post-birthday thoughts

It’s been interesting to observe my attitudes and behavior about my birthday this year. In the past, I’ve generally not paid much attention to holidays or other recurring special occasions, even sometimes lightly disparaging anniversaries of births, deaths or other events as “artificial” or as “cosmological circumstances of planetary revolution with no intrinsic meaning.” OK, so sometimes I could be a bit pompous in my beliefs, at least internally. However, while I’ve largely ignored my own birthdays and other anniversaries, I’ve tried to respect other people’s sense of the relevance or importance of such occasions, and to note them in the way that they prefer, making very sure to send my mother a card and/or flowers on her birthday and on Mother’s Day, for example.

After I turned 39 two years ago, though, I began to look forward to marking my 40th birthday more publicly and with more fanfare, and began to envision a large blow-out party to welcome it. But two months later I became unemployed, and on the occasion of my 40th birthday I was still not working (though I was just about to begin a new job two weeks later) and was with my mother at my father’s hospital bedside. The other night, Craig said that he thought I actually was openly negative about my 40th birthday last year by the time it rolled around rather than simply neutral, as I had remembered.

Toward this year’s, though, I’ve been public and positive, telling many people about the occasion and welcoming their well wishes, and I’ve been in an elevated and even slightly giddy mood off and on throughout the week. Rather than celebrating my birthday home alone, as has been my wont, I let Craig take me out on Wednesday, Tatiana yesterday, and am celebrating it with Jeff this weekend. I feel great about turning 41. I’ve felt oddly at peace with myself this week, even in the midst of more stressful work days and a busier social schedule–with its own stress on this Meyers-Briggs “I”–than usual. To be honest, it didn’t hurt that everyone at work thought I was still in my mid-30s, and that I’ve also been spending time with an intelligent, attractive younger man who thinks I’m cute and “playful.”

Yoiks… typing that latter just threw a monkey wrench into my thoughts: rather than real acceptance or peace of mind, is this just a middle-age crisis in disguise? I’ve even been planning to buy a new car, though not, at least, a flashy sports car. On the other hand, that bit of critical self-reflection and insecurity might show that I’m still pretty much the same old me. And, after all, yesterday was not a personal big crunch and big bang cycle of rebirth or re-creation, but just another day, that same old cosmological accident of our planet and sun’s mutual attraction. Wisdom, if it comes, will be gradual, not doled out as yearly interest each July 31st, unlike self-indulgence, however, which apparently is compounded annually.