Yesterday was my birthday. I was blessed with calls from family, sweet and thoughtful gifts and notes from friends, a lovely dinner out with dear friends followed by an equally lovely dinner out with my husband and our younger daughter. Email brought birthday wishes from my dentist, the Red Cross, and a dating service. Along with messages from friends near and far, Facebook (clearly respecting the sanctity of my personal information, like, I don't know, my birthday) offered me this:
"Reading more," as it turned out, would involve signing on for daily messages from these astrologers, whoever they might be; and while that might have given me a leg up on next year's birthday offerings from the dating service, I opted to decline. But perhaps I shouldn't have, because these folks definitely had my number.
What a treat it was to have my birthday on the Sunday of a three-day weekend! It was a day with few obligations. And I planned to spend it luxuriating in lassitude, curled up with a good book and a cup of tea (or five). But first I decided to throw in a load of laundry, because I truly love doing laundry, and also because the week goes much better if you get on top of the laundry pile before it gets out of control. But one load, that was all: I did NOT intend to spend my birthday cleaning!
So I made my first cup of tea and headed to the den with my book. Sadly, the den was a mess, distractingly so; I straightened up a bit, put a few things away, and moved some books to the hall for re-shelving. But it was just a few minutes of tidying up: I would not be spending my birthday cleaning.
Of course I had to walk through the hall to get anywhere else in the house; and that took me past the piles of books I'd just moved, which were stacked on top of the piles of books already in the hall waiting for re-shelving or some other disposition. I asked Steve if he wouldn't mind helping me sort through these piles of books to decide which to move along, just to make the hall less of a fire hazard. Steve agreed immediately: he is our household's leading foe of clutter, our quickest finger on the disposal trigger. But I warned him not to expect a major effort -- it was my birthday, after all.
An hour later, we achieved a (nearly) clean bookshelf:
A thing of beauty, to be sure! Now if only I could get deal with that stack of books on the floor, next to my bed, the one I was always tripping on in the middle of the night. How long could that take?
Forty-five minutes. Not that you asked.
Of course, once we cleared away the books, it became harder to ignore the pile of stuff waiting to go to Goodwill. And the pictures that had sat around for years waiting to be hung on the walls. And those old VHS tapes that we don't even have the technology to play anymore. Not that I intended to spend my birthday cleaning, mind you.
But it does look good to finally have those pictures on the walls, no?
Final birthday tally:
- One load of dishes
- Three loads of laundry
- Five boxes of books, 2 boxes of VHS tapes, three bags of clothing, and a rarely-used humidifier delivered to Goodwill
- Seven pictures finally wall-mounted
In the end, of course, I did spend my birthday cleaning. It proved a fitting way to start this next year of my life, which, as I learned from my horoscope, is destined to be all about "cleaning out the dead wood" and "letting go of things that no longer serve a purpose."
A day later, I am basking in the glow of all these clean, smooth, uncluttered surfaces. Truth is that my personal surfaces are not growing any smoother, and my brain certainly isn't getting any less cluttered. Midlife birthdays are bittersweet. They call to mind the passage of time, and the constancy of change; and as I get older more and more of these changes involve loss of one kind or another. And I can control so little of it. Might as well restore order in those small ways that I can.
But enough of this melancholy! Birthdays are not all about "dead wood." My horoscope exhorted me as well to "hold onto things that have a future." Birthdays are a time not only to broom the old, but to celebrate the eternal, to hold fast to those things of enduring value. And so in spite of the cleaning frenzy, I found time for a small shopping expedition, where I made a life-affirming investment in my personal future:
Whenever your birthday happens to be, may the coming year bring you an abundance all that is truly essential in life.