Happy Birthday to Me

Posted on May 5, 2020


What do people do on their birthdays? Count their blessings. Get drunk. Blow out candles. Splurge on something. Get pissed off because the spouse or partner forgot. Eat breakfast in bed. Get up and go to work as usual. Open cards. Open gifts. Examine their aging face. Get flowers. Take the dog for a walk as usual. Eat something unidentifiable that the kids have made.

LBL is celebrating a birthday today. She has been asked by many people how she will celebrate. Her answers have mostly been versions of “Have a pandemic kind of day.” Now the actual day is here. So far, she has poured her coffee, received flowers and a lovely card from Now Husband, rearranged the throw pillows on the screen porch for the twentieth time, and wondered, for about the millionth time, how we all got into this mess we are in.

LBL is lucky. Every single person she knows, either family or friend, is healthy. She doesn’t wonder where her next mortgage payment will come from. She is quarantined with a man who is her best friend. She has toilet paper and coffee and food. She loves being in her house. The pandemic has not stopped her from reading or writing, the two non-people-associated pasttimes that give the most meaning to her life.

Her children’s jobs are intact. they have the luxury of being able to continue working remotely. They have supportive, loving partners. LBL has watched them make magic with their own children during this time, take their gifts and pass them on. They teach their children to cook. They create works of art. They continue to maintain their sometimes frazzled cool when school and preschool and daycare are no longer options.

What she has given up must wait. Her annual mammogram. Cataract surgery. Several small scheduled trips. Her high school reunion. Feeling the small bodies of her grandchildren in her arms. What she might soon give up looms ahead: Her annual trip to Turkey. Her annual trip to Maine.

The worst she goes through is a belief that no, we have not learned anything from this. We have not learned anything from sights of natural repair and renewal from the absence of people going about their business. We ooh and aah over wildlife appearing on city streets, smog lifting, visible skies and mountains, the sound of birds. We simply mark time until we can once again carry on the relentless assault of this fragile earth.

We are humans. We are neither inherently good nor inherently bad. We are simply endless possibility, capable of the best and capable of the worst. We choose leaders who either speak to the best of what we can be or to the worst. The most disturbing thought LBL has now is that we have chosen a leader who speaks to the worst of who we can be. And this is someone who has been tasked with taking us through the unthinkable.

On this birthday, LBL is thinking about the lives lost, the lives now struggling, the lives that are at risk, the long-term financial and emotional fallout that so many people will endure. She is beyond grateful for what she has. She is concerned and/or grieving for so many others. She is in awe of those who have stepped up to heal us, to serve us, to get us through this.

There is a toast Jews make at the annual Passover Seder (this year was a Zoom Seder), “Next year in Jerusalem!”. LBL has been saying this line since she was a small child, back when she didn’t know what Jerusalem was and didn’t understand why everyone wanted to go there.

This year, she will make a special toast. “Next year in Normal.” And she will not be thinking of of the big, momentous highs of life or the vacations or the celebrations. She will be thinking of the countless ordinary moments that are ahead, moments that will keep reminding us that given a choice, we can set aside fear or distrust or anger and choose, instead, to be courageous or trusting or understanding. The circumstances of life, whatever they may be, will continue. It is the choice of how we respond to those circumstances that is so precious. It is the choice that will get us through.

Posted in: birthday