My obligatory birthday post

How I used to celebrate my birthday.

Yesterday was my 39th birthday and all throughout the day I pondered all of the deep and profound thoughts I’d share with you on this milestone birthday. I planned to spend a couple of hours massaging all of my deep thoughts after I put Annika to bed and reflect on my day. Then I fell asleep with Annika around 9 p.m.

What the hell. I’m old people!

So now, here I am trying to pound it out while Annika takes a nap. And quite truthfully, I’ve got nothin’.

Birthdays have never been that good to me.

One of the best birthdays I ever had was the first year Toyin and I dated. He took me to a bed and breakfast, out for an expensive Italian meal, then pampered me until we had to go back to work the next day and put together a newspaper.

For the most part though, I’ve never had great birthdays. As a kid my birthdays typically consisted of last-minute thrown together meetings at a pizza place. There was this place in my hometown of Abilene, Tx., Crystals, that had some of the greasiest, sauciest pizza ever. The also had a cave at the entrance and a movie room where The Three Stooges played on a constant loop.

That was where I spent several of my birthdays.

One of my worst birthday memories was when I was 12 and I knew that it was likely going to be the last real “kid” birthday I ever got. I didn’t take much interest in growing up. I was pissed that I had started to develop breasts and I had been begging for a Barbie doll for my last childhood birthday. I was sure my mother understood the importance of receiving this final toy before I was forced to suffer through adolescence.

On our way to Crystals, where I anticipated opening up the last magical gifts I would ever receive, and salty breadsticks dripping with spicy cheese dip to go with my greasy pizza and an ice cream cake, my mom tossed a plastic drug store bag at me and said, “Here’s your presents I didn’t have time to wrap them.”

Inside were a couple of pairs of socks and a paperback.

I burst into tears and cried the whole way there. I don’t remember anything else about that party, but it probably sucked.

That makes my mother sound like a class A jerk. And I know it’s wrong to tell that story to the internet while she lies in the hospital recovering from life threatening surgeries and cancerous lesions. But what the hell. One thing that motherhood has taught me is that moms do mean things to their kids, sometimes, and often unknowingly, or without thinking, because they are stressed. She was probably having a crappy week/month, or maybe she was on her period. I know she loves me. And a few years later she threw me a surprise birthday party for my 15th year. It was pretty awesome. The house was filled with friends and food and cake.

My mom has pretty much been the only person in my family who consistently remembers my birthday and/or does anything to celebrate.

But one year she called me several times on my birthday and never mentioned it.

Well, it was election day. And my mom is very active politically. (That’s an understatement. She had political signs up in her hospital room until they made her take them down, citing hospital policy.)

I don’t really have a point except to say that birthdays are pretty much like any other part of life. Sometimes they’re good, sometimes they suck. But they always happen.

And now that I”m a mom, I guess they’ve become less important. I mostly don’t care about having a great birthday. It’s really nice when people remember and think to help me celebrate. But it’s just another day. And now I’m a year older.

Happy Belated Birthday to me.

Setting intentions can make this ordinary life beautiful

Every single choice we make affects our lives for the long-term. This is a lesson that has been hard for me to grasp. I’m a procrastinator. I’ve spent much of my life thinking of the someday. Well, someday never happens unless you make a choice. Someday isn’t going to just happen.

We can make our lives ordinary by settling. Or we can make our lives beautiful, by setting our intentions toward our life goals.

Let me explain.

I had a recent stint as an Avon lady. Stint is probably over-selling it a tad. I signed up, avoided it for a month and a half. Went to two training session where the leader of the group pronounced jewelry as jewrree. Then I bought several bottles of lotion, shower gel, nail polish, and bubble bath, thinking I’d just sell it out and about.

Then I decided to quit.

Not because there’s anything wrong with selling Avon. Not at all. I signed up because a close friend of mine had signed up to do it and for a brief moment, it seemed like a good idea. I figured it’d be easy. I mean, who can’t sell lotion and shit? Right?

Ummm, me.

For those of you who know me in real life, or if you’ve been reading my blog for very long, you’re probably having quite a chuckle right now. That’s okay. Go ahead. When I announced it to a group of my friends, they laughed. I laughed along with them. I mean, what the fuck? Me, selling fucking Avon? It’s wrong on so many levels. Not that I can’t sell. I can. But I can’t do it unless I believe in what I’m selling. And ladies, I just can’t sell wrinkle filler. Can’t do it. Plus, this shit’s priced higher than I would personally pay for that kind of stuff. I have no idea what the hell I’m going to do with these $8 bottles of lotion. I guess everyone knows what they’re getting for Christmas.

The reason I’m telling y’all about this is because it totally fits with last Sunday’s talk at my Buddhist program at Miira Suniita. The group leader spoke about the beauty of preciousness of ordinary life.

She talked about how our intentions are all we need to ensure that our lives reflect our goals.

The fact is that selling Avon doesn’t reflect any part of my life goals and it is a poor intention for me.

In order to live your life every day, the way you want, you set your intentions. She suggested setting weekly intentions. And even intentions for your sleep, right before you go to bed.

So that’s what I did this week. I made a list of all concrete things I’d need to do this week to set me down a path of goals that have been hovering around my brain for months, years, hell, some of them, all my life. I set intentions in my head for having good sleep and productive dreams.

Last Sunday, our group leader talked about how powerful our brains are, we imagine our lives. She said how very important it is to maintain a positive mind, because a positive mind will lead us down the path toward our intentions. A negative mind is something to be avoided.

I couldn’t agree more. I’ve spent way too many years allowing the negative thoughts to control my life. Thoughts like, “Oh, it sure would be nice to have that, but I can’t afford it.” Or, “Well, I’d love to do that, but it would be too hard.” Then I forget it. It’s done. See how a negative mind shuts down dreams?

Not trying is worse than trying and failing. Because at least if you try and fail, you’ve learned something.

As she spoke I thought about how easy it is to shut down my own dreams and wishes with one fell swoop. I wondered if I allowed myself to have that dream. To say, “It sure would be nice to have that thing that I want. I can’t afford it right now. But someday, maybe I will.” Or even better, “It sure would be nice to do that thing, It’s going to be hard, but I wonder what I would need to do to make it happen.”

Because really, our lives are pretty damn amazing. We have everything we need. No matter where we live or how much money we have in the bank. We live in a free country, where we have so much power. We have control of our government (in theory). We have power as consumers. We have free speech. We have freedom of religion. We have an almost absurd amount of choices in what we eat, drink, wear, and do. We can change our lives without any interference from anyone.

I think that in itself can be a problem. When you have an infinity of choices, it can be paralyzing. So much so that we often give ourselves excuses of why we can’t do it, simply so we won’t have to make any decisions.

Decision making is hard. It paralyzes me over and over. All the what ifs get in the way of making clear choices.

But what ifs aren’t concrete. They aren’t bold statements. They are possibilities. And possibilities aren’t that great unless you make a choice and move forward into a clear path.

I’ve settled for mediocrity too many times because I was afraid of the “bad” what ifs. Taken jobs I really didn’t want because I thought it was all I could get and I was afraid of getting behind on bills. So, I got what I intended. I set my intentions. I just didn’t realize what I was doing. I thought I had time to change. I thought I had time to make things different. I was just settling, “for now.”

But what I was really doing was making habits for myself. Steering myself away from rejection. Playing it safe.

When I signed up to sell Avon, it was just another way of avoiding what I really want. Because it’s scary, to define yourself with what you really want in life. Because if you fail, then you’ve lost your dream. Failure to sell Avon isn’t taking a chance. Because I can blame the product, or the lack of availability of customers. Or a poor economy. It was a safe choice straight into failure.

What I really want in life is to make it as a writer. To get paid to write. And I don’t want to just settle for writing mediocre mass-produced crap. I want to write things that really make a difference to people when they read it. I want to step boldly into new territory, and make possibilities spring to life. I want to give gifts to world with my writing.

And hell, if I lose my dream. Maybe I’ll find another one. Life is full of choices. Because, as cliche as it is, if you don’t try. You’ll never know what could have happened.

In the mean time, while I come up with world changing topics to write about, I’m offloading some overpriced lotion and shower gel. Let me know if you want some. (See? Just can’t do it.)