Today is a beautiful, clear Autumn day in the Western Cape. It is also my birthday. It is only the second time in 35 years that it is not raining on my birthday (36 if you count the day I was actually born; in the middle of a fantastic thunderstorm, according to my mother) I love my birthday. My mother used to make a real fuss of us whenever it was our birthdays. She always made it a really special day. If she can, she still does. (The first year I had my birthday away from home she sent me flowers and had terrible difficulty trying to keep it a surprise as I wasn’t at home to accept them!)
This year is different. I don’t feel like celebrating. According to the female life expectancy in most places across the world, I wouldn’t even be justified in having a midlife crisis yet. And it’s not that I’m dissatisfied with my life. My life has been great. I have enjoyed every stage more than the last and have never looked back wishing I could have any particular stage back, no matter how much I enjoyed it or how many memories I have of those times.
I love gifts too. It doesn’t matter how big or small a present is…I love them; as long as they are 1) a surprise and 2) wrapped! But this year, there is nothing I really want. My life feels too cluttered already. My house is so filled with stuff which at some point was a well-meant and much appreciated gift, but now just sits around gathering dust. Not to mention the children’s stuff.
I never thought of myself as someone who was too bothered by what others thought, someone who is overly influenced by social norms. But a while ago, I found myself buying a gift for a kid’s birthday party, and wondering if I would seem “cheap” if I only put one item in the packet. It was a book, and a very useful book at that for a child that age, so why was I feeling that I needed to add something else to the gift? Especially after I had been the “victim” of the ridiculous gifting habits of the human kind over Christmas. It didn’t help that both my children have their birthdays early in December too.
It was so bad, that my three-year-old son, upon being told that he had one last present left to open, told me that he didn’t want it…before having opened it. When did things get this bad? My two children have so many toys, books and games I could probably start a small school! Having said that, I find it hard to resist buying more things…especially something the wee boy has been asking about for months now! He did play with it for one entire weekend. I haven’t seen him touch it since…
But back to me. This is my day. Today, I am thirty five years old. My hair is a hideous red-brown colour with pink-ish highlights. (It turns out semi-permanent henna hairdye does not turn blonde hair auburn…Also, it doesn’t wash out after six washes, or eight or even ten!) My skin seems to have got stuck at puberty and my jeans fit too tightly over a but and under a flabby belly that has yet to recover from two pregnancies. I don’t like diets; I don’t like being hungry. And the flab seems impervious to any amount of exercise. It’s not as if I haven’t tried! I think I may have to make peace with my much curvier, flabby self.
I have a so much to be grateful for. I have a loving, caring husband, two beautiful dogs and two gorgeous children. I have enough time to not only take care of and appreciate my family, but time to think up schemes and dreams and things I have not done yet.
It’s just that…there is so much still to get through! And the older you get, the shorter time is: When you are 1 year old, one year represents 100% of your life. When you are two, 50%….by the time you are ten, one year represents only one tenth of your entire life. It follows therefore, that with every passing year, one year represents a smaller fraction of your entire life. So years become shorter as you get older. The closer you get to the end, the shorter they get. This has left me in a slight panic over what time remains of my life. There are too many things that need to get done and far too little time in which to get it all done!