I gave myself a present and slept in just a bit the morning of my official birthday, November 26th. I had traveled up to the shores of Lake Tahoe to the Hyatt resort to spend my Birthday in the place that my heart longed to be. As I laid, warm as could be, in my perfect little nest under a plush down comforter and the view of the forest to my side, I thought about all that I wanted to accomplish on this day. It was the first Birthday in my life that I had decided to truly accept and celebrate for myself. As I had stated in the earlier post, I don’t remember a time that I genuinely “celebrated” the birth date that I shared with my beloved Grandmother. Today would be that day… and the things I had planned to do to celebrate were motivating me to leave my warm cocoon and indulge in whatever the day would bring!
Before slipping out of the perfect nest that kept this bare body warm, I looked over at my phone and saw it blink with messages. I picked up the phone and there before me were a constant stream of Birthday messages in my email inbox. I looked at it in disbelief…. Who are these people who would take the time to send me such a wish? I was confounded as I rarely had many people venture to even mention my birthday as I did not disclose the day or even acknowledge it. I couldn’t help but smile… and yet, I had never awoken on a birthday smiling… EVER!!!! Still in disbelief, I peeled myself out of my slumber and slid into my soft grey robe. I made a quick cup of coffee and walked to the balcony and opened the door. The scent of pine quickly drifted my way as if to plant an alpine kiss on my sweet left cheek… I closed my eyes and breathed deeply to make the moment last as long as it could. I stepped out on the balcony and sat in one of the rocking chairs and thought about the day ahead. Yes, I would start the day with a run, followed by a walk on the beach, then back to my room to get ready for my first full body deep tissue massage. I wanted to write some thank you notes to my friends to let them know how much I appreciate them. I then wanted to take just a little bit of time to indulge in my passion of photography and writing… just me, my camera, my thoughts and my little laptop. The day would finish with a delicious dinner at my favorite restaurant, some vino and perhaps a simple pleasure of the sweet kind… And that was the birthday plan.
I donned my running gear and put my comfy runners on these feet and with my favorite music, the run began. It was harder to breathe at 6,400 feet, 2,000 ft higher than I was accustomed to, but my pace wasn’t reflecting the laborious breathing that was taking place. It was at the ½ mile mark that my breathing regulated and I relaxed and simply took in the alpine views with a peek of Lake Tahoe to be enjoyed every now and again. Before I could completely relax, I came across a good sized hill… I fretted for just a minute as I wasn’t sure how the knee would handle it. But it was the breathing that was the real concern. Alas, the hill had been conquered and as I enjoyed the downhill run I could see another hill begin as soon as the first had ended… My eyes seem to bulge at the hurdle ahead. It was then that I decided, if there is a way to celebrate this birthday, there would nothing more apropos than for this runner girl to take on a physical challenge and WIN! I could feel the burning in the quads and every muscle cell was firing and with a slight downshift in speed; I clawed my way to the top and what a feeling that was to be looking down at the last downhill slope…. I wanted to raise my hands as if to show a sign of celebratory excitement and triumph! Down the hill, I tried to savor every step while regulating my breathing. My body was grateful for gravity’s pull as the effort to run was like a gift presented with a bow. And before I could calculate the miles traversed, my run had ended.
I made my way to the beach. I quickly realized, as I took several sandy steps toward the water, that I was the only one there on such a beautiful and crisp Fall morning. There in front of me were two Adirondack chairs that were perfectly placed for others to find rest and seize a brilliant sunrise. Yes, I decided to allow myself this indulgence on my Birthday…
As I sat, I couldn’t help but think of all the lost days of celebration, all the years that had passed without so much as an internal acknowledgement of the day I arrived in this lifetime. I looked up at the sky and it was hard not to notice the thin wispy clouds above. I wondered what the weather was like the day I arrived. I wondered what would have happened had I not made it through the newborn surgery I had undergone. I wondered why I was so different from my siblings. I wondered if I was meant to be born on my Grandmother’s Birthday, perhaps for this very reason I sat here today… To completely understand what the bare feeling of celebrating a birthday is about. I continued to wonder that perhaps some moments in life are out of our control but destined to be. It was that thought that had the right side of my cheek form a sideways smile as if to say, “Of course…” After some time and many questions posed without a possibility of an answer, I decided to head back to my room and ready myself for that rejuvenating massage.
I was given the recommendation of a spa by a close friend. My friend had recommended that one of the owners should be the one I should see. When I called to make the reservation, there were only two appointments available and so my choice of therapist would not me mine to make. It didn’t matter much to me as the strong recommendation for the spa was good enough. When I arrived, I was introduced to the lady who would be giving me my full body deep tissue massage. I immediately felt a sense of calm as her greeting was serene and not at all in a hurry, even though I was a couple of minutes late to the appointment.
She left the room and I remember feeling the urge to ask her one question that for some reason, seemed important to discuss. I couldn’t shake that feeling as I disrobed and slid under the warm blanket that lay on the massage table. I was covered up and she returned to the room.
She seemed sweet and we started some small talk. I could sense she may not have wanted to talk as the massage required a good deal of strength… but there in the back of my mind was the need to ask her a burning question… I wasn’t sure why I felt so compelled, but I just had a feeling and so I tried to share some things about myself in order to gain her trust. Before I knew it, our conversation began to flow and I knew now would be the time… So, with determination and a sense of genuine interest, I asked her… “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” I could tell she was taken aback a little. “Well,” she said, “I would like to be married.” She went on to disclose some private aspects of her life and kept referring to her desire to get married and settle down. She had been in relationships but none were “The one”. She was pretty, intelligent and I could detect a strong amount of common sense.
I began to wonder why she wasn’t married. And then I had the feeling that the direction of the conversation should not be on her marital status, but rather on her career. I asked her where she saw herself in 5 years as far as her career was concerned. She began to reveal her passion for writing and in great description, how she has been told she can write well and she is confident of this. I said, “Then why not write?” She responded with many excuses…she was uncertain about a topic, where to begin, how to begin… I responded that it begins in your mind and the thoughts and ideas will flow from there. She acknowledged my comments, but began again and I could detect a hesitancy that seemed to stem from uncertainty and her preoccupation with being married. I stopped her and in a very serious tone, said, “Let me share something with you…” With a crackled voice and doing my best to fight back tears, I began to explain that it was my Birthday and for the very first time, I have chosen to celebrate it… I could see a sad surprise form on her face at the confession I had made and then a soft sigh. I went on to explain all the Birthdays that I chose not to celebrate… I explained to her that I didn’t feel there was anything to celebrate. But here I am having made the choice that the days in this life go far too quickly not to embrace such a gift…if not to celebrate myself than to appreciate those I love in this life of mine. There are always excuses, but if you live your life as if every day were the last, and you place a very near deadline on your hopes and dreams, all the things you want to do will be accomplished if you choose for them to be. I assured her that she will marry in some years to come, but right now she shouldn’t miss opportunities that she has control over… “Don’t let them pass you by.”
I went on to say that I wish that all she hopes for happens soon and she replied she wished the same for me…. and I closed my eyes in a feeble attempt to stop the tears from streaming and she recognizing the profound moment had slowly returned to massaging my legs. When we were done, we were a bit speechless. Two spirits had an equal sharing of enlightenment and renewal. We had gone way past the hour limit and it didn’t matter to either of us. What we truly garnered from each other was worth more than the minutes elapsed.
As I stepped out of the spa, my muscles felt as relaxed as did I. Before heading back to the hotel, I decided to go for a walk to relish the moment of clarity that had just occurred.
There in front of me was a long pier that beckoned me to come visit. As I stepped onto the pier I slipped off my shoes, set my camera and began to walk… The blue of the sky met Lake Tahoe in such a way that a boundary did not exist in the horizontal space that allowed the two to meet. I stood for just a moment to be grateful for the view, the appreciation of knowing that there is no doubt that today I was meant to savor the moment and all the moments that have led up to this point. In my mind I thought about the woman at the spa that I had just met… With all my strength I let go a silent prayer that she find happiness in her life, and that she finds the strength to be content and the gift to be loved by someone she can call her own. I released that into the Tahoe Blue and with hope in my heart, I felt this all was meant to be.
When I returned to my hotel room I had decided to sit down and thank all my Facebook friends for their kind Birthday wishes. As I sat to read the comments, I was a bit overcome with emotion… who were these people to take the time to wish me well? Why? The wishes were thoughtful, genuine, gracious and some overwhelming to think about. I couldn’t remember a time on this planet when so many had sent me Birthday wishes to this extent. I began to respond one after another… My responses came from a place of complete appreciation and love. I could very well have easily just hit the “like” button, but I wanted them all to know how very important the words they crafted were to me… priceless indeed.
Having returned some 70 messages, I decided to ready myself for dinner. I made my way on the moonlit path to the Lone Eagle Grill on the shores of Tahoe. As the lake allowed my mind to drift, I indulged in a most delicious dinner with a glass of vino and a dessert that had my palate yearning for more, but my mind knowing I was better to resist. I sat and reflected upon my Dad and how he fought to save me as a baby. Many years ago, he begged physicians to save my life with a surgery they were most certain would not be successful. By the grace of all that is good, I survived to share a Birthday with my Grandmother who acted like the light in a lighthouse over a stormy sea… she taught me how to live, love, listen and persevere. And even though her passing caused me to stop acknowledging my birthday, the years in between then and now have made me appreciate completely what it means to celebrate my arrival. No, I have not done anything outstanding to warrant what could be considered a self-indulgent celebration… but today, that is hardly the meaning. I was able to share a private story with a stranger to help motivate her to do and write great things… to believe in herself even though she longs for someone to share the adventure with. In return, I was reminded that life is a choice, including the things we say, do, share, live and love…
Yes, at the end of the day, my Birthday… I am ever grateful for all of the challenges life has gifted me, for the friends that I have had the distinct honor and pleasure to have met along the way, for perfect strangers who have something to teach me and perhaps I have something to share with them. I am grateful for simple pleasures of the edible kind, that I am healthy enough to celebrate a life I am convinced I will not live in vain. I am finally celebrating the learning, growing and sharing that will give me the strength and courage to make a difference so that this life–from my definition alone–is considered meaningful and memorable.… Wondering what tomorrow will bring…