Monday, February 4, 2019

The Birthday Wish List and The Post Where I Refuse to Write About My Dad

My birthday is this week. I will be turning 42, which means that this is the year that I will have all the answers.

Someone please get the reference...

My birthday week is always complicated, simply because of the fact that my Dad happened to die a few days after my birthday. I was back home that year helping to take care of him. He actually took me out to breakfast for my birthday that last time, gave me a card where he told me that even though it was my birthday, I had given him the gift. I'd come to take care of him when he needed me most.

Deep breath.

I am not writing about him. I'm not.

There is so much about those weeks that I know is still suppressed in my memories, and if I am being completely honest, I'm not entirely sure that I ever want to really confront it at all. Maybe that whole blocking trauma thing is effective sometimes. (I kid, sort of.)

Some of it came up a while back when I was writing a piece for a caregiving book, and let's just say that it was tremendously unsettling how much I had not remembered until I made a concerted effort to remember, mostly because they were not pleasant scenes to replay in my head. I spent a lot of time crying and writing, crying some more, writing, drinking, back to crying and writing, to get that piece out.

Anyhow, the anniversary of his death is this weekend, and I am mercifully booked solid this week so I won't have much time to sit around and contemplate how I feel. I function better when I am busy. Idle time and I are mortal enemies, especially this time of the year.

We will probably take everyone bowling on Sunday morning, split a pitcher of Coors Light, and not tell the kids why we are bowling or drinking at 9am on a Sunday morning unless they've managed to figure it out.

I grew up being constantly reminded of death by my mother and grandmother and vowed I would never do that to my kids. So these anniversaries come and go without fanfare, without me allowing myself to collapse into a heap for days or weeks. I give myself a few hours to cry on a schedule, and it seems to work. That, and we go bowling and drink beer at 9am.

It doesn't need to make sense to anyone else.

Also, scheduling moments to grieve sounds ridiculous, I know...but honestly it helps. I used to try and ignore the dates on the calendar, but things would only get worse until a critical mass was reached and I would break down, become useless for a while. Planning ahead helps. I know that on this day between the hours of ____ and _____, I can wallow. But then I have to get up and get shit done.

Life tips.

Before we get to that, though, I have to celebrate another trip around the sun, whether I want to or not. That's the great thing about time, I suppose. It keeps moving forward whether we want it to or not. I know that if there was a time in my life where I urgently would like to press pause, it'd be now. My first baby is a senior in high school and thick in the whole "what do I do with my life" decision making process, and I'd love a pause button. Or maybe one that just slows time to a crawl...but not literally. That would be weird if we all had to move in slow motion.

Since no such button exists, though, I have to get older and time has to keep going. So, in no particular order, here are the things I want for my birthday this year. As you'll figure out quickly, most of them aren't actual things, certainly not physical items that I actually want. Think of it more as a suggested to-do-in-my-honor list. If you so choose.


  1. Take a Mental Health First Aid class. Or something similar. There are classes tailored specifically to adolescents, to veterans, as well. Please. Learn how to recognize people in crisis and how best to help them. (Spoiler alert! Calling 911 is often unnecessary and can be far more dangerous.)
  2. Find out about crisis mental health services in your area. Write the numbers and websites down somewhere you can access immediately, or store them in your phone. Even if you personally may not need them, someone around you might. 
  3. Donate time or money to The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. They save lives every single day. 
  4. Read something very far outside of your comfort zone. Read several somethings. Read authors with diverse backgrounds and differing life experiences than yours. Absorb what they write. 
  5. Unlearn the racist and sexist roots of the history you have been taught. Confront your biases. Work to do better. p.s. If it doesn't feel like work, you aren't doing it. And also, you don't get to ask or expect people to do this work for you. It's called work for a reason. 
  6. Find a new musician and fall in love with them. Listen to their entire catalog.
  7. Listen to live music as often as humanly possible. Take your kids. Encourage them not just to learn the mechanics of reading music or taking piano lessons - teach them to fall in love with music, to feel it in their bones.
  8. Support a small business. Shop local. Support artists and writers. Pay their normal prices. Do not ask for a discount.
  9. Take a book from your personal library and pass it along to someone who might like it. Donate books you are ready to part with to little libraries. Stick a dollar bill in the books if you are able. 
  10. Find a recipe for something you have always wanted to cook or bake, then make it. I am challenging myself to do this one this year. Beef wellington. This is the year I make beef wellington. 
  11. Set aside time for yourself, in whatever amounts you are able. Make yourself a priority. Do whatever you want to or need to do in that time. Do this weekly.
  12. Find the nearest body of water. Sit nearby. Listen. Close your eyes. Just be present for a few minutes.
  13. Attend a Pride celebration this year, recognizing that if you are not a member of the LGBTQA+ community that it is not FOR you, but that you are welcome. Observe. Listen. Learn. Support. 
  14. If you are holding anger or resentment or sadness, write it down. Light it on fire. (safely, of course). Seriously. It helps.
  15. Randomly leave a compliment on a friend's wall. 
  16. Point out every dog you see to someone. 
  17. Play "Cow, I win." Rules are simple. While driving, if you see a cow, say "cow, I win". That is the entire game. Adjust the item accordingly for your area. For example, if you don't have cows nearby and won't see them, you can point out UPS trucks. Whatever works.
  18. Be proud of all the things your body can do and celebrate. We get so caught up in comparison, in seeing what we cannot do...resist the urge. Celebrate what you can do.
  19. That friend you keep meaning to get together with, have coffee with, hang out with - PUT THEM IN YOUR CALENDAR. Seriously. Just pick a day and put them on it. Then stick with it. You're busy, they're busy. Don't be too busy to see them.
  20. Okay, the one thing I want that is a totally unnecessary material thing. Injured Dr. Ian Malcolm. I do not labor under any delusions that anyone will actually be able to find this particular Funko Pop. But a girl can dream, right?



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