Today is my birthday. It has been a reasonably good day. Work was busy but it was my favourite clinic with a doctor for whom I have a lot of respect. There were sad patients and hopeful patients, but it was a satisfying day nonetheless. I left at 5:00 feeling like I got most of what I wanted accomplished. My parents sent me flowers at work, which forced me to tell everyone what the occasion was, but it got me some attention that I thought I deserved today by virtue of the date. We went for dinner to a nice grown-up restaurant where the kids behaved nicely and they served the best pizza ever, and Dave Matthews was playing on the sound system. Afterwards, we went to a candy store and bought $18 worth of candy that I remember fondly from my childhood. The kids had a blast.
I have given a lot of thought to birthdays lately. As an adult, I miss the truly celebratory nature of childhood birthdays. Somehow, they are always a bit of an anticlimax these days. Almost non-events. I miss the days when the world stopped for my birthday. There’s no such thing as presents and surprises and attention and adoration any more. Somehow I feel like there should be more excitement about the fact that it is my birthday. I want recognition. I want everyone to know it’s my day.
At the same time, it’s somehow embarassing… maybe attention I on some level don’t think I deserve for whatever reason. I didn’t tell anyone voluntarily today, until they started asking why I had flowers. I confessed, although whenever anyone asked, I told them I was 50, because I look damn good for 50 (thanks to my friend Michelle for that brilliant idea). Everyone laughed. For some reason I’m not thrilled about being 34. Screamingly average. Early middle age, middle income, with average stuff and average height and weight and a mini-van full of soccer balls. Somehow I’m just not as distinguished as I think I should be at this age. I should be noticeable.
I miss presents. I remember my sister being positively puking with excitement at her birthday and Christmas. The prospect of presents was so thrilling that she made herself sick. I remember excitement-induced insomnia before Halloween. There’s no such thing as presents anymore, not for the average grown-up. Oh, yes, my mom got me new jammies (that I picked out), and Trevor gave me this lovely iBook that I am typing on (but many comments have been thrown about referencing the episode of the Simpsons where Homer gave Marge a bowling ball with Homer engraved on it – honey, I love it, but don’t you remember that Marge ended up joining a bowling league and having an affair with the pro?). But I remember when I was about 5 and I really wanted a tea set and I had a birthday party and someone gave me atea set and it was the most wonderful thing anyone had ever given me. It was a feeling that will never be matched… a secret wish that someone figured out and made happen.
There is a stock-taking that happens at birthdays and new years and similar times, an introspection natural to these occasions. I know, and acknowledge, that I have a pretty charmed life. I have a wonderful husband who wants me, I have health and a reasonable figure for my demographic, I have two healthy normal children (a boy and a girl who almost look like twins), a comfy house with a spectacular kitchen, a great job that I love, and at which I am offered positive feedback often. I have both parents (and some inlaws) and a grandmother. On paper, there is nothing to complain about. My life is good.
I had a patient today, a breast cancer survivor, who is probably one of the most spectacular women I have met. I actually used to work with her. She was worried about her cancer spreading to her bones, and she told the doc that if it had spread, then she would continue to work so she could access her benefits as long as possible. Otherwise, if she was healthy, she was retiring and going on a world cruise. She’s going on the cruise. This si a woman who, last check-up, rushed the doc through his exam because she had to catch a plane. She was on her way to a skiing holiday because she needed to get away from the sttress. She uses to ride to work on this rickety old bike. She did the MS bike tour and hit people up for donations all the time. Now, she’s planning a three-month trip to England, Australia and Africa. I want to be that (ideally, without the cancer, but still… she’s an inspiration, like all survivors).
I think what is kind of bugging me about this birthday is nostalgia for the childhood birthday, the stuff I miss. It’s my day… I should be able to do what I want. What I want for my birthday is justification for my feeling of entitlement… to be lazy, to do the things I want, to be irresponsible for 5 minutes, to not be a fundamental influence on anyone small for a while. But, adulthood rudely intrudes and there is laundry to put away, children to discipline, doctors to mollify, patients to advocate for. I want a true holiday… a massage and pedicure, a couple of hours where someone is required by contract to attend to me and all I need to do is be suitably appreciative and not feel guilty. Hmmm…. sounds like I have an idea brewing.
Happy birthday to me.