And, once again, it is my birthday. 59, and the official start of my sixtieth year; my fifties are now in the rear view mirror. It’s so strange. I don’t think I ever believed I would make it this far–I certainly didn’t during the plague years, when I just assumed I would inevitably contract HIV and begin the slow agonizing descent to death I had watched so many others experience. It’s weird how much the world has changed since when I was a little boy reading my middle-grade mysteries and dreaming of someday becoming a writer like Carolyn Keene or Franklin W. Dixon (little did I know at the time that neither was a real person and a number of different writers had written the books I was so addicted to). I’ve been watching a lot of 1970’s movies lately during my condom packing work-at-home days, and even that seems like the distant past…although it kind of was; 1979 was over forty years ago.
How terrifying that thought is!
I’ve never minded getting older; frankly, there were times in my life when I was relatively certain I wasn’t going to live to a ripe old age. So every birthday, in some ways, feels like a triumph of sorts. Back in the 1980’s and 1990’s–before the development of the “cocktail”, infection and death seemed inevitable to me, and I became sort of resigned to it. That feeling of inevitability, I think, was part of what finally pushed me into pursuing my writing dream seriously–I never knew how much time I had, and I didn’t want to die regretting never having put any serious effort into it. It seems strange to be oddly grateful to a plague for pushing me to pursue my dreams…and yes, if I had to choose between being pushed to chase my writing dreams or having all those who died back, I would always choose having them live; the world would be a better place had they had more time. I don’t think I will ever stop grieving for the dead, for the lives unnecessarily lost, and as this more recent pandemic has reminded me, the other plague is yet another source for my PTSD.
My birthday has ceased to have any meaning for me, other than as simply a marker of getting older. With every year the value of my birthday, my special day, has declined and decreased. I always say that my parents never made a big deal out of my birthday, and that’s both untrue and unfair–the older I get, the more fair I try to be with my parents–they were both very very young when I was a child, and both worked full time; and my father was also going to school at night. They never allowed my birthday to pass without there being cake and presents, but it wasn’t like it was ever like a whole day of celebratory; it was my birthday and it needed to be acknowledged and celebrated, but it wasn’t like they could take a day off and ignore their other obligations. As I got older my birthday inevitably was disappointing for me; my parents and sister obviously cared about it, but no one else seemed to, and there was a point when I realized that if I wasn’t the one making plans for my birthday, no one else would do it. I wanted my birthday to be a bigger deal, and to celebrate it, but my friends never seemed to care and many often simply blew it off. That kind of hurt, actually, and I think it was sometime in my mid-twenties that I finally decided to stop setting myself up for being hurt and disappointed and to put my birthday into its proper perspective: it wasn’t a special day, it wasn’t anything worth being disappointed over, and I made up my mind that I would never make a big deal of my birthday ever again–nor would I allow anyone else to do so. I would simply always take the day off from work, and do whatever it was I wanted to do.
Of course, it was my thirty-third birthday when I came to New Orleans and my life changed forever; hard to believe that was twenty-six years ago that I finally found my place, the city where I belonged and where I could have the life I wanted and my dreams would come true for me. My love affair with this crazy, wild, madcap, frustrating, infuriating but wonderful city began on my thirty-third birthday, which remains one the best birthday of my life thus far–and I can’t see how any other birthday could inevitably be better than that one. That’s another reason to not make a big deal out of my birthday, really; my thirty-third (and my forty-fourth) set the bar so high for wonderful birthdays that I never want to try to top those. Frankly, I don’t see how I ever could, really.
Last evening, when I got home from work I was very tired and worn out. Usually Wednesday is my work from home day, where I spend the afternoon making condom packs and watching movies. Thursdays I got into the office and make kits for the syringe access program on Fridays; but since this week my birthday fell on a Thursday and I intended to keep up my tradition of not working on my birthday, I went into the office yesterday and spent between six and seven hours making the kits. I was dog tired when I was finished; you can’t do it sitting down, so I was on my feet the entire time, other than short breaks to have something to drink or to have my lunch. I stopped at the grocery store on my way home to pick up a few things and rolled into the Lost Apartment, exhausted and tired and hot and sweaty….and then began unpacking my backpack, only to discover that my prescriptions, which I’d picked up on my way into the office, had been left behind at the office because I hadn’t gone back to my desk before leaving. This put me into a funk–I was already tired and bitchy, and while I know intellectually that I could probably go a day or two without my blood pressure medicine–the last of the previous refill was taken this morning–I really didn’t like the idea of going three days in a row without taking it. SO, grumble grumble grumble, my plans for today–essentially, not going on line, not dealing with emails, not doing any work of any kind while just being a slob (no shaving, no shower) and just throwing on sweats and finishing Lovecraft Country while also getting caught up on my Real Housewives shows was not to be; I was going to have to get in the car and go to the office; and my sanctuary day at home of not going out in public was going to be ruined. But as I sat and grumbled to myself while Scooter purred in my lap and I rewatched the LSU-Texas game from last season while playing Bubble Pop on my iPad, I realized: your birthday is an arbitrary day, really, and it doesn’t matter WHAT day you celebrate it. So, go by the office tomorrow; pick up the mail and go make groceries and pay the bills and do all the things you were planning to do on Friday, and make FRIDAY your hermit-away-from-the-world day.
So, that’s what I am going to do. I am going to spend the morning straightening things up around here, deciding what I want to make for my birthday dinner, trying to clean out the inevitable mass of emails in my inbox, and run those errands while trying to keep a positive face on the day. I may not get to everything I probably should–hey, it’s my birthday–but I will go ahead and make a good faith effort, and at least I don’t have to worry about the day job today.
And on that note, I’m going to get a second cup of coffee and start making some casual progress on things through the day–and I am still going to try to catch up on the Housewives as well as spend some time in Lovecraft Country.
Have a love day, everyone.