Ten Truths for My 43rd Birthday
1. Most of us are doing the best we can…Let’s face it–most of us aren’t playing with a full deck, anyway. Throw even a little bit of physical or emotional trauma into the mix of a life–especially the sort of trauma that manifests itself in shame and self-loathing and is stigmatized by polite society–and, well, it’s a tried and true recipe for disaster straight out of that beloved old favorite cookbook, “Recipes for Disaster from the Junior League of Podunk, Mississippi. “
It’s just a complete wonder to me that we’re not all stumbling around in shoes without laces, catotonically doing the Thorazine shuffle in true Girl, Interrupted or One-Flew-Over-the-Cuckoo’s-Nest-style. (And if we’re playing the Official Girl Interupted Board Game, then I call Angelina Jolie because everybody knows the bad guy–or gal–role is more interesting and just plain funner to play. Think J.R. Ewing and Southfork if you’re vintage enough to remember when Larry Hagman was the man we loved to hate.)
By the time an individual reaches the three-quarters mark–less commonly referred to as Mile Marker .75–she’s hopefully developed a little common sense, which is not common, despite the misleading nature of its name. I’ll be the first to admit that this sensibility has been slow coming to me, but I like to think that after being burned by the same hot stove too many times to recount, I’m finally sick of it. No, really–my hands and arms are literally covered with burn marks from the oven. I already was not blessed with lovely hands and now it looks as if I’ve spent my entire adult life up to my armpits in scorching health department-hot dishwater, scouring away all the baked-on, caked-on gunk from the neverending stack of dishes in the greasiest all-nite joint you’ve ever seen. It’s a running joke between me and my kids and also a literal, living example of how not to do it, if you will. I do not want to be a Darwin Award recipient, of that I’m sure.
2. The areas that were so black and white to me in my younger years grow ever more gray with each passing year. And you know, I’m really happy about it because it’s not easy living life as a rigid person. Everything is not an absolute. It’s a relief and the lifting of a heavy burden to be able finally to acknowledge all the gray areas. And it’s not the worst thing in the world, either. Life is messy and it doesn’t all fit into neat little black and white gift boxes from White House Black Market. I can testify to this because I’ve been dealt some very untidy, messy stuff in the past year–which leads to #3.
3. I do not have it figured out yet and if it ever sounds like I do, don’t believe it….Oh, I though I was so smart for so long until I saw how stupid I was. Thinking I had all the answers led me to have crazy high expectations from life in general. It’s so laughable now that I thought I was owed something. As if my conception–and later–as day follows night–my birth–were just a little less important than the big conception over in Bethlehem–you know–the immaculate one. As if my very existence guaranteed a smooth turbulence-free ride. Well, brothers and sisters, when the proverbial excrement hit that great ceiling fan that this menopausal woman always has running at warp speed over her life, well, let’s just say that I was ill-equipped to handle it. My world caved in because I thought I knew everything but didn’t know how to accept the unexpected or roll with any kind of punches. Life had shaken me up and gotten my attention and the only absolute left in my thinking was that I knew that I knew absolutely nothing at all.
4. Suffering is no respecter of persons…I’ve seen some hurting people this year and I’ve walked through some stuff with others, just as others have walked with me through my own pain. And I can tell you that I now know that suffering, trouble and toil come to us all, rich and poor alike. I don’t think it’s a fatalistic view–but it is realistic. Now, by no means do I have one foot in the grave and I still buy green bananas, reasonably confident that, God-willing and the creek down the road don’t do no rising overnight, I’ll still be walking this earth come daybreak. Since I’ll probably have to show up for life tomorrow and make an attempt at being some kind of successful and content, I don’t have the luxury of living on a pink fluffy cloud. At this juncture in my life it’s important for me to just be real with myself and see things as they are–not how I wish they were.
5. Pain is the greatest motivator for change. For me it is, anyway. Because I’m stubborn and strong-willed. I can take a whole lot of pain–too much–before I surrender.
6. People can change if t want to…it’s rare but it happens.
7. I am rich no matter what’s in my billfold…eternally wealthy.
8. My children are my best friends…Four exquisite gifts from the Giver of All Good Gifts. Every year a new layer of our relationship unfolds and they rise up and call me blessed.
9. My brain still works! Considering the abuse it’s suffered this is excellent news. Yes, I still have my mojo.
10. Don’t count anybody out because God specializes in the impossible and the world loves an underdog. Root for that underdog.