Tag Archives: birthday

Pausing to reflect

It’s my birthday today. I find birthdays are a good time to pause and take stock of things. Quite a lot has changed for me over the last year – I’ve become more involved with Transition Stroud, which has brought a whole host of new people into my life. I’ve had a lot of upheaval around work, which has given me a better sense of my limits and possibilities. I’ve coloured an entire Hopeless Maine graphic novel. I’ve written and performed a lot of poetry, and I’ve started dabbling in storytelling.

Birthdays inevitably have me reflecting on how this day has played out in other years. Some have been memorably good. Some were deeply unhappy. It’s a day that highlights what’s best in a person’s relationships but that will also flag up insufficiency in a way that’s hard to miss. This is a good year in terms of people.

On the whole, I like how my life is going at the moment. My ambitions are on the small side and I’ve become much more focused on the details of daily life than on big schemes. The things I most want are fairly feasible. The changes I want to make moving forward aren’t very dramatic, but might improve my day to day standard of living a bit. I’m getting better at deciding when to say no, so as to protect my time and energy. I do a lot of saying yes, and I remain willing to offer help, support, volunteer work, and the such – I’m just being a bit more picky about who gets what of that. I’m working out how to step back as well as how to step forward.

The state of the world worries me immensely. I reflect a lot on what can be surmised about people living at the ends of empires and civilizations. I think about my radical ancestry – the many people who fought, and sometimes died to try and advance the causes of equality and fairness, many of whom never saw that get results in their own lifetimes. I keep reminding myself of all this because it is important perspective. Life is not like a movie, and I may not get a coherent narrative arc. The important thing is to do what I can and to stay hopeful and active, and to help as many other people do that as possible. Giving up is one sure fire way of being defeated, and while there is life, there is some sort of hope, however frail that may seem some days.

Birthdays are a reminder of how finite our lives are. None of us will live forever. If we keep on with the unsustainable choices, many of us will shorten our own lives, and the lives of others. Life, and time are the most precious things we have and the question of how to spend that well is one to keep asking.

Magic and birthday blogging

Some years I write the blog for my birthday ahead of time, and take the day entirely off. It’s one of the perks of being self employed. I’m mostly not working today, but I thought I’d see where the mood took me for blogging. I note that in most ways, I feel much as I usually do on days when there’s not a great deal of work lined up.

As a child, I was hungry for magic. Christmas and birthdays were days I thought I ought to feel something special, something significant. I didn’t. What I got was a mix of longing and disappointment. We’re sold the idea of special magic times – especially as children, and it is easy to feel let down when you experience nothing out of the ordinary. Wedding days are supposed to be magical too – having been married twice now, those seem to be stressful, anxious events with a lot to sort out.

Why would magic show up on a designated day? Why would that day be filled with love and joy if the other days mostly aren’t?

What I’ve noticed over the years is that significant dates can bring into focus all the longing we have for things to be different. If a relationship is miserable, the anniversary and Valentine’s Day can be sources of longing where we try to make it all better with some kind of temporary magic. Christmas is a time to want all the love and support you aren’t getting from your birth family. A birthday may highlight the shortage of friends to have a party with.

On the other hand if things are good, the designated days seem less important. Yes, I’m going out tonight and tomorrow, I’ll see a lot of friends over the next few days – friends I typically see in the course of any given month. There will be good things because this is a good excuse for some silliness. I often find good excuses for silliness.

The desire for a specific day to somehow just bring magic is, in my experience, a desire born out of insufficiency. The better life is, the less important any specific day is, because they all of the potential to be good. The better life is, the less need a person has for a fantasy of something better. Also the less need there is to imagine a magic thing that just makes it all good. Wanting magic to manifest on a special day can be an expression of all that is missing and cannot easily be fixed.

When it comes to the days of our lives, the real magic isn’t a showy birthday thing, or the magic of Christmas, or the romantic powers of St Valentine. Real magic is what we make every day out of the relationships we have with other people, and all that we encounter. Real magic may be quieter and less self-announcing but it shows up, every day, adding a shine to life.


Tom at black booksA birthday is always a wonderful opportunity to celebrate a person. Today my lovely bloke, Tom Brown, is officially a bit older. I am therefore taking this opportunity to embarrassing him in public a smidge by singing his praises.

I first met Tom through a publishing house, something like ten years ago. We were put together for him to do me a book cover – and while that didn’t happen for various reasons, we got talking and never stopped being interested in what each other had to say. We’ve faced many trials and challenges since then, survived some tough times apart, and some hard times together, and pulled through, hanging on to each other all the way.

Tom’s history has some painful stuff in it, which he shared the gist of here – https://druidlife.wordpress.com/2012/09/10/guest-blog-after-the-asylum/ But he’s managed to come back from some decidedly difficult things. Not only that, but he’s done so without becoming cynical, jaded, or otherwise on a downer about humanity and the world. Tom’s wilful optimism is an ongoing source of inspiration to me. His line, ‘we will have our revenge by being far better people’ has carried me through quite a few things now.

I wouldn’t be here without him. I would not have survived the ravages of serious depression. I probably wouldn’t have found the courage to get out of the situation that made me so ill in the first place. His belief in me kept me going when I had no belief. His courage and generosity held me together. And alongside that he’s taken his own intense journey from being a hermit and a bit of a lost soul, towards social confidence and a Penguin contract. It’s been quite something to see.

I am immensely proud of him, and profoundly grateful that he has chosen to share his life with me. Here’s to many more years.

Flowers and Balloons

IMAG0293Today I am that bit older. Last night I experienced the most dramatic thunderstorm. This morning I drew the bedroom curtains and discovered that Stroud was sending me balloons.

The picture fails to do justice to the soft, misty morning, and there’s just one balloon – they looked a lot bigger without the camera, and there were dozens, including a penguin shaped one. Best birthday balloons ever! And no storage/disposal issues either.

I have been up in a hot air balloon – for my 21st birthday. An amazing thing to do, it’s an adventure I hope to revisit some time.





Then, on the other side of the windowsill, there was this going on… during the night, my pumpkin had burst into IMAG0294bloom! We got it as a seed from Down to Earth, Stroud some weeks ago, and despite a life in captivity, it is doing well.  Next to it is my thyme plant, with the faerie garden door that the chaps got me. So much cute! (and now, it is the door into time) the third proto-triffid in this arrangement is a tomato plant, which came to stay last weekend and has tiny flowers on it already. Make plant friends… eat their babies.

I ave no idea why ore people don’t grow pumpkin flowers for their looks, though. It’s huge, vibrant, and it might lead to a pumpkin. What’s not to like?


Today also bought my first Transition Stroud volunteering job (much excitement) and promises cake, and the possibility of shared music. Life is good.


Another year older

Mostly I’m going to take today to read and be less workish, it being my birthday. However, birthdays lend themselves to considering where we are in life, where we’ve been, where we might be going. The celebrating of birthdays is one of those community and family focal things as well, affirming bonds. Or at least, it can be. Thus far I’m having a really nice day – I have some new books and some chocolate, there was coffee in bed, lovely messages rolling in on facebook, and I woke up in the arms of a most adorable man who treats me like I’m special every day, not just on occasions. Of such things are happiness made.

But inevitably I end up looking back, three and more years ago, to the time before and the other life. The year my ex forgot that my child might want to give me a birthday present and was too young to go shopping by himself. The lingerie that turned up most years, bought to amuse him. I’d maybe wear it once, much of it was then ‘borrowed’ for him to wear and I’d never wear it again. One year I was told off for wearing on a normal day a bra that had been bought for his amusement in the bedroom. Only, all of my other stuff was depressingly tatty. There was the year we went into Birmingham, my present was going to the sea life centre- what I wanted. Only when we got there, he looked at the entry cost, at the size of the building and muttered that it seemed like a rip off, so we went away again, failed to find anywhere affordable to eat, and went home. Happy birthday me. The year James wanted to make me a cake, and needed help (He was five or six). The misery-inducing stompping, banging and burned mess that followed because the ex couldn’t make cakes, couldn’t follow a recipe and didn’t want to do it. There was a decade when birthdays were miserable, along with anniversaries, valentine’s day, Christmas, mother’s day… all opportunities to tell me how impossible I am to please, which of course meant there was little point even trying to do something nice for me, because I wouldn’t appreciate it, or like it. There were a lot of years like that, and they are not easily forgotten. I started to believe I must be an awful, demanding, horrible, unreasonable, ungrateful sort of creature, because I was forever being told that so much was done for me, and only my ingratitude made me not see all of it. With hindsight, I see all of that in a very different light.

I know myself. I appreciate the bliss of a good night’s sleep and the joy of waking up beside someone who touches me with love, and whose words leave me feeling warmed and cared for. I appreciate the joy of a smiling child who has chocolate to bestow, and his noble reluctance in helping me with it (I persuaded him, I can’t eat all that chocolate by myself!) I appreciate the coffee in bed. It doesn’t take vast outlay to make me smile. A little care, enough attention to know what I might like, or the willingness to ask – my family enquired about book titles, and are furnishing me with research material. This is a longstanding tradition. One year they all clubbed together to get me a book on the natural history of otters – the only scientific one in existence. This year I have an excellent looking thing on Shinto, and have asked for Philip Carr Gomm’s Book of English Magic. Often, this is how Ronald Hutton books have come to me as well.

It’s not about the money. It’s the taking time for the other person, trying to find something they will enjoy, sharing a good thing, honouring bonds. A friendly line on facebook, a walk in the sun.  Two years ago Tom bought me a mug, with tentacles. Three years ago he drew a picture for me. Happy things.

This is another day of celebrating my freedom, and rejoicing in the good things in my life. This is a day of being so very grateful for the good friends I have, and for the lovely man I am now married to. Remembering the past is part of the process of coming to terms with it, and letting go. There’s too much to think it could all be forgotten, but the sharp things become a little less cutting with every day and before me, is the prospect of days with nothing of that ilk in it. Good days, with good people, and a world of possibility to explore.