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.