I brought Memere to Plattsburgh for her cardiologist appointment today. It was her first time traveling that far since she was discharged from Hospice in January. Her doctor was so happy to see her and was amazed by the story of what she’s gone through since her last appointment six months ago. At one point, he noticed that her birthday had come and gone in that time frame and so he asked, “how old are you now?” She thought for a second, clasped her hands together, smiled and said “68!”
She meant 86. She inverts numbers like I do so often – like most of us do from time to time. But it was beautiful to see her so confidently declare her age, rightful or not. I corrected her in a roundabout way, so as to make it amusing, and I let the doctor know that I too had a birthday recently and was now 25. Being the awful liar that I am, that declaration hung out there for about 4 seconds before I corrected myself.
“I would have seriously thought you were 19 or 20,” he said. Bless his cardiologist heart.
I am not 19, or 20, or 25 (though I will probably continue to say that until someone calls me out on it).
I am 29. I am running out of room in the 20’s and standing on the precipice of 30, and I am not comfortable here on the edge. My better sense tells me to focus on the amazing experiences waiting to unfold in my 30’s. I’ve heard that the 30’s are a great time for “coming into your own” and expanding on what you’ve created for yourself in your 20’s. I feel like the only thing I figured out in my 20’s was that I really wanted someone to look back on this life with, and that creating a space for friendship and love was integral to my happiness. I wanted to fight for a partner, for a love that would withstand the sudden troubles, inevitable heartbreaks and the ticking of the clock. For a long, long time I felt that life was going to be unsettled and complicated, and if it’s like that (and it IS like that, in both beautiful and painful ways), then I wanted to be certain about the person I was going to weather the uncertainties with: and I found him.
And I’ve found that uncertainty around every corner. Maybe I was looking too hard for it, or maybe it “just is” – but what I guess I want most for my 30’s is a little bit more security: in all aspects. I know I need to look within to find that; I need to feel safe just living in my own body, inhabiting my own space, using my own words, inheriting my birthright to live joyously while on this Earth, and just being satisfied with who I am. No sweat, right?
It’s been hard to do that over the last ten years. There’s been one seeming betrayal by my body every couple years or so. I’ll never forget sitting in Olive Garden, the first day of my first MS relapse and saying to Thommy, “something is wrong with me, on a cellular level.” It was such a strange thing to say… so overly dramatic, I felt silly even saying it. But that statement came from deep inside, like I had been waiting for years to say that out loud, and this first glimpse of MS gave that feeling a voice. “Something is wrong with me” seems to be a recurring theme in my mind.
I look to this year to be a platform for the 30’s. I anticipate this year to be the year I flip the switch in my mind, my body and my soul; this is the year I believe that everything is right with me, on every level.
“It is lovely, when I forget all birthdays, including my own, to find that somebody remembers me.” ~Ellen Glasgow
This birthday came in the midst of an MS relapse, exactly four days after my last dose of steroids. I was puffy, uncomfortable, and bummed. Thommy (that partner I fought for, to help me answer life’s questions) had the foresight to send our new address out to mutual friends, since we hadn’t updated anyone on our last two moves. It was such an amazing thing to watch these birthday cards start trickling in, as I realized that Thommy had called out to friends to help celebrate, and that those friends responded with such fierce love.
My friend Meg sent me two beautiful cards and some yummy smelling lotions; Mamma Meryl sent a singing card & a “Strength” bracelet; the Emmys Organics lovelies sent fudge!!; my Uncle Maurice made a special birthday dinner before we left; lots of family chipped in to ease the financial burden of our little birthday getaway (especially my Mom, who is the most generous and selfless person I’ve ever known); my good friends Fred & Christy met us for a special lunch with very little notice, and they even showed up with flowers, balloons and a “Courage” figurine that now watches as I type this; tons of friends sent emails, texts and Facebook messages to send their love & prayers electronically; and my Yankee Candle girls contributed to this beautiful ensemble:
Thommy catered to my every need and chauffeured me to Syracuse, Rochester and back home again. (A day later than expected since in typical Rhea fashion I decided to further shatter an already broken tooth while eating a carrot and needed to be seen by my dentist in Syracuse – whose patience may be wearing thin.)
I will spare you all the minute details of my most amazing birthday weekend, but I need you to know it was, indeed, AMAZING. I had wished for a symptom-free birthday, and while I didn’t get it, the sight I saw through spinning eyes made my heart melt. It was full of patience, love, laughs and even a little retail therapy (on a much smaller scale than say a “spree” but it was fun nonetheless).
I need to express my utmost gratitude to all of the above people, and most certainly to Justin – or, “my Justennnnn” as I prefer to refer to him. In the midst of a busy weekend for himself, he carved out a lot of special time for me, and created a comfortable, healing, therapeutic and joyous space for us. He was present for two birthday dinners, treated me to birthday ice cream at Cold Stone (only my second visit, ever), and was witness to a special dining experience that will get it’s own post later on. All of these things were wonderful and appreciated, but Justin just giving me Justin was the best birthday present he could give. There are a few special people we have in our lives that just enhance everything – pictures are clearer, colors are brighter, and laughter is louder… and Justin is one of those people to me. I began to love him through Thommy, and how much his friendship had always meant to him – but I grew to love Justin for what his affection and regard meant to me. Thank you for letting me forget what’s wrong, Justin, and for bringing me to all that is right.
Friends, thank you for making this birthday an oasis of certainty and light in the middle of the confusion and murkiness. Thommy, thank you for holding my hand every step of the way.
Grateful for a 29th chance to do it better,