a birthday orientation

“This too shall pass…”

Kelly Salasin, 12/8/11

It’s my favorite day of the year, and I wake… depressed.  Still.

The glass has been half-empty for days and nothing seems to shift it–not rest, or yoga, or a dinner date with a good friend; not the gym or the supplements or the love of my family.

On the eve of my birthday, I wake every hour, for no reason. I lie there with eyes wide open like a baby, as if it’s daytime. But I don’t feel any child-like wonder for the world, just despondency at my body’s chemistry gone wrong. I consider grabbing the progesterone cream beside my bed and slathering it over my body. (What would happen if I used a cup instead of a quarter teaspoon?)

December is my month. It always has been. The snow. The magic. MY birthday.  Toward the end of November, I delight in finding something at the grocery store that expires on 12/8. It’s such a perfect combination of numbers that I’m always surprised that I’m the only one marveling at them; which reminds me of something a friend once said: “Your own child looks perfect, but everyone else’s kid is just a little off.”

Even depressed, I appreciate my birthday. Even though my favorite things bring me no joy, I feel gratitude. Even though I want to weep for no reason at all, I think: This is my BIRTH day. This is my life. What a gift.

I look down at the ring my mother wore when she got pregnant–the tiny diamond on a thin band that was the only thing my father could afford, and I feel proud. Someone created me.

It perplexes me that not everyone feels this way about their own special day; that they’d prefer to let it go by unnoticed. The noticing isn’t the point. It’s the claiming. In fact, it can feel like your own special secret if no one else knows (like when you first find out you’re pregnant.)

When the end of December 8th comes, I don’t want to go to sleep. When my husband and I crawl into bed, I discuss the International Date Line with my husband, and I drift away from my day while fantasizing about chasing it around the globe.

It’s embarrassing to admit that at 48 my own birthday is still this important to me. Shouldn’t I have grown out of that by now?

On the morning next morning, I wake to find it all over.  The gloom is finally gone, and so is my special day.

But a year later, here’s what I’ve learned: It’s pretty cool to love yourself–even when you’re depressed, even when you’re not feeling special or worthy. That’s the best birthday gift of all.

Kelly Salasin, December 9, 2011