WEEKLY STRETCH 8-3-17 ~ On August

Ah, August. I have a conflicting relationship with this month.

As I mentioned, August is my birthday month. My awkward relationship with August began in childhood, specifically once I started school. You see, August comes before September, and September means SCHOOL! And there is my birthday, smack dab in the middle of August, two weeks before the beginning of SCHOOL!

Most kids dream of their birthdays. Am I right? And like most kids, I dreamt about mine, in living color. Cake, ribbons, wrapped surprises, games, all kinds of fun. And yet, the specter of SCHOOL was always breathing down my neck in the form of some hideous monster who would show up to ruin it and scare the bejeezes out of me and everyone else. I’d wake up in tears and disappointment. In my waking life I’d think, “Oh boy, my birthday is coming!”, feel a quick sense of excitement and delight at the prospect only to have those feelings diminished the second I would compute the timing and what would inevitably come right after. It didn’t help that some of my birthday gifts might include school-oriented things like fall clothing, a bookbag, or a new pencil case. Such a mixed bag for a kid to manage.

As an adult, I developed what one might call “unrealistic expectations” around my birthday. I think on some level I had hoped that adulthood would negate the conflicting emotions since school was no longer an issue. The end of August was only the end of Summer (bad enough actually, but not as bad as SCHOOL), and I love the fall season so it was not so bad. Subconsciously (maybe not so “sub”) I expected the day to be extra special somehow. And sometimes it was. But most times it was average or less. I often felt let down and sad. It just never measured up to what I had hoped it would be. My birthday continued to be a mixed bag emotionally.

I love being a student and eventually – you guessed it – went back to SCHOOL!! And guess what – that old anxiety returned and I would measure the month of August (and my birthday) against the impending beginning of my school year and eventually my child’s. No matter what I did, I couldn’t separate my birthday from what would arrive shortly thereafter.

As I’ve grown older and more mature I’ve worked at my relationship with August. I am a proud Leo woman, and I’ve educated myself about what that means. I have made peace with the placement of my birthday on the calendar and celebrate the radiance, color, and light that August brings. I pay close attention to the beauty of it and get myself to the beach as often as I can to enjoy the warmer ocean waters and the golden sunlight that is unique to the month. School is a constant in my life. I am always taking classes, teaching something, supporting my family who are teachers and/or students, and I’ve come to embrace the onset of the school year. I see it as a beginning rather than an ending – or at least that is my intention.

I’ve also taken the time to look up the definition of the word august. Here is what I found: respected and impressive. Synonyms: distinguished, respected, eminent, venerable, hallowed, illustrious, prestigious, renowned, celebrated, honored, acclaimed, esteemed, exalted; great, important, lofty, noble; imposing, impressive, awe-inspiring, stately, grand, dignified.

OK, maybe not dignified, but I’ll take the rest and add in some of my favorite Leo traits: kind, sunny, passionate, creative, generous and loyal. We’ll just leave it there.

My birthday became an even more poignant day on August 16, 2012. My father died on that day. He fell into a coma and was in grave condition on August 13. I think I knew then that he would die on my birthday. There is something about that fact that was comforting then, and continues to be. It seems to have some sort of cosmic significance, though for the life of me I haven’t been able to figure it out. I only know that on that day I feel great reverence and peace, along with genuine sadness at the loss of my beloved father and hero.

The day my father died my daughter made me promise that I wouldn’t spend my birthdays grieving. I don’t, but I find that the day has taken on a different energy. I no longer have lofty expectations and anxiety around it. It’s now a day for me to reflect. I think of my Dad and that day five years ago. I also think about how grateful I am to be here on the planet and celebrate life. I enjoy time with my family, but it’s not a requirement. I’m also fine with passing the day alone, doing something I love. This year I plan to take myself to the beach.

My Grandpa Louie used to tell me, “Never be too happy or too sad”. I wasn’t quite sure what he meant by that when I heard it as a young child. But, his words stayed with me and as an adult I finally get it. My birthday is a great metaphor for that advice. It’s a wonderful day of celebration and gratitude – for the magic of birth and the gift of my life. Happy. Juxtaposed with all that happiness and joy is the opposite – my childhood dread of school, the sadness at the end of summer, and the inevitability of loss and death. Sad.

So, with Grandpa Louie’s advice in mind, my birthday is “never too happy or too sad”. I’m OK with the mixed bag. It means I get to have it all. I like that.

STRETCH: Take time to think about where you may have “unrealistic expectations”. Can you imagine removing them? Can you imagine how much more at peace you will be when you do?


baby in heels grow up

We are all growing up. At least that’s what I’m told. We arrive little and vulnerable and we have mommy and daddy (if we’re lucky) and eating and diapers; then we are walking and falling, more eating and sleeping and mommy and daddy; then we go to school and learn things, play, make friends and encounter a little drama; then we enter teen-hood with more school, sports or dance or whatever we start to love, friends, “no one likes me”-hood and much more drama; and then off to college or work or whatever pulls us into the responsibilities of adult-hood and guess what…more drama.

I had a birthday this week. I am old enough at this point to have had more than my share of all of the above, especially the drama. I sort of wish that upon arrival, we are given a “Welcome to Earth Life” manual that said, “expect lots of drama along with all other great stuff you get” so I would have been better prepared. Or maybe that’s the whole point. We don’t grow up without it and we need the element of surprise in order to learn from it all.

I find that at this point in my life I spend considerable amounts of time pondering these things. Is all this pondering a waste of time? I wonder that too. I wonder at many things and I find many things in my sphere of living quite magical and worth pondering about. One big ponder is that I realize that there are more years behind me than ahead of me, and that truth is poignant. I ponder on whether I’ve done right by the gift of this lifetime and could I have done better. I ponder on how I can do better with what I have ahead of me. I ponder on how my relationships have changed over the years and that the ones in my life now are changing as I write this. That reality is also poignant and somewhat painful. I ponder on what to do next and how much more fun, love, and pleasure can I bring into my life to help balance all the drama that seems to be necessary for the growing up part of this deal. I ponder on how blessed I am to have arrived at this point, with this many years behind me, alive and intact.

So after all this pondering I’m formulating a decision. The decision is still in the formative process, but it goes something like this – I am deciding to make drama less of an enemy. Notice I haven’t decided to embrace it and ask it to tea. Right now I’m just deciding to regard it as a “non-enemy”. I’m giving myself credit for that with the hope…intention…of befriending it in the future. I’m not there yet – haven’t quite evolved this relationship to the friendship stage. However, for this next year of my unfolding lifetime I will begin a new relationship with drama and look at it with less disdain and more value. That’s the best I can do for right now, and right now is what I have to work with.

So in an effort to continue the grow up process, I publicly offer a very tentative and shaky hand of “maybe we can be nicer to each other”-ness to drama, knowing that it has an important place in moving me to whatever the next level of wisdom, compassion, grace, and worldliness will be for me. The other stuff is easy and I enthusiastically invite more and more of that into my experience…Love, passion, abundance, play, laughter, sharing…you know, the juicy stuff. Come on in! The water’s fine! And place must be made, with grace, for the other stuff; the not so easy stuff; the painful stuff that seems to be jumping around in the water making it turbulent and less easy to stand in. I’ve noticed that when the water is turbulent and rocky, I find ways to stay upright and maintain my balance because I must, and much as I hate to admit it, drama gives me the opportunity to develop the muscles to do just that. Not quite as much fun as the juicy stuff, but in the end equally valuable.

STRETCH: Pay attention to your growing edge. Notice when your life presents you with opportunities to grow and see if you can give these opportunities a wide berth so that you can learn more and more about yourself and how to be the best You that you can be, right now. And most of all – be gentle with yourself.