Depending on when you’re reading this, today is my 35th birthday. It’s weird and surreal and feels like more of a milestone than turning 30. A lot of it has to do with the fact my mother had me when she was 35 and I am nowhere near that place in life. So much is still up in the air for me and a part of me feels grief about that.
At the same time, a friend reflected, “Yeah but when you thought about what life would be like at 35 you didn’t have enough information.” Meaning, when I dreamed up my life at 35, I didn’t factor in a sleep disorder that would rob me of rest for seven years. Nor did I take into account other health issues that would keep me from being able to accomplish the things I planned. So really, aren’t I right where I’m supposed to be? Given all the things I’ve been through, aren’t I doing a great job?
I don’t own a house, but I have an apartment I love. I’m not married, but I’m committed to myself. I don’t have kids, but I’m the beloved auntie of many children. Are things really so bad? All day my phone has buzzed with telephone calls and text messages from people wishing me happy birthday. I love and am loved and isn’t that what matters most anyway?
An excerpt of Barbara Crooker’s poem “In the Middle” seems appropriate here:
Time is always ahead of us, running down the beach, urging
us on faster, but sometimes we take off our watches,
sometimes we lie in the hammock, caught between the mesh
of rope and the net of stars, suspended, tangled up
in love, running out of time.
Running out of time — how true. I feel that acutely because very recently a dear family friend died. I’m reminded birthdays are not promised. They are not foregone conclusions. Many people don’t make it to 35, or 34, or 33. Truly every birthday is a milestone. Shivi’s death also has me asking, how I can accept the things in my life with grace? He had ALS so his death was expected and when I saw him last, he seemed at peace with it. He wasn’t bitter or resentful about dying. He accepted the fact of his life and still managed to be there for the people around him. He exuded love and care right until the end.
I’m crying as I type this because I loved Shivi so much and he is a great example of embracing life as it is. Not always, not in every moment — he was human after all — but he flowed with life. As I get older I recognize the importance of doing the same. This past year especially threw me many, many curveballs but I’m still here. I’m going where the water is warm, so to speak, I’m accepting the direction my life is taking me, and I’m letting go of preconceived notions because who can predict anything anyway? If I’ve learned anything in 35 years it’s that.
I dream of a world where we let go of preconceived notions. A world where we accept what is. A world where we feel gratitude for the present moment, even if it’s not what we anticipated. A world where we can accept each day, each year as a milestone.
Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.