Friday, March 26, 2010

The Changing Nature of Birthdays

I love birthdays. Particularly mine. My birthday always feels like the beginning of spring (and not just because it's on March 26th!). There is all the hope and promise of a new year in the air and opportunities seem boundless. For me, it's like getting a second crack at a New Year's Resolution.

My birthday is also usually during or around LENT and while I am not Catholic anymore, I continued to enjoy taking a 40 day break from something to help me realign my priorities. In the past I have given up sugar, milk, wheat, cooked foods and even premarital sex for LENT and I found the experience really awakening. At the end of 40 days (usually right around my birthday) I set what Martha Beck would call a wildly impossible goal -- get a phD, start a theatre company, travel to 4 countries in 12 months, get married, get pregnant, get a promotion, buy a house, complete a triathlon.

Fueled by my Lenten sacrifice and the accompanying hope that goes with Spring and my birthday, I'd just start living as if those goals would be met. As if it were obvious. Almost like I'd already reached the goal. And then viola! another feather for my oft decorated cap!

This year though has felt different. I've been worn down emotionally and financially by a long, protracted legal battle and I'm too exhausted to think up goals. This year, for my birthday, I don't want to plan and execute my next accomplishment, I want to nap. And I don't mean, curl up with a Wally Lamb book and a mocha latte; I mean ball up an old, smelly sweatshirt and crash on the first available horizontal surface.

My life's motto is "The More You Do. The More You Do" and this lack of interest in "doing" is catching me off guard. But yesterday a friend wrote a blog post about balance that made me sit back and reconsider. Maybe this "not doing" is an act of subversion for my system. Maybe this is the most incredible thing I could do this year. Maybe this year I need more of less. And maybe that's okay. Fred wrote: "If we stay too long in an unbalanced situation, the universe acts to restore balance. It throws us to the other side: our health may suffer; our lives may change."

So this year LENT came to me. I didn't need to actively pick something to give up to represent a metaphorical Jesus metaphorically suffering. The suffering came right to my doorstep. The universe has indeed thrown me to the other side. But I'm not looking away. I'm putting the coffee on and inviting Suffering over to my birthday party. I needed a little balance in my life and Mr. Suffering may look like a party-pooper but he comes bearing a gift from the Gods. Mr. Suffering has reminded me that life is not a race or a contest... it's a journey. And a journey requires just the right balance of planning, excitement and activity with spontaneity, relaxation and just plain ol' doing nothing.

And it turns out doing nothing is just fine with me.