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Another Trip Around The Sun: Birthday Reflections

A birthday cake full of lit candles sits is being held while the surrounding area is eclipsed in darkness.

Another trip around the sun.  While I’m not hitting one of the big zero birthdays (I’ve got two years to go before the big 4-0), this one, though, feels like a shift akin to what one is expected to feel during a big transition year.  

This year is simultaneously my first year with my mother present for my birthday in 30 years and my first year without her being on this side of the veil.  While she’s not physically present, because you know… death, she’s metaphorically here as her urn sits perched on a bookshelf.  This is the first year I don’t have that moment of pause where I ask “Is she thinking of me”.  I know she’s not because her ashes are in a well-chosen brass container.  She has no thoughts left to think, and a sense of freedom sits in that realization.  Her lack of thought frees me from the intrusive thoughts that creep in.

This year also marks 20 years since I put my belongings in the back of a Mazada Protege and drove off into the night, away from my father’s home, as snow fell around me and my now ex-husband.  I gained what I thought was freedom at the time.  It took me another twelve years to realize I traded one form of bondage for another, but at that moment in my eighteenth year I chose to live my life on my terms and that act has rippled out in my life ever since.  I have, for the last 20 years, been choosing myself and life on my terms -through wins and misadventures- always looking for the versions of myself that I shaved off to make others happy and reassuring those neglected bits that life won’t always be easy but we’ll get through it.  We’ll see another spin around the sun and make the most of the mishaps along the way.  

This year, in the silence of my thoughts, I get to reflect on the last 38 years of my life.  I remember a few birthdays before the one that thrust me into adulthood.  There was the one with the clown, I freaked out because… clown.  Then there was the last birthday my mother was present for.  My parents were divorced.  My father had let me invite her.  I hadn’t seen her in ages and I was so excited.  I was stuck to her like glue, and then my father cornered me. Nestled between the noise and neon of game machines he let me know how unfair it was that he spent all this money and I was spending the time with my mother instead of him.  I started spending time with him and then my mother got upset.  I spent the rest of my party feeling torn, trying to juggle my parents' emotions as other kids had fun around me.  By the time the cake made an appearance, I was ready to be done with that day and birthdays altogether. 

I don’t remember any birthdays after that until my 17th year.  I don’t recall if the birthdays in between happened with any fanfare or if they were just another day on the calendar. I do remember turning 17.  My father gave me some socks and told me to pack my bags.  I spent my 17th year in a group home.  I was sent home about three and a half months before my 18th birthday.  I never unpacked.  I lived out of cardboard boxes until my then-boyfriend pulled into the driveway at midnight on my birthday.  My father got a cake and he and I stood awkwardly in the kitchen as I blew out the candles and then said bye.

The next decade of birthdays was a mixture of neglect and trauma.  Then I found myself staring down the barrel at 30 and decided “fuck it” and I made a point to take charge of my birthday and rewrite the narrative.  Eight years later I have a sea of memories and shenanigans to illicit nostalgia in my golden years.  With all the hard work of reclaiming my natal day that I've done over the last eight years, I was still apprehensive about this year’s birthday.  The lingering memories of traumatic birthdays danced with my grief.  Would I be able to enjoy surviving another spin around the sun when everything felt so fresh on my mind?  

Then I woke up yesterday and resolved to choose joy and self-love.  Where I’ve been doesn’t get to derail where I am and where I’m going.  

I no longer need to ask myself, “What’s the point of celebrating when those who are supposed to love you don’t seem to care?”  This year I know better than ever before that my right to exist isn’t hinged on if they believe I deserve to exist.  

My desire to celebrate my continual existence doesn’t need their approval.

I celebrate as a sign of rebellion.  I celebrate because that naive 18-year-old survived the shit that came before she got in that car and all the shit that came after.  I celebrate because I know my existence is worth celebrating.  

I don’t need to ask any longer if they care because, damn it, I care and that’s more than good enough. 

Happy Birthday, Rayven, we made it around the sun again now let's get weird and have some fun for no other reason than we exist and we fucking can!

Copyright(c) 2024 Rayven Holmes

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