A Message from the Birthday Queen
Once again, it's that magical day for me, my day to rule my own world as the Birthday Queen. We've had to scale the celebration back this year, since Peter has to work. But never fear, we're still having the traditional obligatory visit to a petting farm and I will get to have an entire day to be a proper Birthday Queen in September.
In the last week, I'd approached this day with some trepidation and ambivalence. I was trying to pinpoint the problem and it boiled down to this: I felt like I hadn't achieved any goals, particularly in the area of writing. I was sliding down a slippery slope of self-recrimination when two things happened.
The first was a football training session last week with a guest trainer. This guy is an amazing coach with a soft-spoken and humorous way of getting players' attention and commitment. He could be (and probably is, for all I know) someone's cuddly grandfather. He's helped out at three sessions over the last five months and everyone plays harder and better when he's around. He just has that effect on players.
After a warm-up, he gathered us around. "There's two things that you need to know are always going to happen: you're going to make mistakes and you're going to get beaten. Accept that and know it's not important. What's important is what you do after you make a mistake or lose a match." He went on to tell us the story of a hurling team he was on, that lost a match 10-14 to 2-8 (44-14). Twelve of the fifteen players on the field that day stuck with the game and within three years, they'd won the county championship.
The point resonated with me. So I didn't finish NaNoWriMo this year. I didn't make any big achievements or breakthroughs. I haven't been great about writing in my dream journal. My weight seems to be stubbornly clinging to its current number, despite my best efforts to change it. I suppose you could call those my mistakes, but now it's time to take The Coach's challenge: forget about them, move on, and focus on doing the small things needed to get it right next time.
The other timely kick-up-the-pants that I needed happened this morning. To prepare to write this year's message, I revisited the messages of birthdays past. I'd somehow forgotten that the goal this year was to back off the goals and focus on experiences. To collect memories, thoughts, and observations to use in future writing. Looking back on the year with a new prism, the trepidation and ambivalence vanished.
This is the year I learned to be alone. I learned to live inside the silence of an empty house. If you had told me a few years ago that I would spend a month alone and enjoy it, I'd never have believed you. I miss Peter when he's gone, but I've gained a sort of self-sufficiency that had been elusive.
I learned how to have adventures alone, or at least alone with Toby. I learned how to overcome my anxieties around being out alone in a strange place. I know now that I can deal with things like a flat tire. The film that used to run in my head, of my car breaking down and something terrible happening has been replaced with one in which, if the car breaks down, I'm able to handle it without incident.
This was also the year that I learned how to be with people, particularly my family. I learned how to listen to my mother. We all successfully survived and enjoyed two weeks together, even though a lot of time was spent crammed into a tiny hatchback, careening around the blind turns of country roads in the Middle of Nowhere.
So, to paraphrase Tori Amos, it's been a pretty good year. I collected plenty of life lessons and experiences and can safely say I accomplished the objectives outlined in last year's birthday missive. I think the challenge for the next year is to take The Coach's advice to heart and pursue my writing goals with the understanding that I'm not going to be perfect, but I need to keep doing it.