Every year since I can remember my mom would call me on April 12th sometime before midnight and we would have "the birthday talk". This basically consists of a series of questions including "what was the best thing about being (insert age you're leaving behind here)?" "What was the worst thing?" and "what are you most excited about for (insert age you're turning here)?" In all of my 34 birthdays for which she was alive, she never missed a talk. I remember once, before cell phones (yes, my little sisters, I'm THAT old) I broke away from a study group at Denny's where my roommates and I were cramming for finals and called her from the payphones by the bathrooms at 11:48pm, just to make sure I didn't miss it.
This year my sister did the honors, and while I really miss having that conversation with my mom, I have to say, Annie handled her duties with a grace, enthusiasm and irreverance worthy of Linda Ross.
Needless to say the best thing about being 35 was Aubrey's birth (which I almost didn't mention since I thought for a second that it happened when I was 34. The whole "lost year of 2010" has really f''ed with my sense of time.) The worst was, hands down, chemo. Not so much cancer, but chemo. I want to be careful about dissing on cancer too hard. Having cancer taught me so many valuable lessons about living, about who I am, what I'm capable of, what matters and about how I need to readjust my life to create happiness and balance for the next 60+ years. I am grateful for these lessons and I don't want the universe thinking otherwise. Not only do I not want seem like an ungrateful byatch who can't accept a gift (even when it comes wrapped in newsprint from the Classified section), but I don't want it to think I missed the lesson and therefore need to repeat it. I got it. Loud and clear. So cancer was actually one of the best things about being 35.
Chemo, on the other hand, can suck it.
As for what I'm most looking forward about 36, that's a little harder to pinpoint. Even two months out from chemo, I'm still trying to get my feet under me. To feel at home in my own body. To embrace what I'm capable of when I'm not forced to rest 20 hours a day. I'm working on my writing and am looking forward to finishing the book I'm creating. And I hope to tell more stories through my film work, too. Mostly though, I look forward to slaying more dragons. See the dragon of the "dragon slaying princess" fame is not really cancer. That's only last year's incarnation. I've been calling myself a DSP for many years, well before the first little, marble-sized lump reared it's ugly head. Because at its root, the dragon is fear. And that takes all forms.
The gift cancer has given me is to embrace my own strength and creativity and awesomeness. And to take more naps. But mostly the creativity and awesomenss part. And that requires slaying dragons. Like the big green one that says "you don't know if you want kids? you'd better hurry up. For all we know you're ovaries are shriveling AS WE SPEAK"; the purple and black one that whispers "you need to imitate what other peoples' "success" looks like. Oh look you fell short again. Well, you obviously suck, so you might as well just pack it in now"; or those little small but persistant ankle-biter scaly ones that say "if you say that, people won't love you/hire you/want to play with you. Just sayin'. But really, you'll be old and alone. All alone. And broke."
It's amazing how they know exactly which buttons to push. And they *really* seem to enjoy it. It's enough to drive a girl to drink. Or take up arms. But like the Rumi quote says those things that scare us most usually just want our love. So basically I feel about my personal dragons the way that some people feel about the homeless or people whose religions they don't totally understand. Luckily cancer has taught me a lot about love -- both cultivating it in myself with gentle surrender and mindfulness and receiving it from other through homemade soup and t-shirts and visits and the cleaning out of the bathtub.
About those dragons...I think I'll name the green one Pete, the purple one Homer and those little snippy ones the Santorum twins.
So here's to 36. And to taming those dragons with lullabies from my higher self and writing exercises that summon the divine and lots more time with my toes in the sand. But if anything like chemo comes around again, I'm not afraid to pull out the nunchunks. Sometimes a girl's still gotta show she's not to be trifled with.