July 17th used to be the highlight of my year. I've written about what this day signifies over and over again, and my battle to balance my mother's birthday legacy and honoring myself by chilling out. For 31, I (sort of) succeeded and (epically) failed, again.
My mother was a larger than life part of my story that has been missing now for 10 birthdays. Every year, I flop around like a fish out of water trying to figure out how to heal. July 17th is about what my mother brought into this world and what she left behind. Pancake breakfasts with candles. Giant Mickey Mouse "Happy Birthday" signs. Hours of special birthday shopping. Ice cream dance parties to Queen. And then radio silence. The silence haunted me for a long time. I needed to make a lot of noise so it wasn't so profound.
The noise was always in the shape of showering myself with tons of friends and food and booze and multiple day plans and multiple birthday outfits. But it never came close to what she gave me.
For a few years, I resolved to be like a lot of people and not do much. That just brought back the silence.
So this year, I did both. I bought birthday outfits. I planned a night out and a day out. I let Paul plan. I attempted to carve out some rest and relaxation. It all became a big mess of confusion and fun and exhaustion.
But it also represented my life at 31. I am just now learning how to listen to myself. The part of me that says, "Okay, one glass of wine is enough," or "You're tired. Go back to bed."
The part of me that loves myself like my mom loved me.
Sometimes I listen. Sometimes I'm too excited to sleep. Sometimes I value other's wants and needs over my own. And that's just not a way to celebrate the day of your birth.
What I really want is to finally give myself permission to own July 17th. I want to let go of the birthday legacy. I want to start over.
I want to be outside. I want cake and a candle. I want to shop for a birthday outfit and wear it in September. I want to go to bed early. I want to honor what being 31 is for me. I just don't know how to do that yet. And just like every lesson in life, I'll keep repeating it until I figure it out.
What did I learn from 31? That it can take years to figure out what you want from this life and even more time to figure out what you need.
And sometimes it takes an even longer amount of time to convince yourself that you deserve to get what you want and need. And that it's really up to you to make all those things happen.
Sometimes the best days of the year aren't on birthdays, or holidays, or Saturdays. They're the days that fill in your hollow spots when you least expect it. The days that make you full. They make you feel gratitude in ways you never thought possible. Pancakes for breakfast on a Tuesday. Spontaneous sunset picnic with your best friends. A quiet much needed moment with yourself where everything is peaceful and perfect.
Honoring what you need has nothing to do with being lame and elderly; it has everything to do with getting smarter and stronger and having a much better, more fulfilling life. I thought a return to my younger years each year would keep me young and less sad, but in reality, doing whatever I want, like I love myself enough to take care of me, is the best idea. Making choices that prolong my days instead of cutting them short. Honoring my mom in a way that would make her proud.
31 is an incredible age. I love 31. I no longer feel the need to focus my actions around others reactions. I have let go of feeling "old" and feel better than I did 10 years ago. 31 is powerful and beautiful and I am beyond grateful to celebrate the gift of another year of life.
Let's not give up celebrating our life just because we're getting older. Let's celebrate better: less booze more belly laughs. Less birthday blues, more cupcakes. Less feeling old, more gratitude for getting to be on the planet a little bit longer. Less waiting for vacation and more celebrating exactly where you are.
So here's to a million more moments, and a million more mistakes, that give us all a chance to pause and love life a little bit more. We're really, really lucky to be here.