Posts Tagged ‘birthday’

Birthday time!

While I was moving, I missed talking about a few big milestones: my birthday and this blog’s birthday.

My birthday first, shall we? This is the first birthday I have not had a birthday party in…oh, maybe fourteen years, give or take. But throwing myself a party while moving would have been dicey at best, and in any case, I was more in the mood for some quality one-on-one time with close friends. I had birthday sushi, and birthday cake, and birthday chai, and birthday BBQ, and birthday pie, and birthday steak, and my friend took me to see one of my favorite musicals (Andrew Lippa’s The Wild Party, for those curious). And I got jammed and sung to at my regular weekly dance venue. From all this, we can divine that I really like food. And most importantly, I got to spend time with some of my closest friends.


Taken on my birthday in an empty apartment.

That being said, all this birthday celebrating was doubling as farewell meals, and the farewell aspect often overshadowed the birthday aspect. So it was a weird birthday. And without its usual marking, it doesn’t entirely feel like it actually happened. I find myself hesitating an instant longer than usual before being able to answer the question of how old I am, because in my head, the number hasn’t completely flipped.

Last night someone suggested I throw a housewarming party, and that there could be cake at this party. Like a stand-in birthday cake. There’s no way I can pull anything like that off until the fall, but we shall see….

Meanwhile, while I was making the drive from California to Washington, this blog turned six years old. Yes, this is the 610th post on the Practical Free Spirit, and I’ve been posting here regularly since 2010. When I began, I had no idea what this blog would become or how it would change my life.

I gave some serious thought to closing down the blog this spring. I simply wasn’t feeling it; the majority of the themes and issues I was thinking about at the time were not ones I wanted to write about, so I was left struggling to find things to write about that I felt were worthwhile. This was the first time since I started the blog that this had happened, and this combined with the conventional wisdom that blogging is dead and mostly irrelevant made me wonder whether it wasn’t time to close up shop and move on to something else.

Obviously that didn’t happen. I knew I was going to be moving, and I thought my continued blogging would help my California friends and I stay in touch. I also thought making such a big life change might potentially lead to some interesting topics to write about, in addition to some topics I already had in mind to write about in the future.

And finally, I know this blog occasionally makes a difference to someone, and that matters to me. I know people sometimes feel isolated. I know it sometimes helps when I write candidly about emotions, about trying to overcome the past, about grief, about things many of us are thinking about or experiencing but that we don’t always get to talk about. Normalizing these things is important work. It helps us process, work through feelings of loneliness and shame, and build empathy.  It helps us learn more about what it is to be human.

I’m looking forward to seeing what the future year brings, both for me and for the blog. Happy birthday to us!

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Last year at this time, I was feeling uncomfortable about my age.

Am I 5 or 50? Hmm....

Am I 5 or 50? Hmm….

One reason I was feeling uncomfortable about my age was that I was dating someone who was some years younger than me. Six, to be precise. I had my moment of discomfort, and then I caught myself and said, “No, this is not going to be what I’m doing. I am fine with myself at exactly the age I am.”

But after this, he managed to bring up my age several more times in the short time we were dating. This sucked. I felt uncomfortable. And then I felt frustrated with myself about feeling uncomfortable about something over which I had precisely zero control. We can’t pick how old we are. We can’t pick when we were born.

My birthday is on Saturday, and this year I’m feeling fine with the age I’m turning. Occasionally I feel the ghost of this age discomfort. But if someone has a problem with my age, there is absolutely zero I can do about it. So I’ve mostly stopped caring.

No, this year I’ve been feeling uncomfortable about different things.

But what I’ve realized is that this discomfort doesn’t stem from where I thought it did. I’m okay with who I am. In fact, I’m happy about it. I’m okay with where I’ve come from. I’m okay with my emotions. I’m okay with me. All this discomfort is actually coming from one place. True to my empathetic, people pleaser roots, I am still worrying about what other people will think of me. I am still worrying about smoothing things over. I’m still worrying about keeping things from becoming awkward.

Just as I felt uncomfortable about my age even though I’m actually perfectly happy being the age I am, and always have been.

That’s it. That’s all it is.

Of course, now that I’ve recognized this, I have a choice. I can remain bogged down in the discomfort, and instead of accidentally giving “people” this power over me, I can continue to give it to them consciously. Or….

Instead I can say, “Actually, this is very silly.” This is where I come from. This is how I feel. This is what I want. This is what I’m doing. Sometimes I feel a little uncomfortable about some of these things, and that is just another part of how I’m feeling.

I can remember that I don’t really care what people think of my past, or what I’m doing with my life, or how I feel. That what they think doesn’t change anything, doesn’t steal away any validity or value or inherent truth.

I can think about how vulnerability is not about the response I receive. It’s about accepting who I am and where I am, and about sharing these things when I choose. It’s about having a choice in the first place.

Well then.

Actually, this is very silly.

How’s that for a birthday epiphany?

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I’ve been meaning to write about my birthday party, which happened a few weeks ago at this point. The theme was “Come as you aren’t,” a brilliant idea that was originally suggested by my friend Mike on this blog. It took me almost a year and a half to implement the idea, but it was completely worth the wait.

I dressed up as a hipster Jedi princess:

With my shiny lightsaber that makes cool noises!

With my shiny lightsaber that makes cool noises!

We also had some unusually smartly dressed people, a belly dancer, another Jedi complete with Hawaiian shirt (yes!), and a whole host of other oddments of apparel. It was a fun spice to add to an evening of celebration.

And here's me with Petyr Baelish for good measure.

And here’s me with Petyr Baelish for good measure.

I have a confession to make: the obligatory singing after the cake candles have been lit usually makes me somewhat uncomfortable. I always do it anyway at my birthday parties because I tend to get attached to traditions, even ones that cause me slight awkwardness. But it’s hard to be the center of attention when I’m not DOING anything. I don’t usually know where to look or what to do with myself. I kind of wish I could sing along.

But this year, the moment of singing was the most memorable and the most touching. I didn’t feel awkward. Instead I felt surrounded by the love and support of my friends who had gathered in my overly hot apartment to celebrate the fact that I exist and that we get to know each other. I felt caught up in a strangely physical experience made of singing and proximity and affection, like I was receiving a hug from all my friends, even those who couldn’t make it.

I’ve written about creating a chosen family of friends before, and this has been my most tangible experience of this. I used to be so afraid that having such a family was impossible, that the only way of receiving this support was through blood relatives and significant others. I’d comb the internet looking for people talking about chosen families, and I’d come up relatively empty-handed. Why was nobody talking about this? I didn’t know, but I held close the few examples I knew about. I needed the hope.

So when I say that I have never felt as loved and as safe as I did at my recent birthday party, I say it both to thank those of you who have touched my life so significantly and to pass that hope along to those of you who need it right now. Creating a chosen family of friends IS possible. Whatever your situation–if you don’t have much or any family in your life right now, if you are single, if you’ve moved to a new place, if you’ve been through a lot–none of this consigns you to a life of being alone and unconnected.

And of course it’s not just the birthday party. Regular readers of the blog may have noticed I’ve been having a tough time this last month and a half. But one of the things that has made it much easier than it otherwise would have been is the friends who have been reaching out to me. This time has been an inadvertent pressure test, and it has left me with the strong realization that yes, my life really is different now. I am different, and the relationships I have in my life are different, and these changes are a source of strength and solace.

And when it comes down to it, good friends will take you as you are, even when you come as someone different than you used to be.

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Guess what time it is? Birthday week! I’ve been spending the past week celebrating, and there will even more celebrating through the weekend. (Battlestar Galactica the board game! Fancy tea! And also frozen yogurt!) And today is my actual birthday, so I am spending time doing fun things…and also revising. Because revising seems to be a never-ending process in my life at the moment.

For the last couple of years on the blog, I’ve made a birthday post listing five happy things. But today I’d like to take a moment to think about one BIG happy thing: gratitude.

The reason thinking about five happy things every day is supposed to increase general happiness is that it helps us cultivate a sense of gratitude. This year has been a tough one for me, and what I’ve learned is that in the face of adversity, feeling gratitude is even more important. It’s so easy to get caught up in a tidal wave of difficult emotions, but being aware of all the positive parts of life helps keep things in balance. And because of the contrast, the good and the sweet and the special feel even stronger and more important than they normally do.

So today on my birthday, I am feeling gratitude and appreciation. There are so many wonderful people in my life, many of whom will be reading these words today, and my life is so much richer because of you. Whether I am learning from you or having fascinating conversations with you, having super fun times with you or offering and receiving support, you make a difference in my life. I only wish I could see those of you who don’t live close to me more than I do.

Taken during birthday week! Nala is too excited to hold still and look at the camera.

Taken during birthday week, by Yvette Ono. Nala is too excited to hold still and look at the camera.

I have been lucky this past year in many ways. I’ve gotten to spend a lot of time doing creative work that is important to me: revising The Academy of Forgetting (and revising some more), starting on the Space Novel, thinking of future story ideas. I’ve gotten to spend time in Seattle and New York and Boston, Chicago and Toronto and Detroit. I’ve reconnected with some people who matter to me, met some new people who have been fantastic, and deepened my existing friendships. I’ve been on the receiving end of a whole lot of generosity.

I live somewhere I feel comfortable and safe. My knees have been cooperating, and my allergies have improved. My friend Ferrett survived his triple bypass. I learned a lot about myself, and I’m on the path to creating the life I want. I have a little dog who brightens every single one of my days.

So here’s to another year! I know there will be challenges, but there will also be so much joy and gratitude that I get to be here experiencing life in all its glory.

What do you feel grateful for today? Let’s spread the happiness around.

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It’s that time again! Birthday time! My birthday is tomorrow, but I am celebrating all week. Why? Because I can, that’s why. And because I’m happy to be alive. And because I keep thinking of things to do that sound like excellent birthday-related activities. Like playing an epic game of Battlestar Galactica this past weekend, for example. And visiting Ghirardelli Square. And going to a bookstore (any reason is a good reason to do THAT!)

Last year I wrote about Five Happy Things for my birthday, and I think that’s an excellent tradition, so I’m going to do it again.

1. The Academy of Forgetting. Flawed it might be, but it’s also the best and most ambitious thing I’ve ever written. I’m in the middle of an exciting (and at times turbulent) romance with it, and it reminds me of all the best parts of being a writer.

2. The Writing Community. When I went up to Seattle at the last minute this spring, I sent out an e-mail telling local writers I was going to be in town. I expected to spend most of the trip by myself; maybe a couple of people would be able to get together, I told myself. Instead, I got to see so many writer friends, it blew me away. People who went out of their way to spend time with me, help me (especially with the buses), and show me cool aspects of Seattle (the Underground Tour, the Theo Chocolate Factory, the nightlife, the food). And that’s when it hit me down deep: this is what community is. And I am a part of it. How amazing is that?

3. Food. I love food. I was raised on a bland and narrow diet, and ever since I went away to college, I’ve been on a journey of discovery. I am so happy there are spices! And onions! And different types of cuisines from different countries! Heirloom tomatoes exist, how exciting is that! And beets, and baked sweet potatoes, and cherries, and gnocchi, and sushi, and Ethiopian food, and curries, and white hot chocolate, and… You get the picture.

4. My bathtub. My bathtub is a proper big bathtub, like all bathtubs are meant to be. It also has jets, but I never use them. What I like about my bathtub is that I don’t have to bend my knees to fit in it, and I can be submerged in hot water from my neck to my toes. Sheer bliss.

5. Being able to set my own sleep schedule. I do not like going to bed. However, I do like to sleep and feel well rested. Do you see the inherent quandary? Happily I am able to set my own hours, and therefore I am able to stay up late and still get eight hours of sleep. This is a wonderful thing, and I appreciate it on a pretty much daily basis.

I will leave you all with the adorableness that is Nala. This is maybe my favorite photo of her.

You can see some Jack Russell attitude here. Classic Nala.

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Today is my birthday! I really love birthdays. I look forward to mine for months every year. And this year I’m prepared with a wider than usual selection of birthday books. So think of me lounging in the sun with one of these titles: Naamah’s Blessing, by Jacqueline Carey; The Wanting Seed, by Anthony Burgess; Flashback, by Dan Simmons (his Hyperion series is genius, by the way. Just saying.); or Bumped, by Megan McCafferty. Decisions, decisions!

To celebrate on the blog, I’m writing a birthday edition of five things that make me happy. In this case, I’m choosing five things from the last year.

1. Blog: First things first. This blog turns one year old later this week, sharing a birthday week with me. I thought that starting a serious blog sounded fun, but I had no idea how much I would enjoy it. Not only have I become a better writer as a result of blogging, but the blog gets me writing (and keeps me writing) even when pretty much nothing else can. I love having a platform to share my ideas and philosophies, and I adore that doing something so fun is part of my job. How awesome is that?

2. New Friends: When I think of all the new friends I have met in the last year, it feels almost unreal to me. To make myself even happier, I’m going to fudge and count my Taos Toolbox comrades in this number as well, even though I met them a year and a few weeks ago (although even without fudging, it’s been a truly amazing year in the friend department). I have been honored to meet and spend time with some of the most intelligent, thoughtful, kind, and interesting people this year. And I keep meeting more!

3. First Pro Sale: Yup, have to mention this, a big milestone in my writing career. I can’t wait till this story comes out, hopefully later this year!

4. Husband and Little Dog: Day in and day out, my husband and little Nala are always there for me. They celebrate my successes and they comfort me through the hard and painful times. They make it easy to be happy.

5. Becoming More Me:You guys have seen some of this here on the blog, with me writing about people pleasing and running the Backbone Project. Happily this is something that is happening even more offline than it is online. After years of plugging away at becoming more assertive, it’s finally happening! Granted, I have a lot more work to do, but I’m making fabulous progress.

There sure are a lot of photos of me wearing a lei floating around....

So there you have it, five things that make me want to bounce up and down, wear bright colors, and sing while I brush my teeth. Here’s to another year featuring more of the same!

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