A Happy Day: Birthday Reflections

I turned 31 last week. I really wondered where the dreadfulness of turning thirty was going to crop up. This hasn’t been a easy year, but none of that is due to being older, just life. When facing my birthday this year I found myself feeling glad to be alive and where I am.

Is it time for an unnecessary list? I think so.

WHY MY BIRTHDAY IS HAPPY:

1. This has been the year of “People Who are My Age or Younger Getting Cancer and Dying.” Seriously, it was awful. I wasn’t close to any of the ones who passed away, but I heard second or third hand the agonies experienced and the deep grief of the surrounding family and communities. I mean, I have always figured getting cancer could be in my cards. But to have it happen to people my age and younger has kept me very aware of my health and life. I feel it would be foolish to not consider every day I have a precious resource to enjoy and use to live my life fully, and enjoy every person in my life. Tomorrow, me or people I know could get a cancer diagnosis or an auto accident or other dreadful things.

2. I feel I have spent the last year developing several ‘lost’ parts of myself. It’s like getting to know aspects of childhood or teenage me in a better adult way. Especially art. I have just started my own little hobby that I am just doing for me because I like pretty things and I want to make pretty things. Even when I started knitting there was the hope to sell it and a justification for it being mostly for the good of the family. But with my sketching and coloring, I am doing it really for the joy of making art, for nurturing my creative spirit. It feels good to be able to focus on developing me without guilt and without religion being a part of it. So much of my developing teen and young adult years were focused on religion, so anything that was for myself wasn’t for me, really, it was for God, it just happened to benefit me as well. Now I feel free to be a type of selfish that was just sinful before. I finally can think in these terms without feeling a bit sad for disappointing some deity. I don’t have to paint over my pursuits with spiritual language to get joy from them. I’d formerly be all, “God’s creation blah blah works of his hands blah blah.” Not anymore. I enjoy art because humans make it and we are delightfully creative as a species and as individuals. I enjoy it because I can see how hard it’s going to be to get good at it, and I need to struggle with something. Knitting hasn’t been challenging for awhile.

3. I am so loved. (Wow, we’re only on three? Why did I do list form again?) Even the flowers in my yard are blooming right now and making everything so pretty I feel a bit loved by nature as well. (But only superficially from an imaginary human-centric viewpoint. I know if I were lost in the wilderness, nature would have no qualms making bear food out of me.)

Duke is actually not that big of a cat. He just has the fur of a really big cat. I swear.

Duke sees a bear! Oh wait, no, that’s just a cow. Phew.

The irony here is that some of the people that have been my biggest supporters are completely introverted and would hate to be called out in front of other people for any reason. So I will not write them Odes of Friendship and General Admiration on here. Considering I haven’t even written much poetry since 2004, I think all readers may be grateful for that. But they are worthy of such accolades, for they hear all my rants and raves, my whining, my favorite silly (and oft inappropriate for mixed company) pictures and videos, and they are still voluntarily nice to me and hang out with me. They are clever, funny, dashing, and amusing as hell. But my favorite part is how they are awesome friends.

But that’s not all the love I have. I have my family, both the one I was raised with and the one I am raising with Husbeast. I like to think of people as being kinda like soup. We take our flavorings from the people who influence us the most and from events in our life. I have had a whole lot of people love me a lot and have given me must inspiration to flavor myself with. There’s people that show up a lot due to lots of exposure, like my awesome mom, and others that inspire dashes here and there due to briefer but poignant impacts.

4. Parenting has taken new dimensions and is going happy places. My own offspring have been coming into their own personality wise and while ALL THE PERSONALITY in this house can be exhausting, it is endlessly amusing. A good ten percent of the time, things will settle a bit and there will be random acts of love and kindness towards each other and the parents. They are all old enough to do chores and wow, what a beautiful thing it is when your children finally start cleaning up. I mean, I’ve seen a lot of beauty in life. But when a child sweeps up her own spilled cereal instead of you doing it, it kinda feels like the circle of life has come around. There’s an orange sunrise, the elephants are trumpeting, HIMMANANA BEBOOAYAYANA, etc. Your sageness as a parent becomes the sageness of the sensei in a martial arts movie. Your hundreds of cereal cleanings up to this point are suddenly more valuable. Look, this child has the potential to live on their own, have a mortgage, a business, a family of their own, lifelong hobbies and passions, a balanced budget, and maybe even use a coupon or two someday. It’s all in there. They can clean up their own mess and that’s the start of adulthood. Then you tell them you are so proud of them and they give you this adorable grin. Three out of four of my kids are reading now, and starting on that delightful road to many journeys. They are all great at school, with their classmates, and are happy little troopers. We have big deep discussions about many things and their insights ever amaze me. Husbeast and I have reached a great balance with parenting where we are both pulling for each other and the kids, and we often tag team when the going gets rough and one of us is super stressed out and JUST DONE.

5. I finally have been making steps towards What I Will Be When I Grow Up. The preschooler with his preschool schedule limited my options. Then the preschool offered an internship. I’ve been working for about a month, and I love it. It’s been only four hours, four days a week, but it may be more when school starts up in the fall. I work in the classroom, assistant teacher type role. I am constantly interacting with kids, helping them with their social interactions, learning lessons, making stuff, stories, songs, and eating snacks. It’s delightful to see them learn, grow, express themselves, and learn how to cooperate with each other.

6. I got financial aid for college, so it looks like I’ll be finishing my associates and thinking about a bachelor’s degree. I do not know if working on the bachelor degree would work with having a job and a family, but at this point in my planning I’ve got a lot lumped on the table and am gradually sorting it out. This brings up many issues I’ve faced before: psychology vs. teaching, art vs. people, what will make me money vs. what I want to do, the ideal vs. what fits with my life, and other complicated debates. I don’t have any solid answers yet, deadlines for stuff approach, which is a bit stressful due to my lack of being able to predict what the rest of my life will be like and what would be best in the long run. But I do have a lot of options, and that’s a great feeling!

7. Dear Husbeast has been an amazing influence in my life lately. Sometimes people are admirable because they are so shining and bright. But other times you see people get thrown awful things that beat them up pretty badly. Their deeper characters are revealed. You learn what their response to conflict and suffering is. I feel like over the past few years, I’ve seen the deeper parts of Husbeast strive to grow in the midst of great stress and tumult. One of the most wonderful parts of marriage comes when each person realizes their lack of control over the other and supports the other person in being themselves. As Husbeast and I have been working on that we’ve been able to admire each other as the very different people we are, the ways we are changing and growing, and mutual respect deepens. This is all only possible without the awful responsibility expectation that you can change the other person (or that you ought to). I remember back when the kids were all toddlers and babies, we were so busy and stressed we hardly had time for anything. Honestly, it still feels that way at times. But we’ve both grown a lot since then, and that’s due to having a bit of time and resources for each of us to sort through Rather Big Adult Stuff. First the process of recognizing what stuff needs sorting, learning how to sort it, actually sorting it, then recognizing the next stuff to sort through. Even though I cannot picture what our future selves will be like, due to the changing nature of humans and unpredictability of life events, I am more at peace with what will come because we are learning better coping mechanisms.

8. Personally, my own Rather Big Adult Stuff has been beastly and wonderful to sort through. I think back a decade to when I was 21, had my first baby, and the person I was then. I think about the things I struggled through then, and the struggles I had over those years. I am a lot more confident than I used to be, and my confidence is growing. I used to think focusing on self was a terrible thing. But as I’ve tried it over the last few years, I have seen a more certain and happier self emerging from my depths. This self is not too different than what I’ve been all along, but in much bolder tones. I’m still getting to know it all and I figure it’s still fairly early in life to be set on anything too much, but I’m a lot more set than I was at 21. I’m even a lot more set than I was at 27.

That’s it for the list section. I am happy to have a birthday. The next birthday is no guarantee. We all just get one little ride through life, and I guess this is the year of me trying to figure out what I can cram into it before my time is up. There’s a lot, and much is kinda chaotic right now, but it’s a good kind of chaotic. There’s so much life and interesting things going on and people that I just kinda take each moment as it comes, admire its colors, share it with my loved ones, and end a little bit different than before that moment.

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