Today is the first day of the rest of your life. I always thought those words were cheesy. Until today.
Your rebirth begins in your 61st year.
And so this morning I awoke and pecked my way out of the sac, prying my eyes open and pushing through the messy film that surrounded me. I could hear the phone ringing on the other side of the shell. With my eyes barely open and the fog still enveloping me, I answered, and listened to the voice of my dear friend, Daphne, singing Happy Birthday to me from 135 miles away.
And then my sweet husband brought me coffee in bed, followed by more singing, a wonderful “Grey’s Anatomy” birthday card (which plays “Cosy in the Rockets” when you open it—the soundtrack from the show) The inside says, “I recommend the second, but that’s just my professional opinion.”
And then came the presentation of the gift Daphne had left for me when she was here this weekend, with instructions to open it on my birthday. Inside the box was a beautiful peacock lamp. The peacock—a symbol of the resurrection. Perfect. (She and I collect peacocks.)
I hope Robert Goolrick is wrong. I hope he’s wrong about how we’ll never be okay—those of us who had our childhoods stolen from us by people who were supposed to love and protect us. After reading his brilliantly dark memoir, The End of the World As We Know It, I just finished his best-selling novel, A Reliable Wife, where the darkness continues and he writes about
“… the pain and the bitterness of what happens to you when you’re small and have no defense but still know evil when it happens….” and about people who “become trapped inside the bitter walls of memories they wished they had never had.”
As Goolrick himself says, in the very last line of the novel:
“It was just a story about despair.”
I was hoping for something redemptive, and yes, it does contain elements of redemption:
“… people who hurt themselves, who wreck their own lives and then go on to wreck the lives of those around them, who cannot be helped or assuaged by love or kindness or luck or charm, who forget kindness, the feeling and practice of it, and how it can save even the worst, most misshapen life from despair.”
Kindness—the feeling and practice of it—can save even the most misshapen life from despair.
And so as I continue my rebirth, I will try very hard to feel and practice kindness. Like my husband and daughter and friends practiced kindness to me with all the gifts and celebrations this weekend, including an amazing dinner at Flight on Saturday evening…
… and a surprise party at my Goddaughter, Sophie’s house on Sunday afternoon. (We didn’t think to take a photo of the group until a number of people had already left. Thanks for the amazing food, wine, and kindness, Reem and Nawar!)
My daughter brought with her (from Denver) a hand-made (by her!) printer’s tray, with sixty little windows in it, each containing an element that represented something significant from those sixty years—a picture of my daughter and me on her first morning in this country from South Korea, a soccer ball to remind me of my years as her soccer mom, a Mary Chapin Carpenter album cover, a car, a paint palette, an icon—all beautiful handmade and placed inside the printer’s tray.
And then she made this beautiful little book which had an explanation about each of the 60 pieces in the tray, and a personal note and a quote to go with each, and computer art throughout the book. She hand-stitched the book together. I think my favorite quote is on page 53:
“Yes, Mother, I can see you are flawed. You have not hidden it. That is your greatest gift to me.”—Alice Walker (And my daughter didn’t know, when she included this quote in the book, that Alice Walker and I share a special bond—we both have essays coming out in an anthology on Southern women and spirituality next year. I am honored. I love her words, “Hard times require furious dancing.”)
Oh, and then there’s the “lei” that Beth made me, from 60 origami cranes (she folded them all) tied together on a string. The Japanese believe that the crane is the symbol for prosperity and good health and long life. Cranes are also said to symbolize arcane wisdom, balance, communication, independence, knowledge, solitude, and vigilance. They are often used as symbolic decorations at weddings, to bless the life of the couple being married.
My son, Jason, and his wife, See, sent me this amazing photo album filled with dozens of photographs of my two precious granddaughters, Grace and Anna Susan.
And then there’s the cancer. Ten years ago TODAY I had surgery for endometrial cancer. Yes—on my 50th birthday. And so today I celebrate ten years of being cancer free. A huge gift from the God I struggle and fight against so much.
So this is what it feels like to be reborn. Maybe this is better than a do-over.