Saturday, October 27, 2018

Some thoughts on birthdays, mortality, gratitude, and resilience

I woke up this morning with another tick in the calendar. Today is my birthday and I find myself at 51. It seems impossible. Inside I am sometimes 44 or 36 or 5 or 19 or 30, but 51? That seems so adult. So old. So how-the-hell-did-I-get-here. I know I'm not the only one who experiences this, but right now, in this moment, I am swimming in it. I also know some of you will remind me that 51 is not old. I hear you, thank you, but right now? Yeah. I feel unsettled, surprised by both my age and my resilience.

Outside my window the cardinals are swarming over the lilac bushes, eating berries and jockeying for position. One pauses and seems to be looking back at me. I don't look away until the moment breaks. 

I have always believed that birthdays are important. We each should have a day when the world (or at least our immediate world) celebrates our existence and our impact, and birthdays seem like the right time for it. Our time here is so fleeting, taking a moment to acknowledge that we are here, we make a difference, we are enduring and connected and alive, that seems worth celebrating.

The trees are shedding leaves so rapidly now. It reminds me of the way a narrow stream can suddenly become a racing river. It is a flash flood of color, of time, of endings and hoped-for beginnings.

My feelings about my own birthday changed after Kevin died. I still believe birthdays are important, but mine now feels muted. It is hard for me to celebrate my place in the world when such a big part of the world is gone. This isn't to say my world is lacking in love or connection or belonging: Charley is his own big part of my world but having love doesn't mean the love that is gone is forgotten and unmourned. So my approach to my birthday has changed; I still celebrate but without needing the fanfare.

Looking to the top of my window I can just see the tail of a bluejay, perched in the gutter and no doubt eating one of the peanuts we put out for the local fauna. The bluejays line up in front of their offerings, so polite with one another while they call to the world in their rasping voices.

My birthday now is a time to consider mortality and the paths closed or untaken. It is a time to be grateful for all of the love, beauty, compassion, strength that surround me. It is a time to drink in the gifts I have been given. It is a time to appreciate what I have loved and witnessed and done. It is a time to accept the love that is offered to me. It is a time to consider all that has changed in a year and all that has remained the same. It is just another day and yet it isn't.

The sky is a flat cloudy grey; any texture is muted by the window screen. Even as it looks flat I know that there are ridges and bumps, castles and creatures all hidden in the clouds. I know that behind the clouds is the blue sky, and beyond that there are the stars. 

I am still here. I carry the cellular memory of everyone I love and so that alone is reason to celebrate. I am so grateful to the world for the beauty that is there for the seeing.
I am so grateful to the people in my life for reminding me that even when it is dark there is reason to celebrate.
I am so grateful for my own resilience and determination that keeps me moving forward, even if 51 seems like someone else.
I am so grateful for the love.

We are each a blessing and a curse; how we live our lives makes the difference. So many of you live your lives as light in the world, sometimes sharing that light with me but always radiant, and that is the best gift of all.

Thank you.
(c)2018 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License


  1. THANKS for your gift of words, images and the stirrings of your soul...yes we are that little stream, that bluejay, that lilac and that weight of memories and love that keeps uplift us and harbor our being, time is going outward to the stars and to the infinite, age? it does matter but it also doesn't because we are in the hoops of turning and spinning, we are star dust and we always return

  2. Happiest of days to you, my friend. I also believe that everyone's existence should be celebrated (at least once a year), so today I celebrate you and your magnificence. Party on, Wayne. Party on, Garth. Party on, Laura!

  3. Love this and how you wrote it. The back and forth between inward thoughts and outward observations was a perfect balance.

  4. "We are each a blessing and a curse; how we live our lives makes the difference. So many of you live your lives as light in the world, sometimes sharing that light with me but always radiant, and that is the best gift of all." Amen


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