Birthday 42: Each Line Tells a Story

IMG_2641Tomorrow I turn forty-two. Every time I’ve thought about my birthday these past couple of weeks, my mind intellectualized with statements like, “What’s a birthday, anyway? Another random and meaningless cultural construction. Just another day. Nothing special.” But I know enough about the mind to know that when I’m stuck in my head I’m trying to avoid something in my heart. So I drop down.

I breathe. I set my older son in charge of the little one and go upstairs to turn inward. Within moments, I’m in my heart-space, walking through the layers of feeling that rise up.

First, gratitude: My husband, who creates the foundation on which we’ve built our connected, rich, challenging, passionate life. My husband, who spends weeks planning for my birthday each year, channeling his artistic talent into creating a special gift for me. Every year I tell him I don’t need anything, and every year he blows me away. My husband, who is the soft pillow onto which I land every day, every night, who is so much a part of me that it’s easy to take him for granted. It’s these moments that I feel blessed to have a platform where I can shout out to the world how much I love him.

My sister-friends and family who surround me in a circle of love, who send me gifts from across the country or give me hand-written cards and hugs that bring me to tears. They fill in the missing pieces, their love like rainbow clouds that fill the holes with glory. They hold me when I cry. They celebrate me when I triumph. They talk me through the intricacies of challenging relationships so that I can speak my truth and walk a path of integrity.

Next, grief: I miss my childhood. I miss my intact family. I think about the birthdays of my youth, how excited I felt to wake up on November 5th and know that this day just for me. Transitions and milestones activate past transitions, and today my childhood filters up through my heart map. There I am with my brother, playing with stuffed animals in the backyard. There I am with my dog-best friend, a German Shepherd named Duchess. There I am with with my imperfect family who, through the innocent eyes of a child, I saw as perfect.

I miss my deceased grandmother. Her birthday was November 2nd, and she’s been floating through my consciousness for several days now. I breathe myself into her rose garden; I feel her love around me like the shawls she knitted by the light and warmth of my grandfather’s Franklin stove; I can hear her calling me, “Darling.” Blessed are those who receive the unconditional love of a grandparent. Through my grief of missing, I feel the blessing of love.

I miss our land. I miss the spot at the creek where I have sat every year on my birthday, writing poems and connecting to the blue-scarved angels of beauty that swirled around me. My place where I’ve said to my family a hundred times, “This is my favorite spot in the entire world.” It’s gone, and I know in this moment that the primary reason why I’ve wanted to avoid my birthday this year is because the immensity of this grief feels too big. But it’s not too big. It feels so good to feel the pain that lives in the heart. I will sit tomorrow amongst the destruction. I will wrap my body around the fallen tree that now blocks my sacred spot. I will my pour my love into the land the way she has poured her love into me all these years. It’s a relationship, my teacher has said to me. I will not forsake you now, my beloved land. I will not run away. I will sit with you tomorrow, and instead of being filled with joy, I will be filled with grief. That’s okay. Joy and grief are twins in the heart, and there is joy in the grief and a touch of grief in the joy. As long as I turn undefended to face it, it’s okay.

Then, acceptance. Do I grieve the passage of time today as I have done so acutely the day before my birthday in previous years? I don’t feel it now. I stared at my face in the mirror for several minutes before I wrote, and what I noticed was the way time and experience have etched themselves across my skin, in my eyes, through my hair. The shimmering silver sings of the wisdom that can only grow from walking through adulthood and entering one’s forties holding the light of consciousness as the beacon that guides the way. The broken red blood vessel in my right eye tells the story of pushing my second-born son out of me, pushing like my ancestors in the wild plains, pushing through the agony so that I could embrace the ecstasy of a tiny, perfect, brown-skinned baby laid upon my chest, the warm waters of the birthing tub surrounding us. I’ve never run from pain.

Next I observe the age-lines: the faint arch above my chin that tells the story of my fearless relationship to feeling the pain of life; the smile lines that stretch out from each eye like rays of joyous sunlight; the creases in my forehead that declare a face fully alive to the consternation, the mystery, the frustration, and the delightful moments of surprise. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been committed to overturning the false and damaging message of our culture and creating a life of authenticity. I’ve wanted to explode the airbrushed, Botoxed images and tell the truth. For today, I reverse the message that we should be ashamed of evidence of age and instead seek to claim the poetry embedded in the passage of time.

I’ll be honest: I didn’t want to write this post. I have so many posts already written that I could have easily published. But something pushed me forward. I thought I was writing it for you, my readers – especially for those of you who have said that you learn the most about your life when I write personally about my own – but it turns out, as tears have streamed down my face in harmony with the click-clack of my fingers flying across the keyboard, that I wrote it for me. Sometimes this blog is my journal. Sometimes it’s a way to process the transitions of my life. And for that I’m so grateful.

So lastly, a moment of gratitude for you, my dear readers. Thank you for holding me. Thank you for being in this journey of life with me. Thank you for reading. Thank you for inspiring me to claim my birthday this year. I am so grateful.


Related Posts: Birthday 41: Walking Toward Midlife

52 comments to Birthday 42: Each Line Tells a Story

  • Anne

    Happy birthday Sheryl! What an inspiration you are. Wishing you nothing but love on this birthday. Thank you for continuously sharing your wisdom.-Anne (aka Nenya)

  • Kiyomi

    soo beautiful. Happy birthday Sheryl!! <3 i hope you have a wonderful and beautiful day 🙂

  • Shivani

    Well, I’m nothing but amazed by the intensity of the magnitude that every time one of your articles offer; words come out like pearls of wisdom.

    Wish you a very happy birthday Sheryl and thanks for this blog.

    Stay happy and healthy.


  • Dona

    I am very touched by your sensitivity and ability to express yourself so beautifully in a way that also encourages and inspires me .
    Thanks for being you,

    Happy Birthday Sheryl!

  • Hillary

    Thank you for sharing this Sheryl! November is also my birth month – I’ll be leaving my tough 20s behind in a few weeks and this journal/blog post helps so much to name some strands in the mess that milestones bring us. Grief (losing my father, my youth, my daughter-hood), joy (meeting my partner, travelling the world, evolving bit by bit), and the overlap of each in each. Much to journal about – thank you for naming things. And happy birthday 🙂

  • Stephanie

    Happy birthday!!

  • Giovanna E.

    Happy birthday, Sheryl!! What you do is a gift to me and I thank you. Never stop doing what you do!

  • Esther

    Happy birthday, dear one.

  • Ashley

    Sending so many blessings your way, Sheryl. Thank you for your wisdom, compassion and light. Thank you for your guidance. I am blessed to know you and to have you walk alongside me in my journey toward consciousness. And to 42: I say welcome with joyous abandon!

  • Gardenia

    A beautiful, beautiful post, Sheryl. Wishing you a wonderful birthday, and thank you for all the wisdom and compassion you bring to the world.

  • Margaret

    Happy Birthday Sweetie. You are so awesome and I’m so blessed to be your mom. I love you.

  • Angela

    Dear Sheryl, Happy Birthday I hope you have a day full of love, laughter and joy with your family and friends. We all need to talk to someone and journaling is the best thing you can do for yourself. I remember a time when I was working in the dental industry and 1 of the colleagues didn’t want anybody knowing about her private life.. Like basic things that people ask you like where you live she was very secretative. I always wandered what she was afraid of. I believe you need to let out your feelings we are all human beings and need people to interact with. U need to trust some people.

  • Angela

    Your only 1 year younger than me Sheryl and the 6th November is our 1 year anniversary since my partner and I met.
    The best day of my life and thanks to you Sheryl and my family that I’m still with my partner. Because of my overwhelming anxiety that I thought I had to leave. I’m so blessed I didn’t give up.

  • You are so beautiful. Thank you for simply being YOU- beautiful, human, gorgeous you. Happy birthday!

  • Myjanne

    Happy birthday Sheryl, we share the same birthday, how cool 🙂 Once again your post comes at the right time, you’re awesome! Take care, Myjanne x

  • Christine

    Sheryl I hope you have a wonderful year. Thank you for this beautiful post. I really admire your courage to grieve and to face pain. It is such a wonderful gift to have the strength to do that. Precious grief that brings precious joy. Happy Birthday.

  • Georgina

    Happy birthday Sheryl! Ageing becomes very beautiful expressed this way. Have a special day.

  • Sophie

    Happy Birthday, may you enjoy a wonderful day with smiles and tears to add more beauty to your face, and lines to entwine and embrace the soul which reveals upon your face 🙂 xx

  • Tanya

    Happy birthday sheryl! Many blessings for a wonderful year ahead

  • Tina

    Ahh, Sheryl. I am so glad you were born. Happy birthday and know that are precious.

  • NM

    This brought tears to my eyes.Happy Birthday Sheryl!

  • Gabi

    Dear Sheryl
    wishing you all the best on your birthday, lots of love, joy and happiness! Thank you for all your amazing work on relationships and fear, you have saved me and my beautiful partner who I am marrying on the 21st of December this year. It wouldn’t happen without you…. Lots of love, Gabi xx

  • Christina

    Happy Birthday Sheryl! Your authenticity in your posts inspires and challenges me to claim my own, and I thank you for that. Hope your day is filled with love, joy and peace…

  • Rae

    Warm birthday wishes fellow Scorpio. I have a few friends who constantly panic about aging so they spend their time and money on the next anti-aging procedure. I am so thankful there is a peaceful place inside me who recognizes that no amount of outward focus or change is going to help me approach life with peace and joy. So inward I focus. We are so fortunate to have you as a voice of a woman who is able to gracefully and spiritually welcome the natural stages and changes in life. Your seeking of joy in each and every moment gives us all permission to do the same. You are beautiful inside and out and you spread that beauty across the globe. YOU deserve to be celebrated!

    Loved the photo. You look thankful, blissful, and grounded.

  • Katrina

    Happy birthday Sheryl. I hope you have a lovely day and Thank you for sharing this post, especially when you didn’t want to. I have been grieving a lot in my life lately but there are snippets of joy along the way and I am holding onto your message that the grief can flow through me and will lead to joy.

    I know Sheryl that I would still be so lost if it wasn’t for your work, so today on your birthday I am very grateful for you 🙂

  • Shanell

    Happy Birthday Sheryl! We are grateful for the work you do and the courage you have to share yourself with us!

  • lalalove

    Well that’s it. I’m a puddle. Happy Birthday Sheryl!

  • Liza

    Happy birthday, Sheryl! I always look forward to your posts, which resonate with me so much. Your example of living life rich with meaning and purpose inspires me.

  • Elisabeth

    Happy Birthday Sheryl! Beautiful post and beautiful photo. Thank you for sharing so openly. Enjoy your day and best wishes for the coming year!

  • Sarah

    Wishing you a very happy birthday Sheryl. Your writings resonate with so many of us and I know I am grateful to have met you through our virtual community.

  • Cynthia

    As always, you make the difficult work of living sound like the very richest blessing…which of course it is, but sometimes it is so hard to truly know. And this: “Blessed are those who receive the unconditional love of a grandparent. Through my grief of missing, I feel the blessing of love.” It brought tears to my eyes with the grief and blessing of missing my childhood relationship with my grandparents. Thank you for this gift on your birthday!

  • Amy

    Happy Beautiful Birthday Sheryl <3!! I hope this day is full of life, love, memories, and embrace. Thank you for all you do!

  • Jenny

    Happy Birthday Sheryl! Your writings have helped me at my darkest hours. Thank you.

  • Cecilia

    Happy birthday beautiful Sheryl! You are such an inspiration to so many people and your writings on this blog are a gift to us all. I hope you’ve had a lovely day today 🙂

  • Happy birthday, Sheryl! Thank you for sharing this transition with us with such grace!

  • spili80

    This was beautiful, raw and touching all at the same time. It stopped me in my tracks. Thank you for writing it for us, and for you. Happy birthday. Thinking of you.

  • Lisa in LA

    Happy Birthday Sheryl, thank you for sharing these thoughts with us. I have been traveling through some major transitions over this past year and am facing another big one just today. Your email caught my eye, I am so pleased that I have read it today. Your teachings have been very helpful, I carry them with me daily.

  • Thank you so much, all of you, for the heartfelt birthday wishes. It’s such a privilege to be connected to this virtual community, and it would be even better if I could meet you all in person! We often dream on the e-course forum about gathering for a Conscious Transitions retreat. One day, when my kids are older, it will be so. Until then, blessings to all of you on your paths toward more consciousness, compassion, and joy.

  • Angela

    Your very welcome, we will all look forward to meeting you one day.. That would be the ultimate..
    Stay well XO

  • Nicola

    Happy birthday Sheryl, sending a birthday wish for your land to get better x

  • Ticha

    Your birth, life, and light are a gift to us all.

    Thank you for normalizing the beauty of wrinkles, gray hair, and aging. I got my first white eyebrow hair this summer and have not wanted to tweeze it out (as per the request of my mother). It’s mine and I love it because it is a beautiful etching of my being and my history. Thank you for sharing so much! Light and warmth as you celebrate your day!

  • Kellbell

    Happy Belated Birthday, Sheryl! Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful story with us. You have truly been an inspiration to all of us.

  • KD

    happy belated birthday sheryl! i feel so blessed to have “shared” the last few birthdays with you. what an inspiring post. xoxo

  • Tanya

    Happy Birthday for the other day Sheryl, I hope it was wonderful. Thanks for this beautiful blog! With all our love x

  • Daryl-Lynn Paul ~★

    Thank you Sheryl for all that you offer in the way of insight and inspiration to this world. I stumbled upon your writing through mindbodygreen. You have the same name as my cousin Cheryl Paul. My grandma would call me Cheryl every time since Daryl is so similar, so you invited me to revisit her and her and our memories. I read this as I will turn 42 in 11 days from now, so it is very timely and of course serendipitous ♥ thank you for inspiring me to drop into my own heartspace…to invite me to take sacred time and space to give thanks for all the amazing support I have in my life, which I regretably take for granted at times. For invoking the love I feel in my heart to rise, and shine…that which has sometimes been squelched due to ” busy-ness”. My daughter starts college next week as I turn 42. Thank you for reminding me to teach her the importance of sharing time and experience with family…those memories that you share are a beauiful example of what sacred memories will come to pass for her. You have really touched my heart this evening. Thank you. I CELEBRATE YOU! Peace….Daryl ~*

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