Sunday, July 27, 2008

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.


At 27 July 2008 at 07:59, Blogger Babaloo said...

A big HAPPY BIRTHDAY wish coming your way! Wish I had remembered and made you a cake. :(

It sounds to me like you've had a very good year! And you're so right, it's not always the obvious achievements, it's the experience that counts. And from that you've done pretty well. Don't forget, you passed your driving test, too!

Big hug from me here and I hope you have a wonderful day.

At 27 July 2008 at 08:04, Blogger Felix said...

Happy Birthday,Anne and well done ( especially listening to good advise)

At 27 July 2008 at 09:38, Blogger Irene said...

I used to have goals in my life when I was in my twenties and then, when things got really rough, I stopped having them. I think I will add goals back to my life, but not wait until it is my birthday. I think I will just have a sort of general running list of goals in my head always and try to accomplish them within a reasonable timespan.

Like you, I have accomplished a lot of them this year and I do feel proud of myself, but sometimes life just forces you through them and you find out you manage just fine. We can be tough broads after all.

Happy birthday! I hope it is a really good one for you and a day you will enjoy very much.

At 27 July 2008 at 10:23, Blogger Aoj and The Lurchers said...

Happy Birthday!

At 27 July 2008 at 12:35, Blogger SwampAngel65 said...

Sounds like you have had a pretty good year! You've accomplished things that some people never do.

I wish you a very Happy Birthday all the way from Miami! Hope today (and everyday) is filled with happiness!

At 27 July 2008 at 13:44, Blogger koehmstedt said...

Happy birthday Anne! You've been an inspiration to me all year and I look forward to another year!

At 27 July 2008 at 14:51, Blogger laurie said...

an excellent year! and happy birthday! enjoy your pizza!

At 27 July 2008 at 16:56, Blogger Kaycie said...

Sounds like a wonderful year to me. Happy birthday to you (and to my lovely sister-in-law as well)!

At 28 July 2008 at 14:43, Blogger Noelle said...

I hope you had a very happy birthday!

At 28 July 2008 at 16:38, Blogger Col said...

And so another year has passed-- happy birthday to you, Queen of Birthdays! Hope you enjoyed your day and indulged in some BBG, in spite of the renewed focus on the weight goal (blech!).

Your adventures with your family sound wonderful-- I'm glad you've had that time together.

Keep writing... it's good for you! ;-P


At 28 July 2008 at 22:58, Blogger Mr. Teacher said...

nice one!

At 3 August 2008 at 20:16, Blogger -Ann said...

Babaloo - Thank you. How did I manage to forget passing my driving test? That was seriously the single biggest accomplishment of my life!

Felix - Thanks and thanks for stopping by!

Irene - I'll be looking forward to your birthday goals post.

Aoj - Cheers!

SwampAngel - Thank you. Did it thunderstorm by you on my birthday? I really miss the inevitable birthday thunderstorms.

Carrie - Thank you so much. I hope your kind words don't go straight to my big head. :)

Laurie - Think I'm going to save the pizza for September. We did have lunch at my favourite restaurant in Killarney - at the Lake Hotel.

Kaycie - Thanks. And happy birthday to your SIL too. I'm sure she's a wonderful woman with excellent tastes.

Noelle - Thank you. I did and I'm looking forward to my 'real' birthday fun too. It's a win-win.

Col - I had a birthday milkshake, does that count? :)

John - Thanks. Hey, when are you going to get back to blogging? (she asks, innocently)


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