on birthdays

I realized this morning that this is only my 3rd birthday outside of my native time zone. One when I was living in California, one when traveling in Ireland, and this one.

As I approached my 30th birthday, I felt all the pressures of society over reaching that particular milestone. The anxieties over growing older, being an old maid, all of it. But when the day finally came, it was a relief. I realized that none of those concerns had come from me, and I didn’t have to deal with those stereotypes any more. I spent the day writing a letter to family and friends, thanking each one of them for being a part of my journey up to that point. It was really a wonderful experience.

But that was five years ago. Today, I am 35.

For the past few months, I was flashing back to an episode of “One Day at a Time” that I’d seen as a child. Anne Romano sits at the breakfast table, holding her head in her hands, having an official mid-life crisis. She knows that the average life expectancy (at that time) is 70, and it is her 35th birthday. She is lamenting the ordinariness of her life, now half-over.

I am not having a mid-life crisis. I did that on my 22nd birthday — easily the worst birthday of my life — and got it over with. I was living in Los Angeles, far from friends and family, and didn’t really know anyone. It was a Sunday, so I didn’t even have the distraction of work. My roommate had taken off for the day, leaving my car blocked in our double parking space, so I was pretty much housebound, but it was nasty outside anyway.

My roommate’s mother called looking for her, and spoke to me for a good hour instead. I felt ridiculous, caught in such a lonely moment, but she was a ray of light for me. She was the one who suggested that I just get all of the crappy feelings, identity crises, anxieties, and fears out of my system right then and there. I could use that birthday as my midlife crisis, she said, and then would never have to do it again.

So that’s what I did.

Today, I am again a new resident on the West Coast, living in Oregon and far away from (most) friends and family. I work from home, so again, there wasn’t the distraction of work. But today, I didn’t need a distraction. I liked being completely alone today. I generally don’t like being the center of attention anyway, so not having anyone around for once to make a big deal out of my birthday came as a welcome relief. I spent some time writing (still doing the NaNoWriMo thing), took a couple of celebratory phone calls, meditated under the tall pine trees, took a nap, and went shopping (albeit for cleaning supplies).

This morning, I stood in front of the mirror and said to myself, “So, this is what 35 looks like.” Of course, you wouldn’t guess my age by looking at me, so I didn’t gain much from that brief exercise. But what is 35? That much closer to 40? So? When I get right down to it, I realize that this number doesn’t mean all that much to me.

Except that it reduces down to an 8 (3 + 5 = 8), and 8-years are generally good, power years for me. Cool.

I am being treated to dinner tomorrow night, at a local Hawaiian place. I’ve never had Hawaiian food. Let the new adventures begin!

Posted in news, thoughts from the spiral.

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