[I started this a few days ago, hoping to finish it before my actual birthday today]


As I approach the age of 32 here in the next week or so, I guess I'm supposed to be feeling depressed about it.

"My best years are behind me," supposedly, and it's true that my body isn't as indestructible as it once seemed, my presence is unwanted at all the coolest parties and nobody speaks anymore about my friends' and my fabulous "potential." Oh, and for a long time now I've caught myself referring to the students at the college near our home as "kids."

"Honey, be careful backing up the wagon when you leave, okay? The kids are out skateboarding down the park steps again, and I'm afraid one might just ollie-grind himself right into the back bumper."

But I feel about this birthday like I have about the last several – excited for the chance to get together or hear from friends and family and nonchalantly pleading in my head that I get all the cool stuff people talked about getting me. [Postscript note: I did, and then some]

Mainly, though, I feel relief.

Another year in the can. This 32nd tally mark on the wall represents one more year of discoveries, realizations, adventures, conversations, meditations, arguments, reflections, jokes, greetings and even losses. And all that stuff I got to have happen to me, or through me, depending on how you look at it.


[Picking back up now, tonight, following an awesome birthday weekend with the family(s)]

Not all of that was stuff I'd want to do again. Some of it hurt a lot. I wish some other people were as lucky as I've been, and got to be here with us to talk and laugh and look around and wonder what it all means.

Still, as I look back through the memories and moments from July 19th, 2008 to right now, I can't help but give thanks for that time. For all the time I've had so far, really. I did nothing to deserve it, and it's been much more than I ever could have imagined.

In fact I may even have to quote a movie that isn't even one of my favorites, though it does have its high points. From American Beauty, in the end where Kevin Spacey (who has been almost unbearably cynical and smarmy throughout most of the film so far) suddenly comes to a postmortem revelation, drifting away from his body after being shot to death by a neighbor over a misunderstanding. At first it seems sort of absurd and overdue ("What? Now you get it?"), but as he builds, flipping back and lingering over scenes from his life, I think it starts becoming sort of timeless and transcendent:

"I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me. ...But it's hard to stay mad when there's so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I'm seeing it all at once, and it's too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that's about to burst...

"And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can't feel anything but... gratitude ...for every single moment of my stupid little life..."

Gratitude. That's what I got for my birthday this year. Mom and Katie gave me clothes, and friends gave me phonecalls and Facebook messages, and Penny gave me a wonderful book of coupons redeemable for things like motorcycle rides together and adventures of my choosing, to be used whenever I like.

But everyone ended up giving me the same thing, and I love it. Today I feel thankful to be here. Even more so.

Best gift there is.

Oh, one other thing: This year, for the first time, I understood why Mom always gets so excited about my birthday. If you think it's a relief and a thrill to see yourself complete another year here on earth, and all that can be contained in those 365 days, imagine how good it feels to watch your kid do it.

I can't wait for Veda's half-birthday next month.


Valarie said...

Happy day after your birthday!

I think the post is great. We talked about it and you did a wonderful job of saying it all. Not that it should surprise me that you would get it right.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad we've spent so many birthdays together. Thanks for coming down to celebrate getting older with me :) Rock out your new clothes & take pix.