This month is my 33rd birthday.
When I first wrote that sentence, I actually wrote: This month is my 34th birthday.
Then I paused — wait — will I be 34? Or is it 33? [Longer pause. Furrowed brow. Thinking, thinking.] OK, I’ll be 33.
That in itself is an example of how I feel about this coming birthday: it is an aside. Half the time, I don’t even know how old I am. Or where my car keys are. Or my brain. I blame it on being the mother of 4 beautiful children under 5 — the ones who I spend hours daydreaming up party ideas for. But for my own birthday? I’d rather not fuss about it (though a little sleep-in might be nice.)
But at heart, I am truly a ceremonial type — a traditionalist who loves things like birthdays and New Year’s and baby books and all the sorts of things that give me a chance to sit back, reflect, set goals and give thanks. So this birthday, I shall do that once more. And as I give thanks:
I will give myself time.
Time to learn, to pray, to be quiet.
I will give myself these moments by giving away other things: opportunities, activities, or events that keep us too busy. I’m giving myself time to be alone sometimes, so that in my time with others I can be fully present.
I’m giving myself time to stretch, to sweat, to strengthen.
Time to grow, time to reach goals — without unnecessary hurry. I am setting my clock with a bigger clock: praying to understand the timetable that is meant for me. So that I am not impatient or anxious or overly-eager, but with patient trust, I am at peace being imperfect and a work in progress.
I am giving myself enough time so that I always have time to stop and smell a rose or a daisy or a stem of rosemary — to chat with a neighbor, to invite them in for a cup of coffee or some fresh-baked pound cake.
I am giving myself time so that my best time can be given to the people who God gave me time for.
I will give myself permission.
Permission to do things a little differently. To live life as an adventure.
In the past 10 years, I have gone from a city girl to a country-dweller.
I went from being an only child to a homeschooling mother of 4.
From living alone with a pet cat — to loving this house of many (and dreaming of a pet cow).
From writing about products for advertising agencies to writing about purpose and Down syndrome and motherhood.
This wild, wonderful life isn’t what I expected — but it’s better than what I could have imagined. And I am giving myself permission to live, to love, to fail, to be vulnerable, and to pursue all that I’m meant to do.
I will give myself a reminder.
A reminder that every day we live — and that every breath we breathe — is a gift.
That my children learn from watching me.
That the days are long but the years are short — and all those other truths that have become cliches because we say them so often. (But we say them so often, because they are so easy to forget.)
I am reminding myself that this month I am 33, but someday (God willing), I will be 93. And what will I care about on a sunny September afternoon that year? What will I look back on and wish I had done, said, or focused on?
The answer to that question, I think, will help remind me of what matters most.
Oh — and also, I will give myself chocolate.
“There are two great days in a person’s life – the day we are born and the day we discover why.” – William Barclay