I actually woke up with a bad attitude and only because I woke up one year older.
I know, I know...I should be grateful for another year. The alternative isn't what I wish for as I love my life. It should have been a celebratory awakening, but it wasn't, and I've been trying to figure out why. All day long.
We come into the world as an astounding miracle. Nothing reaches the joyful status of a new baby. From those first moments of life, everything is progress and becoming: first smile, first words, first crawl, first steps. A child starts to make sense of language. Conversation becomes possible, opinions form. Likes and dislikes begin to define the individual. First day of school, first soccer game, first friends, school awards, talent development! Then that once-little person learns to drive, graduates and goes off to college. The accomplishments start to roll. First job, love, marriage, family, career bonuses, promotions...and then there is a shift. First wrinkle. First strained ligament. Lost words. Running into an old friend who looks so old you hardly recognized him. Gray hairs. A slower metabolism. Extra pounds after one piece of cake. Each birthday is the down side of the roller coaster that hit the pinnacle ten years ago.
One day, we realize it's our bodies job to degenerate. The point of each latter year is a measurement of decline, hence, a good reason to wake up and say "Oh crap, it's my birthday."
Forget the flowers from a niece, forget the dinner party plans, forget the well wishes via text and the present left on the front porch. Forget the grandchildren singing happy birthday and facetime with the little guy in Chicago who actually said, "Happy birthday Grandma." Forget the daughter's homemade cake. Because none of it is going to stop time, nor aches, nor wrinkles nor forgetfulness. Nor the birthday/aging blues.
Or will it?
After waking and diving into a bad attitude, I got up and sat on the couch with melancholy, who'd gotten a tight hold on my heart. The problem was the alone-ness; it's much harder to celebrate alone, much easier to pout alone. My spirits lifted when I got my first text: son-in-law number one, followed by a friend, followed by a daughter. Tony awoke and I opened a well thought out present. After a morning walk, I came home to a birthday cake in the oven and a happy birthday duet.
I needed people; I needed loved ones on this day of change, and no one explained it better than an eighteen year old girl named Katie. In my early morning pity, thank goodness I found and read Katie's essay. It was the reminder I needed, the splash of cold water, the jolt to my mind.
Memories are most beautiful when created collaboratively and spontaneously; by living in the moment with people you care about; and by loving as freely as you live...At the end of the day, when you crawl into bed, under the blanket your Grandma sewed out of a pile of old jeans, and you close your eyes, you’re going to see yourself cheering at that football game with your Dad, or your sister hiding in your closet to scare you. You’re going to remember that one kid who taught you how to play Phase 10 over the summer, and slow dancing with your best friends. You’re going to remember the moments made spontaneously with people you care about, where you lived fully and loved freely, because those memories are the beautiful ones.
When you read this, my birthday will be twelve hours behind.
But my circle of love will still be close.