January 10

So it’s your birthday
And what have you done?
Another year older,
A new one just begun…
me through the years
Reprising the great John Lennon here for a moment as I reflect on what my brother likes to call my “55th successful revolution of the sun”.  Yes, it’s my birthday.  No, I’m not having a party.  I am working hard to stave off a pity party.  Something about this year seems to hold special portent.  The double digitedness of it, maybe?  The fact that I am halfway through my (gasp!) 50s?  That this is an age where many people I work with begin to leave for retirement?  All of the above and possibly more.

What I don’t want to dwell on is all that I’ve lost in the past five years.  Back then, I hadn’t lost my dad, my mom or my sister to cancer.  I was physically fit, having completed a sprint triathlon the summer before and did another the following summer.  I hadn’t been diagnosed with an incurable liver disorder or lupus.  I hadn’t experienced a major breach of trust that almost ended my marriage.  I felt hopeful, optimistic, and ready for whatever came next.

Today, the headline that comes to mind after listing all that crap above is “All that you’ve lost”, which sounds like a lyric from a U2 song.  Clearly my mad skill for lyric memorization is coming in handy today.

But I need to change my thinking.  I don’t want to dwell on what I’ve lost.  I want to dwell on what is still possible.  I am 55.  I am alive.  That last item alone should be reason to celebrate.  While I may not have my health the same way it was, I don’t have a terminal cancer diagnosis, which is what my sister had at this age.  I have my kids in my life and they are all well.  I continue to like my job and don’t plan to leave it immediately – but I do have thoughts about when I might want to go and that sets off another set of thoughts around possibilities like “what’s next?”.  I have ideas.  I have dreams.  I have goals.  All of these are good things. So I need to nip any sense of pity in the bud and remind myself of all the good that being alive brings.

Birthday Toast
I remember standing up to raise a toast at my 50th birthday party, where my friends and some of my family had gathered.  I looked around the room and saw people from almost every major part of my life – elementary school, junior high, high school, college, various career junctures – and I thought how very lucky I was to be connected to so many who knew the story of my life.  I thanked them for being a part of that story and when I think about it today, I would want them all at a party this year, were I having one.  Plus, there are new people that I would like to include.  As I go through each year, I get richer and more blessed.  I will dwell on that, and I will think about possibilities, not what’s been lost.

“The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change”

This lovely cliché is attributed to the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, who predated Plato. I needed to look this up for something at work that I was writing about and found the actual translation of his work is, more accurately:

“Upon those who step into the same rivers flow other and yet other waters. All things…are in flux like a river.”

Trans. John Mansley Robinson, An Introduction to Early Greek Philosophy, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1968) p. 91, Fragment 5.15 and p. 89, Fragment 5.10.

And so I view my life.  It is a river that I step through and the water that moves by me has been going on for all time.  I gather those drops that I need to sustain me, I hold them for a time, then, like all drops of water, they evaporate to become clouds and come back to the river as rain.

I am lucky.  I am blessed.  I am alive.


2 thoughts on “January 10

  1. What a sad. yet beautiful and inspiring reflection, Erin. I’ve always liked the saying every moment is a new beginning. I wish you the happiest of birthdays and many many more to come.

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