Monday, 2 April 2012

Birthday Blues (And Pinks)

Our birthdays are feathers in the broad wing of time - Jean Paul Richter

Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter
~ Mark Twain

But meantime let me whoop it up,
And tell the world that I'm alive:
Fill to the brim the bubbly cup
- Robert William Service

Love 'em or hate 'em, there's no in-between when it comes to opinion on birthdays.  Me? I LOVE them! We Ariens aren't ones to shy away from a celebration of ourselves.  We're all about the self, so why should we shy furtively away from birthdays, our very own validation markers?

Indeed, why shouldn't birthdays be celebrated? They're important! Trés important. More important than other calendar events, like weddings and themed holidays. Why? Because they recognise the gift of our presence here in this life. Our presence in other peoples lives. They are our very own anniversaires (- the French for 'birthday').  Why shouldn't they be acknowledged and celebrated?  Is each and every one of us not important enough to celebrate - regardless of our age, situation or mood-o-meter? Of course we are! Birthdays are our guaranteed one special day of the year. And I don't think it's selfish to demand recognition for them; it's our right.

Lots has been said about 'birthday blues', the accompanying twinges of sadness that come with getting older, but I prefer to focus on the 'pinks' of birthdays - ie: the cake, the greetings, good and real candle wishes, presents, blushing attention and all the sugar-sweet malarkey. I quite like being the centre of attention for one day out of 365, doesn't everybody? 

And if you ask me, birthdays should get to have gift-lists too, as well as just weddings and the like. Birthday gift lists would be a lot more exciting for one thing - no domestic  essentials for the birthday boy/girl nooo!  Our wish gifts would be in the realm of the exciting, impractical, fun and maybe just that tad bit fantastical (well, if you don't wish, you don't get!) Mine this year goes something along the lines of a trip to Paris (the ultimate gift ever), a pink-iced cake, a bouquet of peonies (but they're not in season yet!), a tattoo (all in the name of self-declaration and the marking of a new decade...), a publishing deal would be nice (as would a lottery win), a stack of coloured macaroons (possible, very), and topping it all off right now as I'm looking out the window to a dull and grey day (groan) - a sunny day. Yes, a big smacking smiling sun, that would be nice (ye gods, if you're listening...) *Excuse the self-indulgent listing here, but all in the name of if I write them, they may just materialize thinking...

Nah really, all anyone wants for their birthday I think is not even to be the centre of attention (eh-hem, well...) but just to know that they matter. Hence all the heartbreak that ensues when birthdays are forgotten, dismissed, fall under the radar etc. Their specialness diminished, and somehow, in the process, your specialness too. That's where the real birthday blues lie, not in the silly aging phobia.

Speaking of age.... well, as Mark Twain pointed out - it doesn't matter if you don't mind. Some people blow the aging process all out of proportion. They see birthdays merely as clocking up the years, the dreaded digits, rather than affairs of celebration and existential exuberance.  I don't get this. I don't do age-grieving. I don't dwell on the 'the years clocking up.' And I don't get people who do. Ok, you may suddenly wake up one day and think - "heck  I'm ____ age already! How did that happen??!!"  But then I look on the flip side of it.

Everything I've learned in those years. Who I've become. All the moments I've experienced that have taken their place in the gold of memory, priceless and timeless. Because time isn't measured in years, or days, or by clocks. It's measured in moments. One of my favourite writers Jeanette Winterson has the perfect line to explain this: "the continuous narrative of existence is a lie. There is no continuous narrative,  there are only lit-up moments and the rest is dark." And there is only now to concern ourselves with, the here and the now, the present, which is indeed a gift we are continually unwrapping. 

As  Gertrude Stein said, 'we are always the same age inside.'  We are indeed. If you feel young, you'll always remain so. And another wise comment from Henri Frederic Amiel, 'I'm not interested in age. People who tell me their age are silly. You're as old as you feel.' Never a truer word said. The people who complain about getting older in numbers are usually those who are getting older inside. Woe are they. As Picasso once said 'it takes a long time to become young.' It does.

And now on the eve of turning thirty (yes, the big 3-0, imagine!!!), I'm looking at Billy Collins poem below and thinking that the aging despair, the sadness, the regret should be multiplied to the power of 3. The nostalgia for all the years that have passed. But no, I refuse to look back, I'm an eternal optimist and its all fronts on forward. (But I've included the poem anyway for all those with a predisposition to the birthday blues...)

Thirty to me, means consolidating those flighty feelings I discovered in the flingsome twenty-something years. It does not mean old. It means maybe something more akin to maturity (yeah right, my inner daredevil spats!), but yes, it almost feels like a mellowing out. And by no means, do I feel the panic stereotype of my age-bracket that has afflicted thousands of peers - to settle down, get married, get a mortgage, get monotonous. Heck no! I'm too free-spirited for that. Thirty is just the beginning of more,  'everything I know I learned after thirty,' (- George Clemenceau) and I get the sense that the best is yet to come. More wingspan.

Indeed, 'we turn not older with years, but newer every day' (-Emily Dickinson.) We are continually learning and renewing.  Besides, if you're young-at-heart, like all Ariens are anyway, you never grow old. We're still the babies of the zodiac and children at heart, waiting for the next adventure around the corner, measuring time in heartbeats, not heinous years. 

On a last note, birthdays to me are more than anything else, a chance for new beginnings. With all the planets behind you, you have more chance of making a fresh start in your astrological new year than the calendar new year. Birth days are like standing on the edge of the past, about to tip into the future, a horizon up ahead, a blank slate, and everything and anything you want to be beckoning ahead. Your future in front of you like a great ribboned gift. That definitely calls for some celebration and cheer.

Now I'm off to 'whoop it up/and tell the world that I'm alive', woo-hoo!!!

(And a Happy Birthday to all other April babies out there!)

~ Siobhán :)

A poem for the birthday blues...

On Turning Ten - Billy Collins 

The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I'm coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light--
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.

You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.

But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.

This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.

It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.

And one that gets at the real meaning of birthdays...

A Birthday Poem -Ted Kooser 
Just past dawn, the sun stands
with its heavy red head
in a black stanchion of trees,
waiting for someone to come
with his bucket
for the foamy white light,
and then a long day in the pasture.
I too spend my days grazing,
feasting on every green moment
till darkness calls,
and with the others
I walk away into the night,
swinging the little tin bell
of my name.


  1. Thank you for being born, Siobhan! May your birthday wish list be granted (especially the going to Paris...need someone to carry your bags?).

    Next month it will be thirty years since I turned thirty. At the time, I dreaded it but now looking back, it was the opening of the most incredible chapters of my life. Since then there have been some of the darkest hours and days in that time, but also some of the brightest and most wonderful times that are the treasures that make life so precious. I've been dreading this upcoming particular birthday but your blog has helped me to rearrange my thinking; the beginning of each decade has opened up greater and more wonderful things in my life and so may going into my 60s be a decade of accomplishment, the doing of many of the 'some days' that were put off in my 30s,40s and 50s because of other responsibilities. It can really be the dream come true decade...I already have the list made! And, yes, Paris is on that list.

    So celebrate your birthday with jubilance, revel in the accomplishment of another year of love, laughter and living. And, you wise and wonderful woman, welcome to the next exciting chapter of your life!

    Le joyeux anniversaire!

    1. Thank you so much Mary!! Sorry for the delay in answering - blogger wouldn't let me in to the comments box for ages!! :(

      I'm glad this blog helped you to rearrange your birthday thinking! The beginning of each decade is certainly a time of joyous possibilities, a new era so to speak, an exciting time! Not something to be dreaded, not at all! Birthdays are for celebrating!

      I hope this decade you get to do all the 'some days' you've put off previously; I think it really could be the beginning of a dream come true decade, I like that! And I'm sure if you will it and want it, it will be. And especially, I hope you get to Paris! It's been waiting on you all these years after all and is still waiting... the perfect cadeau.

      Thanks for YOUR wisdom and wishes and I hope that your next decade is one of 'la vie en rose.'

      ~ Siobhán :)

  2. I loved what you had to say about birthdays, and hope you get your trip to Paris, which, actually, is where I always picture you. This is because the first time I met you at the writer's group you were reading out a poem you'd written sitting at a table on an evening in Paris, and although I'd never been there (No, Really!) your description made me really felt I had.

    So do have a wonderful birthday, and let's hope for that publishing deal. With my fingers well and truly crossed for you Siobhan, Dana xx

    1. Thanks Dana! Yes, I remember that. I was reading my musings on the city, but what I write will never do it justice - you have to go there! It really is a dream city, city of light, of art, of love, of life. And more than just a 'place' somehow...
      Thanks for the birthday wishes! And the finger-crossing! :)


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