The minutes are ticking by. Less than an hour until the proverbial clock strikes midnight and August 28th becomes August 29th.
Today, while the minutes tick on toward 12 midnight, is my birthday. I’ve had visions-thoughts-ideas in my head. for at least the last week or two, that I would write something Big, something Important, perhaps even something Profound for this 60th milestone birthday marker of mine.
I envisioned looping into MLK’s “I Have a Dream Speech,” given 60 years earlier, and finding some meaningful message about life, being born that day (which, truly, to my child’s mind felt significant and special to me that I came into the world at a time when so many in the nation were making a choice and taking a stand so all “children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
I envisioned delving into the concepts of age and aging, of life and meaning.
I envisioned a post of magnitude.
But, I woke up and wanted to write something else. I woke up and wasn’t motivated to write about my birthday, or MLK, or age and meaning (despite the many days and weeks prior I had envisioned I would). I woke up and had a chiropractic appointment, then went to the garden plots I share with my mom and picked okra and weeded, then had lunch (including some okra, natch), then dawdled, then went to the library to pick up several books on hold, then wanted to find a place to write as I didn’t feel like writing at the library, then drove to another place to write but my pen ran out of ink and I didn’t have a backup pen on me when my purse has been known to be the storage place of a half dozen pens on a normal day, then went to my car to get another pen but figured I might as well drive to another location (Lake Kitt, better view) to write, then wrote and wrote until it got chilly (chilly! chilly! on August 28th … in Maryland, are you kidding me?), then went grocery shopping because I was right by Whole Foods, then texted the friend I was going to go out for crabs with tonight and said I felt subdued and mellow (not sad or depressed, just not let’s-go-out-ish), then came home and cooked some dinner, then made a dry rub for a big piece of pork shoulder butt, then did dishes, then responded to many birthday messages, then felt a little tired, then realized if I was going to write something on my birthday, I better hurry up because the hours and minutes had ticked-ticked by and while I, personally — as a lifelong-so-far-night-owl, don’t consider it “tomorrow” until I have gone to bed and woken up the “next” day, felt midnight was the close of my birthday and well, here I am now, writing my birthday post.
So, yeah. I’m 60. I’m in a vastly different state of being than I was merely two years ago. Much improved. Priceless understandings. Priceless work I’ve done with my mentor. Priceless growth and development. Priceless expansion.
It does deserve its own post — or even a book — these changes I’ve made. Not today, though. Perhaps another time. Likely. I used to think I was happy, wherein I defined happiness as being relatively carefree and doing fun things, but the undertow of my life, the current pulling, pulling, pulling at my mind was one toward anxiety, grinding self-judgement and second-guessing my self, carrying a 20-tonne weight of unworthiness and self-doubt and living in a mind–24/7–that was quick, sharp and crushing my internal experience with thoughts of victimization, blame, judgement and/or self-doubt. I’m sure I could mix all these things (and more) into one thought.
It does deserve a book, this transformation. Or at least more posts here and there about how significantly different my life is day by day. For now, I’ll say, I’m better than ever. Maybe my muscle tone in my mid section is a wee bit less firm than in years prior. Maybe the skin around my knees is a bit crepey, and maybe my range of motion isn’t all that it was when I was 22, but I’m better than ever. I’m happier than ever. I’m more self-aware than ever. My relationships with my family are better than ever. My sense of self and appreciation for all I’ve experienced, all I’ve done and all I’ve gone through, all the greater. And my Internal Joy Machine just works better without the incessant, niggling thoughts of negativity that were forever flavoring my thoughts, words and, yeah, deeds.
I also know I’m only at the beginning of this transformation–and that actually excites me rather than daunts me.
Had someone, two years back, told me I was going to go through such changes and transformations, I might have nodded along and said, “Sounds great. Count me in.” But I could have only understood the caliber and scale of change coming from prior changes I’d made and from my perspective of what I understood then to be possible; whereas, now, I have experienced such change and growth and understanding these past two years that I’m more humbled by what vast vistas lay ahead still for I never could have understood Then where I could possibly be Now, because I didn’t know it was possible to quell the grueling churn of fast-as-lightning, debilitating (hah, first wrote disabilating, but spellcheck didn’t like that and I couldn’t figure out how to spell it … because it’s not a legit word) thoughts I lived with nearly every moment of every day.
Had someone told me two years ago I was a Writer, I would have out-argued them and explained that I wrote, yes, and that I was pretty good at it, yes; but I, Jessie Newburn, was not A Writer. That’s what other people were. People who published real books. People who knew what a past participle or gerund was. People who read the classics or could discuss James Joyce’s work, or John Steinbeck’s. People who understood plot lines and character development. I wasn’t those things. For me, writing was a tool, a skill, something I used, nothing more.
Yet here I am as the minutes tick closer to August 29th (31 minutes to go), and my days now are filled with thoughts of writing and being a Writer and, yes, some actual doing of the writing, too. I feel on purpose. I feel on my path.
But I didn’t just get on my path because I started to write. I had to find myself along this path. I had to find my voice. I had to clear out (still working on it) the hundreds and thousands of other voices in my head–the shoulds, the you-need-to’s and the voices of Others’ desires, fears, worries and definitions of me.
I had to find myself by sitting with myself. By not distracting myself with endless social activities of which I was so, so, so good at doing. I had to write to clear anger (at myself and others) for the things I’d allowed others to do to me and things I had done to others. I had to write to find my voice. I had to sit in my condo (a rental) and decorate it for me. I had to make my space functional. I had to reprioritize what I did and when, making me and my needs the most important thing on my list. I had to rediscover myself, to discard what no longer served and to be okay with not knowing what was coming next, to be okay with a void when I was used to covering discomfort up or disguising it with shallow joys.
I had to own my part in contributing to difficult situations and circumstances and relationship dynamics. I had to forgive myself and forgive others. I had to decide what I liked and didn’t like, how I wanted to spend my time — my life — and what I was doing out of obligation which had become habit. I had to look closely at friendships I had thought were dear and treasured, work situations which needed a refresh, and even relationships with vendors and others in my life whom I relied on for services. I had to look through fresh eyes to see what was really going on and to see if such situations still served me.
I had to trust that everything that has happened TO me also happened FOR me.
I had to live in the unknown — and still do.
I had to accept — then embrace — that I am a Writer, and to live in the unknown of how that will unfold and develop for me.
I had to understand I’d been operating all my life with undiagnosed complexities about being both ADHD and OCD. About a life of alternating anxieties and depression. About self-sabotage and how I’d been my own worst enemy most of my life.
I had to see that many things — so, so, so many things — that I thought made me lesser-a-person than others weren’t that at all; they just made me different. And that “difference” was not only okay, but in many ways fantastic, for it made me, Me, and there is only one Me that has ever been this exact version of Me anywhere in an Infinite and Ageless Universe, and that knowing alone was cause for celebration and glory and delight and true joy for I came to this world to be Me and I get to be Me!
Amen, Hallelujah and all that.
celebrating my birthday
For years (decades) I never/rarely/hardly celebrated my birthday. I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to focus on me, or assume friends would be around, or would remember. My family is small and other than my sister who remarkably sends everyone at least a card (and often a homemade gift), we’ve been a lax bunch in the birthday-celebration department. We do gather for a meal for most birthdays, and I thank my mom for mostly hosting and my brother for mostly organizing us weeks ahead to get the date and time (often the weekend prior or after) for our gathering time.
This year, I got to spend Saturday with my mom, shopping for fabric for a particular “family apron” pattern her mother made and wore daily; she’ll be making that apron for me as a birthday present. (Might write a post about that.) And Saturday evening I was at a party. Local/nearby, in a beautiful home, with fantastic food, in an elegant yet relaxed environment, barefoot … many 5Rhythm dancers I knew were there. I smoked openly and freely outside (checking with the hosts first) as Maryland is legal for weed now. Yay. I danced barefoot in their large open yard at midnight with others.
I woke Sunday, and checked my phone in the morning as I do (probably one of those less-mentally-healthier-than-other habits I could do) and was baffled as to why my Facebook feed wasn’t showing any happy birthday messages. Had I tiggled some toggle to tell FB not to let others know it was my birthday? Had I accidentally changed my birthday date on FB? Had FB changed their policy about birthday publishing and I wasn’t aware?
I had to sit with this odd disappointment of not getting a flood of birthday messages, as I have received on birthdays prior pretty much since Facebook was available to the over-24 crowd. I had an expectation. The expectation hadn’t been met. I was disappointed, though only mildly. I was more baffled than bothered. (It would be hours later when with my mom at our family dinner when she made some comment about my birthday tomorrow for me to realize Facebook hadn’t made a mistake; rather, I’d just jumped the gun on when my birthday actually was. And, yes, thank you for all the birthday wishes.)
I did celebrate on Sunday with a lovely outdoor lunch with my mom who lives nearby and my brother and his (new/fab) wife Clara, who were coming from D.C. My mom always-always-always puts out a healthy, visually attractive, farm-to-table type meal (where “farm” means her garden) three seasons out of four a year, and she excelled there. Clara made a key-lime pie, one of my favorites. I’ve got a few dinners and meet-ups scheduled for the week, and the friend I was going to go out with tonight for crabs respectfully understood when I said I wasn’t feeling like going out tonight, maybe later this week.
My sister (the lone gift-giver) made me a large bottle Diamond Jubilee edition of Dr. Schulze’s SuperTonic Plague Fighter (something we used to make together a couple decades past). Overall, it has been a lovely birthday.
My brother, who saves stale crackers and rancid peanuts and dry bread to feed to the many snappers at Patriot Pond was rarin’ and ready to go. Patriot Pond, the center of so many of our childhood adventures and misadventures (the pond the neighborhood kids–and their parents–called “the polluted pond”… yes, that was it’s neighborhood nickname) is quite lovely now and has received many hundreds of thousands of dollars (if not more) in storm water management improvements and such. (Thank you, Columbia Association!)
It’s a lovely, lovely pond area with great blue herons, green herons, duck, deer and whatnot. When the weather is reasonable enough, we almost always go feed the turtles after a family meal, but yesterday my brother was antsy to get there before the sun set, while my mom, Clara and I were antsy to look at wedding photos, so he left earlier, and Clara and I followed shortly after.
En route, I thought I saw my friends Chad and Ryan out walking their dog. I really thought it was them, except the dog(z) the people had were black and brown, and Chad and Ryan have white-ish-colored Luna. I have run into them once before when out walking in this area (the night we met … but that’s another and a longer story). We passed the Not-Chad-Not-Ryan couple as I explained to Clara there was a lovely couple nearby whom I thought I had seen in the distance but it wasn’t them. And then we topped a hill, turned a corner and before us on the path were, of course, Chad and Ryan. I had felt them. I knew I was going to see them.
My brother had long-since dumped the last of his dried crackers into the pond, so we sat as the moon rose, bright but not full, and shone upon our faces on the warm summer night, listening to one of my favorite sounds in the world: cicadas in July and August.
Oh, and I’m not sure what’s up with this, but someone made a cartoon-art thing of a photo I posted months ago on insta. She sent it to me, today, my birthday. I don’t think she knew it was my birthday. Today is just the day it came in. Dope! (That was her addition to the photo.)
Ay, 11:56 p.m. Time to add a photo or two and publish this post.
I’ll proof/edit the post another time. Maybe.