Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Turning 50: What do you want for your birthday?

Ask me what I want for my 50th birthday and you will be met with an awkward, "I don't know..." or a curt, "I don't want to talk about my birthday." 

If you push I'll change the subject. 


A sabbatical. 

Last July if you had asked me what I wanted for my 50th birthday that was the answer I'd have given you. If you asked for more details I'd have told you I wanted six months to make art. 

To write.

To draw. 

To sketch. 

To put pen to paper knowing I don't have to stop. To have a moment of riding flow without a time limit. 

To dance. 

To sew.

To make. Make. Make.

I wanted six months because it seemed more reasonable than a year. And three months didn't seem like enough time to convince my brain, my body, my heart, that I was allowed to be doing this. To overcome the shock and still have time at the other end to make art. 

I thought asking for it as part of my birthday was safe. Especially a milestone birthday like 50.  It's a time to ask for something big! If people ask me what I want for my birthday I can ask for a contribution to my sabbatical fund. I thought my birthday was the work around for the objections my trauma might raise.  I even told a few friends.

My pandemic anxiety laden brain screamed yes. It started making plans.

My heart laughed with joy. It floated. 

My tiny self danced. Yes. Finally we get to have fun!

But my body ran. Stomach churning. Right into the arms of the monster. 

No. No. No. Hush now.  You should know better. 

A pandemic isn't a time to be asking for things. Why should you get such a gift when the world is full of suffering? WHAT you think you have any talent???  If you really wanted to make art you'd find a way. What a selfish waste of time that six months would be.

So I bargained...

Three months? No. Two? No. One? No. Maybe for a half hour after work? If we have the headspace? 

You's really not worth this agony.  Let's just not. 


I had a difficult time fitting art into my life before the pandemic. It was exhausting, not because it was hard - once I begin I don't want to stop.  I want to write, draw, sculpt, bead, dance, create forever. It's the mental hoops I need to jump through to get there. 

I've spent a lifetime trying to convince myself that it is okay to do the things that make me feel good. That these things are worthwhile because I am worthwhile. That feeling of being worthy was hard won, but it is just a seed and nurturing it is still new to me. 

I guess it says something that I keep pushing to do it despite the mental shenanigans I need to do to get there. 

During the pandemic art has wavered between lifeline and impossible. 

Most days I only have the headspace for work. I need to work to survive and I need to be able to give my job the attention it needs. But after there are life things like laundry and eating. When all is said and done there isn't anything left. 

Some mornings, like today I squeeze it in knowing that it will means my brain will be spent by noon. I rationalize it because my afternoon is all meetings and require a different sort of focus. So I'm still being productive even if I'm not engaged in research or report writing. 

I doodle and imagine the things I'd do if...


Of all the things I mourn the most it is that I didn't pursue art in my 20s. 

I mourn it because it was the thing I loved the most. 

I mourn it because that is the reason I didn't.

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