Bluebonnet Birthday

Wow. Smack dab in the middle of my forties. This morning I’m 45 and still alive! Twenty years ago, I was smack dab in the middle of years of suicide attempts and an inability to see myself ever finding the capacity to feel joy or carry on. Either I did, or time just wore me down. A little of both, I imagine. What would it be like to enjoy my twenties like I do my forties? More energy and effortless beauty, to be sure, but no more fun. I’m pretty good at that, no matter what age I reach.

45 is square, solid, standing on the horizon, looking behind and ahead, pretty darned satisfied. I loved 44. I don’t know why. I’ve joked that it’s because Obama was #44, but I loved it. I don’t know how. It was the hardest experience of my life. I’ve struggled giving myself permission to say that. I came up in an abusive home and entered my twenties in a tailspin of someone else’s choosing. I chose drugs and alcohol, and had the fight of my life in my thirties getting clean. How could those 3 weeks with Jax and Carrie last September be the worst thing I’ve ever been through? I don’t know, but it was.

I also wonder how I can feel so fond of 44 when I’ve noticed a disturbing change in myself. For the first time in my life, I feel jaded. I don’t feel it in connection to what happened last fall, necessarily. I feel like that broke it loose and now it’s here to look at honestly. Texas, therefore, was exactly what I needed. I can’t process anything fully without my best friend.

Rebecca confirmed the shift and actually pinpointed the beginning of it to years ago in a shitty little temp job I felt superior to. I was only there for 4 and 1/2 months, but she was absolutely right! It was then that I stopped “choosing higher,” in actions and attitudes so small at first that I didn’t notice it happening. Here I am several years later just a little bit… uglier, I guess, than I’m familiar with.

In spite of my lifelong struggle with dark thoughts and despair, my nature is optimistic and buoyant. I didn’t consider that, like everyone, I have to do the work. My habit has been to keep close to home when I’m in a bad space. I don’t isolate. I let friends know that I’m not my best, but it’s usually not too alarming. I always come back to my playful self. That has remained true, but there was this piece that had changed.

I’m at a place now where “resting on your laurels,” as my mom would say, doesn’t cut it. When I catch myself looped in angry, unkind thoughts, I have to redirect. It’s not enough to wait for the real me to come back. I have to fight for her.

So I love 44. It was a year of learning. And I love my best friend. Going home to her family is a respite and my second greatest joy. (Cats are superior to all things.) Here are pics of me finally making it to Texas at the height of bluebonnet spring!

bluebonnets

We painted fake lilacs to look like bluebonnets and decorated hats.

rebecca and farrah

I found the most beautiful blue bonnet for Farrah’s first bluebonnet spring! LaFleurBonnets, Etsy

hannah and me

This is the 3 yr-old who named me Christie Redhair 20 years ago.

 

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Every Bloomin’ Thing

This winter wasn’t too bad for seasonal depression. We had, for Salt Lake, extraordinary air quality, with only 2 marked inversions that I can recall. We had lots of hazy days, of course, and a number of brief inversions, but the socked-in, stinking filth that mars our season and won’t let up was the mildest in my memory. That’s a big deal, because my friends scream at me annually, “You say that every year!” when I curse our politicians and swear this is the worst I’ve ever seen it.

Consequently, I didn’t feel too down – like gripping ’til release from cold pain – so I was a little surprised at the jump in my mood when the sun turned and brought us back into my favorite season. I guess that’s all it is. It’s just my favorite. I love Spring snow, I love Spring rain, I love Spring sun! Oh, the blue of the sky in angled light! I love how quickly green comes in. I swear there’s more on the branches when I get home than I admired in the morning over coffee. Most of all, I love the blooms.

I really think my birthday is the best one. Forsythia’s bold yellow has had my heart singing for weeks and by the end of April, most shrubs have had time to get fat and luscious, but the trees are still growing, promising, changing, blossoming. I love to bike on my day. That seems to be the week the blooms finally give way to tiny fruit, and it’s like rain! A purple, white shower of petals and perfume!

I don’t even mind my allergies, which are so bad I sometimes think I’m going to vomit. Does anyone else get that? Where you feel nauseous before you sneeze? And if you can’t get the sneeze, you’re sure it’s an errant flu?

Ahhhhh! Who cares? It’s Spring!

God loves April babies more, but May’s His favorite month. I say that to my dad every year, for his birthday. (Seriously, is there anything more beautiful than the second week of May?) Now, June’s a beauty! She’s like a 25 yr-old supermodel, mature but new yet and glowing. My best friend sneaks her birthday in there mid-month, right before the solstice, when it gets too hot, the leaves begin their fight for life in the desert, and the foothills turn brown. We’re smart like that.

Spring is Born

And so was I!

I always feel like spring is my birthday present. My roommate and the neighbor both gave me perfect spring bouquets. My container plants (5 in one weekend!) are already shooting out new blooms, and my wildflowers are sprouting nicely.
bday flowerscontainer plants

The number 4 is solid and built-to-last, and doubled in its endurance at 44. Also, 44 is 2×22, and I like anything that hints at 222. Happy birthday to me!
222 texaswildflowerssave the bees(Honey Nut Cheerios will send you a free packet of 500 seeds! #savethebees)

Growing Up

I heard once, of raising children, “The first 40 years are the hardest.” That could certainly be said of me for my parents, ha!

Last night, I posted on ye ol’ Facebook the invite to my “Forty Fabulous Forty!” birthday party, and I’m getting so excited. I can’t say what an amazing year this has been, to go through the last of what has been consistently traumatic family interaction to arrive at today. As I’ve said, it sorrows me that the successful solution seems to be estrangement, but I’m so consistently happy and productive since I struck out in this new way – giving up and giving in – that I must also conclude, again, that it was the right thing to do. It has given me precisely what Pema Chödrön promised it would: softening. I feel so much better!

Today, a passage in her book, “When Things Fall Apart/ Heart Advice for Difficult Times,” struck me with such peace and clarity that I have to quote the whole segment. I haven’t picked it up for months, so the timing was incredible, with my much-anticipated 40th merely 10 days away. (Or not incredible at all, really. 🙂 )

“When we feel squeezed, there’s a tendency for the mind to become small. We feel miserable, like a victim, like a pathetic, hopeless case. Believe it or not, at that moment of hassle or bewilderment or embarrassment, our minds could become bigger. Instead of taking what’s occurred as a statement of personal weakness or someone else’s power, instead of feeling we are stupid or someone else is unkind, we could drop all the complaints about ourselves and others. We could be there, feeling off guard, not knowing what to do, just hanging out there with the raw and tender energy of the moment. This is the place where we begin to learn the meaning behind the concepts and the words.

We’re so used to running from discomfort, and we’re so predictable. If we don’t like it, we strike out at someone or beat up on ourselves. We want to have security and certainty of some kind when actually we have no ground to stand on at all.

The next time there’s no ground to stand on, don’t consider it an obstacle. Consider it a remarkable stroke of luck. We have no ground to stand on, and at the same time it could soften and inspire us. Finally, after all these years, we could truly grow up. As Trungpa Rinpoche once said, the best mantra is, ‘OM – grow up – swaha.’

Finally! I am growing up. Phew! I held on to the mantra, “NOT FAIR!” for too long.

I have no ground to stand on but this ground, this beautiful earth, and I’m on it!
I’M FORTY!!!!!

“Having been so dissatisfied with my own and the world’s shortcomings, I would have thought myself a suicide by 30.” -Alice Walker

first 40 years
It was my therapist who said it. 🙂 She was right.