My 46 birthday is this Thursday, April 30, and because of the current COVID-19 crisis this year it will be different than all of the others that have ranged from gatherings in various bars and restaurants, parties and travel. My life, like everyone’s, is now an endless table runner of isolated time.This liminal strange space has led me to start a project that I have been procrastinating on; to reread the journals that I have kept since I was 12.Although I used busyness as an excuse to put it off, I think the real reason was fear.To read the raw autobiography of one’s life is intimidating to say the least. Especially looking back in your forties. There will be smiles but inevitably there will be tears.
I am dividing this birthday journal entry journey into two posts covering 1986-99 first. I didn’t write about every birthday so don’t worry it does not span my whole life! But these entries I think capture the overall vibe of my all my birthdays.Despite a life strong struggle with cyclothymia a mood disorder in the family of bipolar, my birthdays predominantly have been happy, and I have always been deeply, deeply grateful for all of the people who have celebrated with me in a myriad of ways.
If there are two things that steered me away from going through some really dark doors in life that I may not have returned from, it is writing and people. All of us around the globe in the middle of this scary, uncertain, and frustrating pandemic that has turned our worlds upside down, feel the immense healing power of our connections. People save us.And while currently we cannot celebrate anything in person, we see how love transcends the format it comes in.The presence of others is always the most sacred gift whether in “the real world” in a letter, or across an online platform.
April 30, 1986-Scranton, PA
My birthday! I had hardly told anyone and yet everyone knew! Michelle and Jennifer wrote it on the board. The kids sang to me in reading class and they gave me a party at lunch! People are wonderful. Oh sure everyone gets in bad moods and aren’t kind but basically everyone is good and caring.
April 27, 1988- Scranton, PA
My birthday is in three days. Today was okay. Just a typical Wednesday. We did have a small thunder shower. I love spring and summer storms. When the world is wet you can actually feel spring. My father was helping me with my math homework tonight. I kept making jokes so he says, “You’re as bad as your brother, except you don’t fall off the chair.” My father’s cool. He’s crazy. I think I am like my father. You know, April was a confusing month. I had my ups and downs.
May 4, 1992-New York, NY
My Mom took me to New York for my birthday on Saturday. I have to stop spending so much money. I spent like 30 bucks on just pictures (You know my postcards of writers and paintings) New York was so much fun. The ballet was beautiful (Sleeping Beauty) My Mom was a little uptight. She was so concerned I was having a good time. We ate dinner in this Japanese restaurant. It was nice to hear all the people speaking Japanese and the food was great. I ordered seaweed soup for an appetizer. At first the taste shocked me. It was like eating the ocean, but it grew on me. I would order it again.
April 29, 1999-San Diego, CA
Day before I turn 25 and I am sad. The depression is hitting so hard. I can’t stand up in it. The Luvox isn’t really working yet, although my head feels dizzy. I realize my journals are filled, filled with long entries dedicated to depression. I realize years later I’ll wonder why I wasted so much time being depressed, but I can’t change it now. I can’t seem to hoist myself out of it. Why? Why? Why? When I focus on something else the depression goes away, but getting to that point of focus is difficult. It’s a great chasm one must cross or a road with many traps.
May 1, 1999- San Diego, CA
So much as I was depressed about my birthday the other day, there were good things. Thursday Joe at work came up and said “Hey what do you think about going to lunch for your birthday tomorrow? Probably me, Jim, Tony and maybe Ed.” And then I left work early and took the bus La Jolla to La Valencia my beloved hotel where I used to work. I ran into Double O and how nice it was to see again the smiling faces of Juan, Polo, Marcelino and Robbie. I told Juan it was my birthday and they brought out a scoop of cappuccino crunch ice cream with whipped cream and sang to me. It was very touching.