It was my 45th birthday yesterday. I've been telling people I am 45 since the new year rolled in, thinking that it would ease the mental blow when the actual day arrived. I had irrational visions of dinosaurs, shrunken granny-smith apple-heads, and denture cream. Oddly enough, if I had to pick a day to repeat, like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, I'd happily repeat yesterday.
Most people would probably like to repeat something closer to their 25th birthday, I'd imagine. But not me. It's pretty incredible to look back 20 years and see just how drastically my life has changed, how I have changed. At 25, I was already married 5 years, has an extremely disabled 2 year old son who had just come home from the hospital on life support with near around the clock nursing care. I worked full time as a computer programmer, was the primary breadwinner, simultaneously putting myself through online university, caring for my son as best a new parent can without a medical background and I saw no real change coming down the pike in my situation any time soon. I surely felt the world on my shoulders from the first moment I awoke in the morning until the moment my exhausted head hit the pillow each night.
Looking back, I don't really now how I did it. I suspect all parents of extremely special needs children likely ponder this at some point. But you do what you need to do, taking one step in front of the next, breathing in and out, checking each responsibility off your list as they're completed, be everything you're capable of being at that moment, often forgetting about your own needs, and not looking too far forward because it would be overwhelming. What a roller-coaster ride those years were!
Today, my life is irrecognizable. I've divorced and re-married. My son has passed away after outliving life expectancy estimates by nearly 2 decades. I've moved across the country to warmer weather and a better economy. I've completed my education, as far as I wish to pursue university. I moved into a new industry professionally: video games. I dabble at all sorts of creative arts including my lifelong dream of writing a novel. I play video games, and walk my dogs, and lay in the sun by my pool reading my Kindle. But most importantly, in 2009 I discovered my Passion Drummer, and I learned how to be happy. It's been little steps here and there, so my new life has sort of crept up on me, but not in a bad sense. Gradual changes are usually felt with less direct recognition. Often, as a result, they are not as explicitly appreciated.
But last night, as I sat at a restaurant, holding hands with my husband, making goo-goo eyes at one another, and saying mushy things that I shall not repeat, I was presented with a birthday dessert with a candle. Thankfully the waiter didn't sing; it was a nice restaurant. As I prepared to blow out my candle, I thought of what my birthday wish should be, as I've done more times than a 45 year old cares to admit. And, when I blew out that candle, my wish was to have my 45th year full of days just like that very day: happy.
It didn't strike me as poignant at the time. It wasn't until I was tucked into bed and fading into sleep that I realized how special that birthday wish was. I wasn't wanting for anything more. I wasn't feeling that something was missing in my life. I was fulfilled, engaged, at peace, and happy in that moment, on that day, in this life. What an incredible realization. It brought tears of joy to my eyes.
There was a time when I truly feared that I would never find that elusive lasting happiness that we all seem to seek in corporate america and beyond. I was so driven, so responsible, so accomplished, and yet so haunted by what I felt I still lacked in my life. I am so very grateful to lay that personal fear to rest and to have no time in my world for such notions now. It was indeed the best birthday I could have possibly hoped to have. As I drifted off to sleep, I thought of the love and happiness that I felt in such abundance and I asked the universe to take up my surplus to share with those in need, those like me back when I was 25. Yes, it's probably a very new-age thing to think, but I did, and it felt good, so very good.