had a second to go “Whose life is this? How did I get into it?” Like that Kris Kristofferson song, you know…what have I ever done to deserve even one of the pleasures I’ve known? Like I said–it’s just the kickback to intense, melting gratitude…you start taking stock of your own merits and they look pretty wan, if not tarnished and petty, in the face of the depth of the riches you’ve received, in the form of other people’s love, kindness, and remembrance.
I just want you all to know how much I love you. How much you make me feel like I matter, and how grateful I am for the way you do that.
I wish everyone knew you all. (If I have anything to do with it, they will.) I wish everyone had the kind of love in their lives that I have in mine. You made yesterday from just another year into a ticker tape-raining, champagne-popping, Main Street-parading, Sunday best-wearing kind of holiday.
I thank you. I love you to absolute pieces.