Yes, gentle readers, it is time for the birthday post. This year I actually make it on my birthday.
I woke up this morning, and thought again to last year. Last year when I turned forty and didn't even make a post because I was still struggling with fear and hope. And this year, I woke up, to the soft rain on the roof, the delish feel of Jude. She's all hope, no fear. I didn't even open my eyes, I just held her against me, and then R curled up against my back. This morning I just let myself soak up the joy.
What a year forty was.
I've been trying so hard for so long to just let myself love life. To accept the good. To be happy. I'd often feel like I could lay my hands on letting go but then I'd allow something to derail me. Because really I was still scared to be this happy. My first thought when I found out Jude had Down syndrome was "See this is what I get for being happy." It was an incredibly stupid, ungrateful thought since I wanted Jude so very much. But I'm kind of glad I had it because once I held that baby in my arms, I knew how incredibly stupid it was in a such a way that it shattered through the last of my hard shell. Jude was our completion to our joy, to my joy. I realized that there was nothing to fear, that I could let go. Something inside me healed in those early days with Jude. I felt complete. Finally.
These days life has a new tenor. Not because Jude taught me some lesson (my children are not vessels for my growth). No it's more that because I had to go through so much garbage tossing in my own head when I was pregnant with Jude that I really emerged from that experience, transformed. Today, I laugh easier. I am more comfortable in this skin, this body. Sure I still feel down sometimes. I still explode a little more than I'd like. But I also do little things like ham it up for the camera. It's a lot easier to coax a smile from me. I've finally stopped worrying about the other shoe dropping, and I'm falling back into this life.
The last birthday post was about my struggle to write out my future. All that I had defined myself on was gone. I had not gotten into a Ph.D program and I was bitter. Unsure of what I was. My whole life had been defined as being "academically gifted." I was supposed to do "great" things. And I really thought that I had failed miserably. I spent the first year and a half in Athens, deeply depressed and somewhat lost. I was trying to be happy. To re imagine my life.
Today, I am happy with where I am. With what many would see as an average life. It's a good life. A beautiful life. Filled with joy. Beauty. Love. Laughing. I wouldn't trade this life for a Ph.D. I still don't know where I am going to go with my life. But it's okay. I am happy writing here to my small audience. I am content with working on my short story collection, quietly. I don't even fantasy too often about publishing those stories. I'm thinking about learning to quilt which is something I've wanted to do since I was in my early 20s. I'm playing with my knitting more, branching out. Same with the photography, and taking a cue from my kids it has more to do with love then with career or fame. This is a new feeling. A good feeling.
My birthday was simple. Waking up surrounded by the softness of my babies. A lovely homemade card from H, and then a surprise of flowers. All after a wonderful weekend with my mom. A night out with my husband complete with a surprise punk show at the Common Market. I made fried green tomatoes for the first time. We ate more cake. And now I am here, writing in one my favorite places. Surrounded and buoyed by so many birthday wishes. My life is average and not average. It is average perhaps in the way we too often define success but it is extraordinary in the love that surrounds me from so many places. Thank you all for making this old girl feel so special.