I do so love having a September birthday. It lends naturally to a time of year filled with beginnings and fresh starts. September is waning sun on your face, your skin is warm and your feet are cold. You are unsure of what comes next because everything is new. It’s inviting and unknown and scary and safe. It is the absolute perfect time of year to begin a new trip around the sun.
My mother always told me I was born around 10 o’clock on a very wet morning after her water broke. I was a big baby, 9 lbs, 3 oz. “No drugs, all natural,” she would tell me each year, wearing my delivery as she rightly should have like a goddamn badge of honor. Having a baby that big without any help is medal worthy.
But celebrating that moment 42 years later without her, is, as always, unmooring. Birthdays are never really about you but more about the people that brought you to that moment. This past year, my 41st trip, was honestly a hard one. Most of those reasons involve other people’s stories and so I won’t share them here, but because when we love each other things can get complicated and messy, it was most certainly one of those times.
I keep opening the newspaper and seeing that one of those bloggers turned authors turned motivational speaker is still holding firm on the top non fiction list. I won’t get into the specifics of who she is but lately she has really crawled underneath my skin. I do understand her appeal of course. She speaks to a certain person out there looking for just the right push forward, those who are ready to own and love and breathe their hustle as they rocket just ahead to the best version of themselves. I guess sometimes her message bothers me a bit because it leaves me wondering what if wherever you are right this very moment - however you look or whoever you’re with, what if it’s not perfect and also it’s exactly where you’re supposed to be?
There are some of us out there who spent most of the past year and even this morning working so damn hard at just hustling to survive. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t our best self, whatever that’s supposed to be. We hustled to make lunches and get out of bed, to not lose our temper with people we love for no reason. We hustled to feel grateful for hot cups of coffee and blue skies, for friendship and people to love and people to love us back. We hustled to hold on to the basics. Some seasons of life are about the hustle and the drive for more. Some of them are about the hustle to endure. If I've learned anything in two years, it's that the 40s are not a sprint but a marathon. Endurance seems key.
I read a great quote the other day from a woman named Emily McDowell who wrote,
“There’s no such thing as ‘Before and After.’ It’s all just During.”
Anyhow I woke up on the morning of the first day of my 42nd year, just fresh out of hustle for anything more than exactly what I already have. And so deeply grateful for this moment in the during.
There were plenty of storms this year but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the rainbows. I’ve got some Ani DiFranco on the in the background and channeling my very best 1994 version of myself, a great view of a beautiful pear tree on a perfect Fall day, Facebook birthday messages from friends and that guy I worked with 15 years ago and my second cousin and everything in between that makes a life. I’ve got a cake that each of my kids contributed to that is made from three different containers of frosting, sprinkles, bacon and candy corn. I’ve got a partner that knows just how beautiful the storms can be too.
Birthdays are never really just about the person but about all these other people that help to make a life worth living and celebrating. And so today I raise my glass to all of you. Thank you for helping me endure this past year.
This during is pretty special precisely because of its valleys, offering up the best view of the peaks that lie just ahead.