Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Meditation on Birthdays

Birthdays mark the passing of a discrete amount of time and always present an excellent opportunity for reflection. A few weeks ago, a day passed that represented for me both great joy (the birth of my son and my father) and sorrow (the death of my mother). Yesterday my own birthday came and went, leaving me to consider whether I am really where I want to be in my life. When I wrote a birthday post four years ago, I was still in library school. I had just bought a house with my partner and was a nervous first-time homeowner, worried about the lack of a landlord to blame/fix things. I was not yet a parent, and wasn't exactly clear on when that was going to happen, although I knew I wanted to have children. Today, I am separated from my spouse and still live in the house we bought, as often as possible with the vibrant company of our son. I have been working hard to move forward with my personal life, but parts of me remain in limbo while our family is officially divided by the gears of the legal system. I am looking forward to the end of this period of instability. In the meantime, I am happy in a new relationship and I love parenting my hilarious and sweet toddler.

Professionally, I know I am right where I want to be. I love my job as a reference librarian at a public library, and I've built a nice network of librarians and friends on Twitter to whom I can turn with almost any question (professional or personal) I might have. In the past year or so, I've really found my niche and started collaborating with other librarians and sharing that work online. I will soon be dipping another toe--maybe even a whole foot--into the world of library conferences. A co-authored book chapter is in the works. It feels like things are moving in a useful and interesting direction, and when I think about my previous life as an office manager and remember the seemingly endless days I came in to work feeling disconnected, I'm glad that I was pushed to change careers.

When I came into the world, I believe that there were two important witnesses: my parents (I am going to assume that I was too startled by coming out of the womb to act as a credible witness). It has now been five years since my mother's death. I can remember spending that first birthday without her, less than two weeks after cancer finally won their 30+ year struggle, being devastated and angry that she wasn't alive to celebrate the way she had on the day I was born. Unfortunately, there's nothing I can do to mend that wound entirely, no matter how many friends entreat me to have a wonderful day. However, since my father's retirement I've been able to spend the past several birthdays with him, since he spends his extended summers out here on the East Coast. After an adulthood of spending birthdays without either of my parents, it has definitely helped to have him here for both our birthdays, making this two-week stretch land solidly on the side of celebration rather than commiseration. Yesterday we spent a good chunk of time stapling wire mesh on to my garage eaves--in the rain--in a vain attempt to keep out squirrels, but somehow the ridiculousness of that activity pushed the day over the edge and made it a good birthday.

All these events--my mother's death, the dissolution of my marriage, the fact that my father just turned 70 and lives most of the year in Utah, a place that might as well be the moon for all its accessibility to me, and these birthday milestones--make me want to stop and hold on tight to every sensation I can. And be thankful.

Meditation Index


Sara Marks said...

I am sorry I missed the birthday parties. I blame evite because they never send me emails for invitations. It doesn't even go into the spam folder. I hope both your guys enjoyed the day!

Katherine C. James said...

This is beautiful writing; and wise. I am so sorry about your losses. From where I sit, you are doing beautifully. You are recognizing the place and meanings of the losses in your life while you go on creating what I see as an extraordinary life for yourself. I admire what you are doing. Happy Birthday. May this be your best year yet. xx.

Cassandra Mortmain said...

My decision to read this not at our public circulation desk was, obviously, a sound one. I'm so glad that you're a part of my life, Anna, and so wrenched that you've had to deal with this much loss. You are like family to me and it makes me so sad that I never got a chance to know your mom.