Since I was a kid, I have always gotten a little maudlin in the week leading up to my birthday. Mentally I was on track to be feted and honored in spectacular ways, showered with adoration and gifts. Then the actual day would arrive and it was always a letdown. Celebrations never seemed big or grandiose enough. Presents fell short in some way: it was the wrong color or size, it was a book/movie/record I already owned, it showed that the giver had no sense of my likes and dislikes. Someone would attempt to surprise me and the control freak in me would get upset. One year I caught my high school friends starting to decorate my locker and I demanded they stop. I still remember the hurt, disappointed looks they gave me.
I still struggle with pre-birthday depression. Now that Momcat is gone, my grief over losing her too soon is added to my emotional cocktail of regret, disappointment, and anger. I try to fight it and get excited about my birthday, make plans to do fun things. But sometimes you cannot fight the mean reds: they demand attention, a few tears, maybe an extra hour or two curled up in bed.
The thing about the mean reds is that they are based on fear, as Holly Golightly tells us. The frustrating part is that a trip to Tiffany doesn’t always make the fear go away. What I’ve found over the last year, though, is that the really awesome thing about getting to forty is my growing acceptance of what is and what should never be (to quote Led Zeppelin). Releasing my fear is an ongoing process, but when combined with my ever-growing awareness that time is fleeting, it’s much easier to release those fears.
Last year I said that being fully engaged and present in every moment is the best gift I can give myself. I still believe that. And over the past year I have learned that it’s very unhelpful to beat myself up for all the moments when I have been afraid to stretch myself. What is helpful is to go do the big scary thing, whatever that might be, and accept the fact that the worst thing that can happen is nothing. It’s very much like Dorothy pulling aside the curtain and discovering the wizard is just a little man with a big machine.
Over the past few days I have been thinking a lot about this song by the Dixie Chicks. T-Wizzle gave me this CD and I listened to it many times in my car as I drove to a job I hated. This song has even more relevance to me now, because I have taken the long way to get where I am at today. And you know what? With all its struggles and fears, I like it here. I like it a lot.