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Whether in kindness or fury

Birthday weeks are fun when you’re celebrating 16 or 21, even 30. Any age in and around those years has been good to me. Turning 40 was a game-changer in the best way because of what it punched me in the gut with: the not caring of what anyone else thought of me.
 
I became more confident, my words flowed better and I learned I didn’t have to try every diet that came along to be a better version of myself. I stopped sucking myself into a vortex of self-discipline and despair and learned to love myself for what I was. I looked in the mirror and liked what I saw: backbone, self-reliance and certainty. You’ve got to pull it out of your throat and own it.
 
This week brings another year to me, a layering of minutes, days and months that have stacked in irreversible order. I wouldn’t want to reverse it because I would then have to go back to being a Missy I no longer recognize, one who caves to pressures and stances because she cared that people wouldn’t like her, wouldn’t love her.
 
That is no longer me.
 
Steel, deftly intertwined along your spine, corresponding fiercely to each vertebrae and nerve that allows you to stand tall or kneel when you must, that’s what I now have and will never turn away from. It can have the adverse effect of things falling away from you, a clashing of beliefs and jaw-dropping revelations that can make you feel as if you’ve never known a person. Or that in reality they’ve never known you.
 
This is what the years bring you, a desire to keep your slate as full or as wiped-clean as you must, a hanging onto of things or a purging of what no longer sticks. It’s a messy road that becomes clearer the older you get, at least for me.
 
When you decide you will no longer bend and succumb to the expectations that are imposed on you, that’s when it all changes. When your skin burns off with clarity and the words of expected explanation on your tongue slide away syllable by syllable, that’s when your lungs expand.
 
You shake it off, all the misdirected doubts and fears and broken feelings that have comprised your past and present. I will open my eyes and step through the tattered chaos to see what lies ahead instead of focusing on tender bruises that won’t — and sometimes can’t — heal.
 
This Wednesday I turn XLIX, and if you know Roman numerals, which for some odd reason I always excelled in learning, you can figure out how old I will be. It’s a year of lasts, and as always I will plunge into it as a year of firsts too.
 
Some years have more shine on them than others; the last year or two have been full of eye-openers that felt like a black eye. But black eyes heal, and I will eat cake and blow out my candles, pushing forward with that bionic spine that won’t give up. I will shed imposed notions and the belief that I must be ever-pliant, the good docile girl.
 
And if the most I or mine ever do wrong is hurt someone’s feelings with hard-won, unbending beliefs, then I can live with that. Because a truth revealed, whether in kindness or fury, is still a truth.
 
Pop the corks and bring the biggest chocolate cake you can find. Happy Birthday to me.
 

Published: October 9, 2017
New Article ID: 2017171009946