At dinner last night TJ and I discussed our upcoming 13th wedding anniversary, and we also acknowledged that next month we will be closer to 40 than 39. Both of these conversation tracts reminded me of a blog I’d written last summer but never shared. I revisited it, and it still seems relevant enough to post:
For as long as I can remember, my birthday has brought with it intense melancholy mixed with the odd feeling that on this day I have special permission to celebrate me, yet not being comfortable doing so. On this day, more than any other day of the year, I know I can ask for what I want. I can indulge, relax and receive special attention. I know this, yet to do so feels foreign, so I emotionally push the day away, fearful of the extra space for celebration of self. In this regard my 39th birthday was no different. I enjoyed both a big cry and two pieces of cake. I asked for extra help from TJ. I indulged in dragging him to a concert a few hours away. We saw the same band we’d seen 13 years earlier, in the exact same place. The two experiences were anything but similar. The stark difference sparked the recurrent reflection,
How did I get here from there? Is the Katie I once was the same Katie I am now?
Upon waking on my birthday morning, tucked cozily in a quiet and quaint hotel room far removed from my daily life, I began to see the seemingly incongruous pieces of my life morph into manageable form. Visions of my life in cycles of 13 emerged, and I felt the pull of embarking on the next big cycle.
The first thirteen years was childhood. This was a time of observing, playing and absorbing, a time of very simple exploration, a time before intimately experiencing judgment and comparison. Being present was natural and normal. Time was endless. Education was effortless and occurred mostly below consciousness. There were glimpses into the reality of death, but aging didn’t really seem to be true. I would be forever. Celebrating birthdays was a given.
Then came the teenage years with the acquaintance of sexuality, gender roles and societal nuances, along with the constant unlearning and relearning of the way the world works. Middle school conformity flowed into high school “how do I make myself stand out?” College experimentation transformed into “what the fuck am I going to do with my life?” post-university desperation. Then followed the precious and wild years of travel and more advanced exploration and grad school. Bohemian life tugged on one side and on the other the desire to conform to the seemingly safe and secure society from which I came.
The third cycle, with the emergence of adult responsibility, was the most nuanced and bewildering. With great relief I let her go. Learning to negotiate the homestead, raise little humans, build a marriage and define a career leaves little time and space for much else. Efficiency seemed the only answer. Survival was the game. Over the last thirteen years I looked more out than in. I forever asked myself, “How would a mom/career woman/wife handle this situation?” It was like I wasn’t really any of those things, but rather simply playing a role.
As I enter the 4th cycle of thirteen I want to take parts of each previous triad and integrate them into my being. I want to be intent upon being as present in my moments as a child, being as observant and vulnerable as a young adult while at the same time embracing and celebrating the adult life I’ve chosen; I ABSOLUTELY AM mother, partner and homemaker. I am teacher too. I see with the wisdom that only age and experience provide that I don’t need to look for the rulebook that defines expectations for being each of these things. I can simply be me.