It's almost my birthday. I don't mention this because I want anything; it's just the reason for this post.
I am turning 39, which seems crazy.
I can't believe I'm that old, and yet, I also can't believe what a ridiculous late-bloomer I am.
All I want for this next year is just to never have to ask my parents--who have always been so good to me--to float me a loan again.
Financial independence and security by 40: that's my goal. I also want to do something big--and pay for it--for their 50th anniversary.
Now, I usually don't mind mentioning my age because I don't look 39, or so I'm often told. (What's the secret? It's somewhat complex and entails having good genes, living clean, avoiding the sun and using topical Vitamin C. I also like every single skin care product made by Philosophy. I almost became a Philosophy professor, so maybe that's another reason why.)
But back to the impending birthday: I don't get excited about my birthdays, and there's a reason why, one that has nothing to do with age.
I am adopted, and I know (or, I feel, and I've heard) that my birthmother cries every year on my birthday.
She probably spends the entire day in bed, crumpling tissues, possibly keening. I myself think about this and feel--across the miles--a bit of this same pain.
I don't think that my birthmother cries because she misses me, really. She doesn't know me well. We only met once.
I think she cries--if she does, as she once told me that she did--because the day reminds her of loss of control, of a time when her parents made sure that the problem (the baby, me) would be taken away, never to be heard from or spoken of again.
I feel terrible that she cries. If I were much of a crier, I might do the same. Instead, I just feel guilty. I feel, especially on my birthday, that I never should have been born at all.
What's the point of causing others pain, and of feeling as though you don't belong?
It's hard to be happy about life when that sort of pressure is always weighing upon you.
Still, as one Asian blog reader wrote to me once (and this is not an Asian proverb, necessarily): "Cut your coat from the cloth you are given."
I do understand that we all have to make the best of things; no one should make excuses or wallow in self-pity; we should all seize the opportunities that are given to us and try to become the most worthwhile people we can.
In honor of my birthmother (and my birthfather, who I know much better and for whom I have tremendous admiration--for him and also for his amazingly generous and open-minded wife and for my half-brother who seemed to take the news of my existence in the coolest stride, and I hope we get to know each other better, especially as we age!)--I considered posting an excerpt from an essay I wrote about knowing and meeting some of them.
Quick background: I found my birthmother 14 or so years ago. I have basically no idea how; it's hard to recall all the details. But I found her, which was quite miraculous and is a story for another time.
This essay won me a huge academic writing prize about nine years ago. I don't mean "huge" as in the amount of the prize, but rather "huge" refers to the honor of it. I did get money; I used it to buy some fancy camera that still lives in its bag, for the most part.
Some of my grad school acquaintances seemed to hate me for winning this prize. But I can't help the fact that I've had an interesting life that tends to make for good reading.
What I tried to do in this essay was to focus on tone. How does one write about emotional subjects without being whiny? It all comes down to tone. The harder the subject, the subtler the tone needs to be.
Some criticized my resulting, prize-winning essay as "flat" in tone; others have raved about it. Whatever--to each his or her own.
I decided, however, NOT to post the essay excerpt. I know it would just make my birthmother cry harder, and I don't want that.
So, for my birthmother who I think reads my blog: M., I think of you almost daily. Every time I look in the mirror, even if I am not expressly thinking of it, I see part of your face. We are an inextricable part of each other, and as you wrote to me once, "You are MINE. That will never change."
Don't cry on Thursday, okay? I'm doing fine. I think you would be proud of me (and I have two of the most beautiful children ever born). Know that if I could, I would hug you.