Birthday memo

Birthday Storm

I left Pennsylvania almost a year ago. My 29th birthday is in one week and I remember last year on my 28th, I was on the road with my mom; a hostess cupcake she bought from some no name North Carolina gas station in my lap “to celebrate” and thousands of mile in front of us. I think it was the day we rode the Blue Ridge Parkway and she promised me we would stay in a “nicer” hotel that night, not just a super 8. But honestly I don’t even remember sleeping. I don’t remember where we ended up. All I remember is the barbecue in Asheville. God. Damn. Brisket, jalapeño cheddar grits, sweet tea, jalapeño cheddar grits… yes. And that’s enough of a memory of 28 to say that even though I had no idea where my life was going, what kind of friends I would make or what the hell I was doing moving across the country yet again, I was happy in that moment.

A friend and I were talking recently that happiness is made up of these moments. She’s had a hard year; been through an even longer winter, but there was a day not too long ago where she was standing at her kitchen window, the lilacs outside where in bloom and a warm breeze carrying their scent held her by the sink. That’s hope. That’s the wind chime on the porch. That’s the moment that gets you through all the shitty ones because happiness isn’t a collective, everyday occurrence, we leap-frog along these experiences. And that’s all we can ask for: that they keep happening and that we’re open enough to notice them.

Every year when our birthdays roll around, I think we are forced to look back on what we’ve done, what we’ve accomplished or not accomplished, what our goals are, where we could be stronger, what we’ve learned … Birthdays are like annual reviews and I’m not entirely sure where I stand, but I think, no I know, I’ve become stronger than I was, but I also need to fix some things … like every other human being. So …
1. I want to apologize less. I know this sounds a bit ruthless or selfish or “wow. Douche Bag” but I’ve been apologizing my whole life for things that aren’t my fault; for my hurts and disappointments; for others mistakes; for being misunderstood; for being in the crossfire of other people’s bullshit; for not doing favors; for cooking bad dinners, etc. I apologize too damn much because deep down I want to fix everything and know, as I have been my whole life, I can take it. I can hold it if it keeps the peace. I’m not apologizing anymore for mistakes that aren’t mine to own. I will not grovel. But I will inevitably screw up and I will absolutely own up to it. I know how to apologize, I’m just tired of throwing them around like dolla bills at a strip club: meaningless gestures.
2. I want to stop hiding. This one I’m working on. This one starts internally and moves outward. This one I can’t really delve into here because it’s not yet Supernova. But things are stirring and I’m stirring and I hope one day my outsides feel like my insides and I’m OK with people seeing that. I’ve been working on this for a long time … God, I’m getting there. I will get there.
3. I want to get up on stage. I will do that this year. I’m tired of being scared. I will read. I will be brave. I will…

I remember where I slept last year concluding my first day as a 28 year old: Hurricane Mills, TN. We had just driven through a blinding thunder storm. One of those sideways-rain, God-fearing, wrathful-lighting storms. I clutched my phone like someone’s hand hoping that stupid piece of technology would keep the lines open to all the people I had just left. It was my birthday and even though everyone who was supposed to text or call had texted or called, it still wasn’t enough. The birthday curse of us living through childhood and expecting the world to stop and sing for you was flashing through my head. You’re not good enough, you’re not good enough, you’re not good enough. You’re still empty. There were no balloons, no cake, no song, no giant party with all of my friends. It was just me, my mom and a storm. But that’s how I was brought into the world, wasn’t it? That same exact way and maybe last year was a year of getting back to the basics of who I really was, am and becoming. Maybe I needed to be alone to prove to myself that I could do it.
I believe the older we get the more life cuts holes in us – tears in the boat from hitting too many rocks – but then the older we get the closer we hold those moments of happiness, the lilacs, the barbecue, the sunsets that knock the air out of you. And I believe those moments can repair us, at least patch us until we reach dry land. Whenever that may be.

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10 Responses to Birthday memo

  1. Ms. Moon says:

    Those moments are like the oasis in a desert. They sustain us through the next hard part. They remind us that there are indeed cooking waters, sweet dates, shade to rest in.

    • rachvb says:

      I love that those are happinesses for you. Those are good ones. Calming. When you’re young you think happiness is this all encompassing thing we have to achieve. Who is the person spewing all the lies?! Or maybe it ourselves and how we perceive people’s lives? Who knows…?

  2. Angella says:

    Such a beautiful meditation on what it all means, where we are and where we’re going and how we manage to get from here to there to there. With your mother in a storm on your 28th birthday is so very fitting, because astrologically speaking that is when Saturn, the cosmic taskmaster, returns to the place where it was when you were born, allowing you to shed everything you no longer want to carry as baggage and move ahead, free to be you. I might have written something like this in your comments a year ago, and if so, forgive me for repeating it. But really, it’s as good as it gets in this life in terms of metaphors—you, your mom, in a storm, in that little boat together, patching the tears, finding oases of happiness to rest for a while, before traveling on. Happy birthday, dear Rachel!

    • rachvb says:

      You did, but for some reason I forgot all about it until you mentioned it again. And it seems to fit even more now that I’ve actually done some of those things and not just read about doing some of those things. That’s exactly how this year has been for me. It really does seem to fit. Perfectly. Spooky! 😉 I’m looking forward to my 29th year fortune!
      Thank you, dear Angella, for mentioning that again. I’m glad to have rediscovered it. xoxo

  3. Angella says:

    Happy birthday in one week, that is!

  4. Julia says:

    happy almost birthday! and yes to all three of these resolutions. i will join you in this effort to apologize less and embrace more, because, hell, life is short. amen.

  5. Wanting answers or fixes where none exist drags us toward unhappiness. Being in and of the moment is one of the biggest lessons, living in some measure of contentment with what is. The wild Amazon parrots of the neighborhood were dive-bombing each other outside the kitchen window, their wake-the-dead shrieking filling the sky. Because of the skirmish, one lost a feather and I watched it spiral down toward the street. Someone on foot will carry home a bright green talisman today. And on we sail. xo

    • rachvb says:

      I love this. Yes, this is one of those moments. I’m trying to find more and more of them. Simple, but filling. I hope whoever found the feather appreciated it. On we sail. xoxo

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