This birthday means something a bit different from those of the past.
When I was a child, my birthdays meant success. They meant I was a WHOLE YEAR older and I could puff out my chest when I claimed proudly, “I’m now EIGHT, and yes, I feel older!!!” to the age old question. I’d look forward to the gifts, the silly song, and the cake my mom would make. Sure the cake was glutinous and from a box, but that never ever mattered. It was a spice cake that was specially made FOR ME, and THAT made the day special. It was the tradition that made it into a great day, the phone calls I received from family and friends when I was at Milton Hershey School, CA, TX, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The last few years it was the silly dinner at Texas Road House, coupled with my dad’s infatuation with getting me to wear that stupid big hat and ride that silly half horse they make you sit on while the waitresses sing that made it memorable. We’ve also had several family celebrations at the dinner theater, where my parents had a bottle of wine waiting for me at the table before I got there. In the past, I embraced my birthday as the day I was born, and a day to celebrate, but there was no true personal attachment to the date that meant much of anything… Until last year.
Last year was my DIRTY THIRTY BIRTHDAY. Throughout my twenties, the naysayers (that’s what I call everyone who told me not to run as hard, far, or as fast as I used to) told me that EVERYTHING would change when I turned thirty. They told me that suddenly I wouldn’t be able to do things like I used to, and things would simply go downhill from there (and not in the smooth sailing sort of way). They told me to “enjoy it while I’m young” because it would all go away some day.
Last year I chose my birthday as the day to move on from the live in section of the hospital. I picked that day as the day to be given the go ahead to live life on my feet. (If you’re confused….read this…. or this…. or this… or this… 🙂 ) In order for that to happen, the 17th of December, I stopped using my wheel chair. I just stopped. And it hurt. I cried silently the whole way to the dining facility gritting my teeth while I gripped the walker with white knuckles, but I was triumphant in my several hundred foot trek to the elevator, down to the first floor, and my slow, franken-walker-walk to get my breakfast of VA Hospital fake eggs. My lover was by my side, ready to catch me in case I had a misstep, as he had been the ENTIRE journey.
My birthday, December 19th, was the date I chose for my freedom. I decided to begin my thirties on my own, out of the constant care of the nursing home. It was exactly a month after I’d been admitted to the nursing home/live in section of the hospital. I had been the youngest person living there the entire time! Three other residents had died during our stay, one of which was our next door neighbor. We heard the nurses struggle to bring him back for over 45 minutes.
The day I left the hospital, John and I went to get breakfast at our favorite gluten free spot, then we climbed the hill behind the hospital (slowly), sat together by the
lake in the sun, and ate breakfast, savoring every taste, sound, and sensation of freedom. My feet were swollen just like every other day, I was thin, weak, and absolutely ecstatic! I had achieved what nobody could guess. I’d defied the doctors, defied the neurologists, defied the naysayers (read this…No, really read it). I franken-walker-walked side by side with my soulmate through the sliding glass doors of the Phoenix VA Health Care System building, saying goodbye to what had been our home for the past month and a half.
That was how I began my year of dirty thirty…A triumphant walker assisted exit on foot with my soulmate and my pup by my side!
Obviously, it has set up the scene quite conveniently to be positive. 🙂
As a result of beginning my thirties at the very bottom, where I was still relying on the walker for strength and balance, and my idea of a challenge was bending down to pick something up or even worse, put on my own socks, every single day of 30+ has been a victory of some sort! I feel sorry for those that accept and even expect going downhill physically as a byproduct of simply being 30 years old.
Obviously, my view of this day has shifted. My birthday is no longer a day that I look for gifts, calls, or connections to feed the excitement of the day. My birthday is the day I gained my freedom from the hospital. It is the day I WALKED out of the hospital with the man who not only saved my life, wiped my ass, heard out my sobbing, angry rants, fed me, bathed me, carried me, and called me beautiful throughout the process, but also the man who would decide to continue the fight by my side. The man who stayed with me nearly 100% of the time until I could get on my feet again. He reminded me to take my medicine, helped me learn yoga (which gave me back movement), and juiced for me daily at least once, sometimes even up to three times a day in order help my body recover. He encouraged me to do the things I dreamt of doing, even though he knew it would destroy me physically and make a TON more work for him at the end of the day. He allowed me to recreate a base for myself upon which to build fitness, by supporting me after my Zumba classes, which would leave me in the fetal position in pain for HOURS upon HOURS after 60 minutes of movement.
Most of all, he simply accepted my tantrums and lamentations as part of the process. He understood trauma, even when things were getting tough for both of us. For him, as the sole caretaker throughout the process, and me…well, temporarily losing movement, my BIGGEST PASSION, pooping my pants, urinating on myself! There were times when both of us lost it, completely. I’d sob for hours, scream, give up, scream again, cry for my dad, sob some more, and he’d become so overwhelmed, that he’d need to leave.
It was messy, literally and figuratively.
We broke through the barriers of emotional and physical trauma, and we broke through hand in hand, with smiles on our faces, and love in our hearts.
So tomorrow is my birthday. It is my “DIRTY THIRTY-FIRST.” It marks the anniversary of my release from the hospital and the beginning of John and my recovery together without guidance. It is a day to celebrate life, love, and happiness! It is also the first day I get to sub a Zumba class in Moab!
I’m throwing a party (Latin flavor of course), to share the energy and excitement I feel for the day, here in Moab.
With that, I say, HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!!!
Live, laugh, love.
That’s it. Just that.