On September 20th I turn forty-something. This birthday I’m contemplating past celebrations. Birthdays were small-big in my childhood home. We made a huge deal out of our birthdays by a single, small gesture – buying a cake with bright pink or purple or blue scrawled across the texture of the icing with several candles taking stand. We hunted for matches and with a bright orange-yellow flicker, a chorus of off-key birthday singing began. There were giggles and banter and family magic. Later, we’d cut the cake, one bite at a time and feed the birthday girl or boy. It’s this small-big memory that is raising its hand on the eve of this birthday and pushing me to consider what a privilege its been to inhabit another year with my family, friends and the space I call home.
These words yell in surround-sound : “I see me.” On this eve, I’m comforted by the mantra, I see me, through my perspective and am not viewing myself through the lens of another’s perception. It’s a quiet confidence of settling and sinking into what’s underneath my skin and embracing it. My telescope is fixed on how I interpret who I am – I arrive at my truths through my terms. This distinction is important because for years I spent evaluating who I was through another person’s reaction, whether it was an unkind glance, a harsh word or a lack of acknowledgement. In the last few years, I am cognizant about the role visible and invisible stories play in our lives, how much they skew behavior and learning that most of the time a person’s reaction has more to do with individual insecurities than anything I’ve done.
I’ve made a pact to hug the quiet. It might mean staying outside a little longer, breathing the air, observing the grace of the morning and the evening, learning to recognize in a given day so much is influx, but the gloaming of the sun, the blue blanket of the sky, the interchange between light and darkness are constant, consistent and universal.
Perhaps my paying attention to what’s constant is my yearning for consistency. I’m learning the value of one of my favorite quotes, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives,” by Annie Dillard. In trying to live the breadth of those words, I intersect with a single powerful word – consistency. In an active effort to live an intentional life, I focus on what means the most to me and am striving to create time in my life to leave space for what fulfills me. It means exercising, writing, reading and engaging in a purposeful relationship with solitude. I’ve also found another surprising place for the word consistent. It’s what I look for in my relationships, especially in my friendships. The art of a good friendship, in my opinion, hinges on a consistent give and take in both words and action. With uncertainty coloring most of our days, we all seek the feeling of falling and knowing even when we aren’t looking our family and friends will catch our fall. I am asking the same of myself – instead of jumping to a conclusion, I am learning to ask, whether my actions rise to level of a rational and good person or friend.
I apologize for the confusion and ramble of this post. It’s a larger metaphor for midlife. The more I age, the less I seem to know. For now, I concentrate on my personal absolutes and what I do know. I know I am happier when I am in the middle of my small-big moments, whether it’s on a morning run, holding hands with my husband, teasing my mom and sister, witnessing my not-so-little-girl’s moments, a few hearty laughs with friends who not only know me, but get me too and contemplating how words fill the hollow spaces of my life.
So on this eve of my birthday, I am grateful. For all the small-big moments in my life.