Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Let the Festivities Begin

Yes, the day of celebration will soon be upon us. The day on which I will celebrate 41-derful years of life on this, the third rock from the sun.
I won't lie. I won't deny the truth.
Life is good.
Very good.

Right now, my son is singing at the top of his lungs as he heads outside to find friends to play with. My daughter is in her room making and addressing Christmas cards to friends. I'm at the computer planning yet another trip to Spain, yes Spain. Yes, again.

As I mentioned earlier, my dear friend, Leticia, has had a baby. The time has come for us to celebrate the start of another life. My excitement for her was at such a fever pitch on Sunday evening that I hardly noticed my husband's frenzied typing at the computer and very serious phone calls. He called me to his side, handed me the telephone and told me to confirm flight information for a trip to Spain. What? When? Who me?

Frequent flier miles will kick in.
Frequent friendship miles will be crossed.
Off I go - leaving on Wednesday, December 27th and returning on Saturday, January 6th.
Whirlwind plans.
But why live any other way?

So many thoughts flood my mind: this will be the first time I'm away from Steve on New Year's Eve since we met way back in 1987. This will be the first time I spend a major holiday in another country. Well, I guess Thanksgiving is a major holiday, and I spent that in Portugal in 1986. And the 4th of July... well, this is the first time I'll spend New Year's Eve away from my hubby and kids.

Plus - in my exchanges with Leticia and her husband, Eduardo, regarding my trip, we realized that he, Eduardo, has a sister, Lola, whose husband, Juan, is a good friend of my friend, Antonio, my dear Jesuit friend. Did you get that? In other words, Leticia, who I met in Madrid in 1992 is now distantly related by marriage and friendship to Antonio, who I met in New York in 1989, but we are only now figuring that out. Six degrees of separation turns out to be too many for this particular connection. How small is the world?

But I am way off topic - Thursday, December 14th, will be my 41st birthday.
Forty-one years filled with life.
Love, infatuation, passion, and hand-holding.
Travel by train, plane, automobile, bicycle, and size 11 feet.
Friends, husband, children, mother, father, brothers, cousins.
Food, water, wine, coffee, yerba mate tea, and sweet potato chili -
which will be our dinner tonight. Along with homemade choco-chip cookies.
Art, architecture, poetry, dance, and music.
Including cds recently burned for me,
purchased for me, and recommended to me.
Hotels and motels I've stayed in, homes I've lived in, and homes I'd love to see.
Cathedrals where I've marveled at architecture,
and churches where I've grown and made friends.
Poly Prep CDS, Williams College, Wesleyan University in CT for grad school,
reading, writing, learning every step of the way.
Schools where I've taught, spoken, and toured magnificent facilities.
Unlikely friendships with irresistibly loveable people.
Too many blessings to count.

Don't get me wrong; there are days when I have felt and
continue to feel miserably sorry for myself.
There are days when everything I do overwhelms me.
When the busyness of my life serves only as an escape
from what often feels like deep loneliness, sadness, and disappointment.
When nothing I do feels like it matters.
When no one I love seems to care.
See? It's pitiful, isn't it?
But it's also true. Every word of it.

Father Ralph Debrickasaw (I know that is horribly misspelled, but...)
from "The Thornbirds" said it best:
"I will never be what I want to be.
I will never do what I want to do.
But I don't know how to stop wanting."

Do any of us know how to stop wanting?
That's a question for a-whole-nother-blog.
(I say that a lot, don't I?)

Each year when my birthday comes along, just days before the end of the year, I take time to look back over the year in my mind as well as in my journal. I pull out random volumes, flip through, and read some of my earlier musings.
Questions asked and answered. Some remain unanswered.
Resolutions made and broken.
Promises made. Some are kept; many are broken.
Hopes fulfilled. Expectations dashed.
It's all in there, in my life and in my journal.

But before I get to any of my own writing, inside the front cover of each journal I paste a disclaimer. Like all journal keepers, I am somewhat unnerved by the prospect of someone else reading my private writing. So I wrote a disclaimer back in 2001 and have included it in every journal ever since. Although the main gist is, "Enter at your own risk," in part, it reads as follows:

"In the year 2000, I read a book by Thomas Merton called, Learning to Love. It is the sixth volume of his published journals. He lived as a Trappist monk, but in that volume of his journals, Merton fell in love with a nurse (referred to as "M"), later returned to the reality of his life in the monastery, and tried to come to terms with what had happened to him. One particular quote in the book spoke directly to this point of the privacy and the realness of the journal. It is found on page 234 of the book.

'My intention is that, though this may eventually be published, this journal should be kept under wraps for 25 years after my death... Meanwhile, I have no intention of keeping the M business entirely out of sight. I have always wanted to be completely open, both about my mistakes and about my effort to make sense out of my life. The affair with M is an important part of it - and shows my limitations as well as a side of me that is loneliness, my inner division, the struggle in which solitude is at once a problem and a solution. And perhaps not a perfect solution either.'

"I too have struggled with the loneliness, solitude, and division of spirit that Merton describes - even in the midst of a marriage, busy motherhood, and an active physical, spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and social life. This journal describes the ups and downs of my life. Read it with an understanding that all of this is all of who I am: faith, joy, hope, love, peace, gratitude, lust, loneliness, confusion, intense desire for that which I cannot have, pain, anger, all of that and more. The overriding feeling of my heart and life, though, is one of enormous gratitude. Read for yourself, and then you decide."

Every time I begin a new volume, I reread that disclaimer, update the date at the top of the page, print it out, and glue it in again. Every year around my birthday, I review the year gone by, figure out what life statements and dreams need to be updated, and glue into my heart and mind the new dreams, hopes, and expectations. Disappointment will surely come. Tears will surely flow.

In the midst of it all, though, my heart is full.
My mind is full.
My life is full.
I am well.
I am at peace.
I will celebrate.

1 comment:

Goddess of Leonie said...

dearest gail,

deepest blessings on your birthing day honey...

i am so glad you are in this world.

in love and light,
leonie