I have friends who LOVE celebrating their birthdays and embrace the passing year with unbridled enthusiasm. I have OTHER friends who avoid acknowledging the day and take extreme measures to keep away from people who might make a fuss (one friend takes the day off work so she won’t be fielded by any surprises!). I don't fall in either extreme. I neither dread nor do I need to make a big deal about another trip around the sun.
I’m thinking about this now because today is my birthday. (Insert song!) And while I’m thrilled to have logged another year, frankly I’m surprised I’m 48.
Wow. I"m officially on the back side of my 40’s and likely past “the middle,” and yet I don’t feel old.
But evidence argues the truth; there’s a lot of road under these wheels. I routinely say things like, “twenty years ago I did such and such…,” or "when I started at this company 27 years ago...," or "after 16 years of marriage I think that..."
Yup. A lot of miles.
And yet, I am so much the same person I was when I was 3, and 13, and 23, and 33, and… you get the idea. I remember being the little kid who lived for attention from my brother and sister.
Of course, with the toe thing, I remember being an avid horse lover. But I also remember thinking my backyard, with its snow-capped mountains, was a magical place calling me to explore them.
I remember being up for every ski adventure I could find, even with neon gators (bad idea, Lisa Fogg!).
My UCLA days are almost as vivid as my still precious friends.
I remember being the smitten aunt who couldn’t get enough of my baby nieces and nephews.
I was also the driven career person who wasn’t afraid to dress up on Halloween (what was I thinking?)
But with each passing year, those things seem further away and fewer and fewer people know that side of me. That’s probably the only part of birthdays that make me melancholy.
Even with Facebook, old friends are hard to find and harder still to carve out meaningful time with; and as memories fade, I start to lose sight of bits and pieces of me and start to wonder if they really happened. It’s not that I’m dissatisfied with the present, but I want to stay connected to the earlier sides of my life.
Do you ever feel that way?
I recently read Shauna Niequist’s book, Bread & Wine and she has a passage that made me feel remarkably encouraged with the fate of my “old self.” In her book she describes how getting older is like creating Russian nesting dolls where each year collects inside of you and you always remember your previous self. You don’t lose those pieces, your earlier self is just covered by another year. Who you were is part of who you’re becoming. As for those earlier selves,
“…you carry them inside you, collecting them along the way, more and more selves inside you with each passing year... waiting to be discovered, one and then another.”
Russian nesting dolls.
I love that word picture. The truth is if you’re around me eventually you WILL discover stories about the girls who shaped my 20’s. They are definitely nesting in me.Closer to the surface, you’ll open up another layer and hear all about my husband.
And very close to the “new” layer of me, you’ll find layers of my kids.
On and on it goes. Parts of me nesting from one year to the next.
The passing time feels better when I imagine them safely tucked away and yet still accessible. I am so thankful for each and every person who has shaped who I am in the past and who is investing in me today.
I'm looking forward to the new year!