Birthday 39

I’m in an eddy: low, quiet, dull, still. I fall into these occasionally (as I believe we all do), especially after I’ve been swimming for weeks in the flow of life’s currents. I could point to many reasons for this eddy: lack of sleep, life with two young children, one of whom is eighteen months old and is acting, well, like an eighteen month old (with a scream like an angry primate because he lacks the words to communicate what he wants and needs), the low that follows the high of birthing a new project (my e-course), the rapidly diminishing hours of daylight. But mostly I think it’s just part of the cycle of life. And the truth is that I seem to fall into these eddies in the days the precede my birthday.

Tomorrow I turn 39. I don’t have a big charge about aging (at least not yet), but birthdays as an adult seem to bring a certain melancholy along with them for me. I loved birthdays as a child. They were filled with joyous anticipation and I would awaken on my birthday morning filled with tingles of delight. As a teenager, birthdays lost their romance amidst adolescent dramas and uncertainties, and as a young adult in my twenties, they fell into the land of despair. But when I met my husband he revived the celebration and joy of birthdays (for my first birthday together he bought me the number of presents of the age I was turning – over two dozen), and since then I’ve looked forward to November 5th with that familiar child-like delight. But still, these final days before the magic number seem to bring a quiet reflection that, if not explored consciously, can turn to a subtle depression.

In my life B.C. (Before Children) I would have climbed into bed and surrendered to the melancholy for a few hours. I may have stared into the open sky or written in my journal. I may have watched a movie or read a book. But, for better or for worse (for sometimes the line between surrendering and indulging is a fine one), I don’t have the time to lie in bed. I have to keep going. Or I have to find the time between work, kids, and house to step into the eddy and ask the question that must be asked on the threshold of any life change: What is it time to let go of?

Later today, after a morning of working with clients, I will sit by the creek and write while my sons play. I usually play along with them or sit on one of my strategically placed flat sitting stones and absorb the beauty that surrounds us. But today I will bring my actual journal and an actual pen (as opposed to my computer) and write the central question at the top of a blank page: What is it time to let go of? Then, as we did for our Summer Solstice ritual, I will write down my answers on leaves and watch them float downstream.

This is the way that I open myself to the celebration of tomorrow. A few years ago I realized that I needed to begin my birthday celebration with a ritual that would occur on the day prior to the actual birthday. I was approaching my birthday with too much expectation which inevitably led to disappointment. Like the wedding day, moving day, and the day of childbirth, the real work must occur prior to the transition day itself if we’re to be present to the gifts that offer themselves. In this sense, a conscious wedding means a conscious engagement; a transition into motherhood that allows the woman to embrace her new identity and new child begins during pregnancy; and a conscious birthday begins at least one day before.

I’ve been resisting the melancholy, fighting against the eddy, questioning it too much. I’ve been missing that delicious, almost ecstatic, place of creation and aliveness that accompanies the birth of something new. For whether I’m birthing a book, a baby, or an e-course, the emotions are the same: a state of being that is wholly alive, sparkly, divine. I love that place (who doesn’t?) and when it’s over I always fall into this eddy. But once I stop resisting it and remember that it’s part of the cycle of life where the highs must give way to the lows and the lows then regenerate the psyche to make way for the next high, I’m at peace again.

Everest helping me stir my letting go leaves into the creek

Later today, at the creek, I will reflect on this past year. I will write down the highs and the lows, the challenges and the joys. I will reflect on my marriage, my parenting, my friendships, my work, my self. After I release my “letting go” leaves, I will ask the next question of a transition: What is it time to embrace? What qualities inside myself do I hope to expand? What aspects of my parenting do I wish to amplify? The letting go or shedding clears the path for the new beginning to take root. Birthdays, like all days of transition, are potent portals where the defenses are softened and the possibility of letting go and renewal are more accessible. We clear out the old to make way for the new. Like autumn. Like an engagement. Like pregnancy. Like dusk. Like exhaling. Opportunities to practice letting go.

Today I let go so that tomorrow, when I cross the threshold that separates 38 from 39, I can embrace the new beginning.

5 comments to Birthday 39

  • so true Sheryl. I am realizing more and more that I need to work on my letting go of singlehood. Some of the exercises you talk about in this article sound like they could be very helpful. The more i bring to the surface and process before my wedding day the better… like i said before “bring it on!” I am becoming more and more excited about life as a married woman the more i let go and accept the feelings and thoughts of my transition.

    happy birthday!! and i wish you well in your process of letting go and entering the beginning of a new year 🙂

  • Sammy

    Happy birthday, Sheryl. What a gift each day is. Thank you for sharing yours with us.

  • A beautiful post. I love the image of your “letting go leaves.” Blessed is the day you were born!

  • On your birthday I always recall the great joy I had in birthing you. I will always remember my first look at your incredibly beautiful being!