Tuesday, January 29, 2013

learn to be still: reflecting on the 49th parallel

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Last Friday I turned 49. That’s a big number. All around the world, there are monuments on or near the 49th parallel.  Including Paris. 49 is a big deal.

Although, to me, my birthday is always a big deal. 
I was groomed to be a complete Birthday Diva. Birthdays are the only time in my life when I consider myself high maintenance. I can remember years when my birthday ran not for one day, but for a week or more. As a child I always cried while my family sang “Happy Birthday” to me. Not sure why. If I ever decide to go back into therapy, maybe I’ll see what we can dig up on that one.

This year I wanted no tears, and no regrets. Since 49 is a big deal – like “one year from the Mid-Century mark” big - I wanted this year to be special in a deep sense. I wanted to do some planning.  Build some monuments of my own.
I took a vacation day from work to celebrate with some personal goal setting, a little exercise, and some God time in the morning before visiting my daughter’s school at lunch and heading out of town.

Hubby was taking Babygirl to carpool and the weather has been unseasonably warm here in Charleston. So I planned to spend some early contemplative time on the beach, retreat to a coffee shop alone to write out my personal goals for the year, maybe blog a little, start a new book, and listen to some soothing music before taking lunch to my daughter at school and surprising her class with a cake during the parent/student lunch. Basically I planned to use my birthday morning to launch a fresh new year.

Well laid plans….

In reality, my "vacation" day looked like this:

  • Wake up to the sounds of the wind whipping in a fresh cold front

  • Run to dry cleaners when they open at 7 am to get my husband’s shirts so he can pack for a trip

  • Finish two loads of clothes so I will have clean underwear to go out of town

  • Wash a sink full of dishes, including a fishy cutting board and a greasy stove top

  • Field a call from a doctor's insurance rep, taking 45 precious minutes to learn how many precious out-of-pocket $ we would pay for a procedure

  • Take our dog to the vet to board for the weekend

  • Pick up sandwiches for the parent lunch...behind the 10 government workers who got to Subway in front of me

  • Take a call from husband stating he’s running late

  • Try to answer “what have you been doing all morning?” without having a stroke or losing my religion

  • Sit behind a driver who apparently never learned the art of merging

  • Stop at every red light possible

  • Realize I forgot to bring water

  • Stop at a convenience store and pay too much for bottled tap water

  • Arrive late at the parent lunch to hear my daughter exclaim, “Finally! You’re the last parent here!”

It was all I could do not to feel my special day was ruined. And, in effect, my year.

After the parent lunch, my husband went back to work briefly while my daughter and I ran back to the house to throw our bags in the car for a five hour drive to Atlanta.

My mom was supposed to take the trip with us, but had to cancel because of some physical issues. Since the farm where she lives is on the way, we stopped in for a quick visit. After all, my mom is really the one who should be celebrated on my birthday. She did all the work. I'm pretty sure I just coasted. And slept.   

As usual, she thought of everything. She made my favorite cake, German chocolate, with extra thick coconut pecan icing. Homemade, of course. And in a convenient carry pan for the road. Even though I’m 49, I’m still her baby.

My other mothers (my aunts) had some cool presents waiting for me. And my mom, who taught me to love extravagantly through all things, presented me with a strand of pearls.

I think they were pearls of wisdom.

While eating cake and drinking fresh milk in my mom's kitchen, I decided to lay down my attitude of disappointment.

Maybe my day hadn’t gone as planned. But the day was far from ruined. In actuality, it was a fulfillment of a previous wish, the continued accomplishment of a long goal:

To have and care for a family of my own.

I never thought I would be privileged to find a soul mate, to marry, to have children, to build a home. I have been blessed to do all of this and so much more.

How easy it is to lose sight of the richness of my life when I am distracted by the constant static and whir of its inner workings. I get all tied up in chores and carpool, in earning a living and paying the bills, all the while wishing and hoping for just a moment or two to myself.

Those moments are desperately needed, don’t get me wrong. But so are the moments that I too often wish away. The moments when things are messy and inconvenient. When I can’t get solitude because someone needs me.

Someone needs me….


So what if I didn’t get my personal coffee time on my day off? I visited with my daughter in her classroom as she showed me her work and regaled us with stories about loving math. (Some kind of miracle in this artsy-fartsy family!)

So what if I didn’t sit down and write out my personal goals for the year? That’s why I pay out the yingyang for a whizbang smartypantsphone with voice recognition and a verbal note app.

So what if I missed the beach on Friday? I spent the weekend with my family watching Irish dance, snow tubing, and eating copious amounts of German chocolate cake.

Being needed and wanted and loved by the same people year-in and year-out - I can think of no more honored monument than that.

Next: Building on the Classics


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