Monday, October 15, 2012

Flipping the Script on my Birthday

Today is my birthday.  But I'm exercising my God-given right to ignore it.

Except, then again, I'm dedicating a whole blog post to the subject, so I guess I'm old and a liar today.

You see the last three birthdays have been steeped in suckitude. In fact, they've been so crappy that they may have aged me more than a day, which defeats celebration of life that is suppose to be a birthday.  And so given that trend I just want to sit back and ride this one out.  Anyway, after the age of 21, if your birthday doesn't end in a "0" or a "5" it's not considered momentous.  Look it up.

Two years ago, we had just arrived in Kenya by my birthday. I didn't know anyone, my husband worked the whole day so I was home alone with a two year old, failing to cope with jetlag, nothing to do and noway to get anywhere.  My husband got me flowers, but I'm pretty sure I cooked dinner.  I may have cried.

Last year, we were more fully part of the community and I had friends.  And (or But?) my parents were in town for their big visit to East Africa. So, there was a lot of excitement about our travel and safari plans, and my birthday got swept under the rug of planning and anticipation.  Still, I baked myself a cake, found some candles and made my family sing to me.  Then I cried.

This year, I'm relatively new in Kisumu town, but have made some good friends. Still, I'm not the type to throw myself a party or organize an outing. Good news: If anyone has the motivation to plan something special it is a man who has watched his wife cry on her last several birthdays. So, I was really planning on cashing in on that chip this year.  But unfortunately, yet again, my husband also has to work.  On another continent.  So, unless we can get that space-time travel thing worked out, I'm out of luck.

So, my plan this year is to ignore. ignore. ignore.  It's just another day.  It doesn't have to mean anything.  It doesn't have to become a symbol of the joy that you are capable of and the love that you are surrounded by, and then fail to live up to some ideal.  No one has to know.

Except for the fact that I'm a triplet.  So, I have two of the people I love the most in this world to wish a Happy Birthday to and to receive one back, on the day I'm trying to ignore it.  And I also get to hear how they spent their day (surrounded by loved ones who've made efforts to make it special) which will outshine mine in spades. So, I guess I'll throw myself a pity party.  With cake.

Here's the thing: I love living abroad.  I love the adventure. I love learning about another culture, being challenged and in a constant state of discovery.  But every year on my birthday, it hits home.  That I'm not home.

The people who know me best and will most sincerely celebrate my life with me are oceans away.  And it's lonely.

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Update: I wrote the above last night (Birthday Eve), and I guess it's true what they say about writing being cathartic, because I woke up today with a much different perspective.  I canceled my pity party.  I have a lot to feel grateful for.

I have two of the cutest, funniest most huggable children any two people have ever created. So, I started my birthday relishing in a snuggle and tickle party with the two loves of my life until I couldn't take it anymore.

I live in a part of the world in which most days are mid-80s and soaked in sun.  So, I went, without children, to the one resort in Kisumu, right on the lake, to luxuriate in the equatorial sun, read books with actual pages and have someone else bring me food and clean up my mess.  It was the first time I've been able to do something like that without being interrupted by progeny in 4 years. It was heaven.
Bonus, no one was there when I got there so it was like my own private spa retreat!
I have a neighbor who has become my closest friend here.  She took me and the kids out for Indian food and back to her house to present me with a cake she had baked earlier that day.  Her sisters and brothers all sang for me (unprompted) as Caleb and her daughter ran around chasing each other.  This birthday, like the others, I almost cried.  Because I was happy.  
Susan is as beautiful inside as she is outside.  (Those of your read my last post may notice I "stepped it up" with the dangly earnings for my big foray out of the house...)


25 comments:

  1. Happy Birthday Kim. Love your writing as usual. Hope you and your sisters had good days

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    1. PS Love Caleb's face in the picture

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    2. Thanks Karin! And that picture was a small miracle. Everyone facing the camera and Caleb not making a TOTALLY crazy face. ; )

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  2. Happy Birthday Kim! I'm so glad you were able to get out of your birthday funk and celebrate the way you did!

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    1. Thanks Jackie. Me too. Enjoying my day, I realized, was really up to me. ;)

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  3. Thinking of you all day on your special day! You and your earrings look terrific :-) Glad you had a good day. I hope to see you soon!!

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    1. Thanks Dina. I'm wearing more earrings as I get older, not only to distract from my fumpiness but from the creeping wrinkles. Am I fooling myself?
      Anyway, I miss you and think about you all the time. XOXO.

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  4. And then we got to have a 3-way triplet skype, totally unplanned! Hooray! I love you, Berly-K! Thanks for comin down from the cosmos with us and being such an inspiration! XXXOOO!

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    1. I love you too Shua. It was such a treat to see you and have triplet time relatively uninterrupted by offspring. Just wish I could be there to give you a real birthday hug - none of this virtual nonsense. XOXOXOX

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  5. Happy birthday to you and Josh and Marnie. I know your parents are thinking of you and missing you as much as you are them, if that helps. Which it probably doesn't. Thank goodness for Skype, right? And kids, and friends, and a husband who loves you. Wait--maybe not such a crappy life after all!

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    1. Thanks so much! And you're right - I have a ton to celebrate and be thankful for. Cheers!

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    2. Thanks so much Roberta! And you're right - I have a TON to be grateful for. : )

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  6. aww, happy belated birthday. Coincidentally, it was also my birthday on the 11th but i didn't do anything. I never do anything actually and i think part of it has something to do with the fact that we didn't really celebrate birthdays in kenya. Like Ever. Even as a child. So now at 23 i don't know, it doesn't sting as much for me to not do anything as opposed to your situation where you usually celebrate but don't because you don't know anyone. I guess i just got used to it being just another day, only semi-special. anyway, don't cry. And again, happy birthday

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    1. Hi Cynthia. I think this is SOO interesting. I have some Kenyan friends who don't celebrate birthdays and others who do it up. I wonder what the difference is. But I get the impression that most don't. So, I always wonder if our focus on celebrating ourselves each year might seem... I don't know... narcissistic or something to a lot of Kenyans. Anyway, thanks so much for stopping by. The more Kenyans that read this the better. Someone needs to check my crazy assumptions and observations and call me out when I get it wrong. : ) Hope you keep reading....

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  7. So Kimb,

    I don't know if it helps to let you know that I felt disconnected, too. Octoberfest is not the same without you.

    Glad you had a good day. Thought of all of you the whole day long.

    Love,

    MOM

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    1. Thanks mom. It's hard to feel connected when we're so far away. At least we had a good phone connection a little bit of time to talk, though I know you were pooped. Anyway, it started my day off right to talk to you. I was so touched that you'd stay up late just to call and wish me a happy birthday. XOXOXO

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  8. Happy birthday! I'm so glad to read you ended up having such a good one after all. That really is a great photo.

    My birthday is on Sunday, and my husband will also be away and working on another continent while I'm living in a country far from home and family. I'll miss my kids most of all, but I know I'll get a Skype call from them, and from my mom.

    So far I'm feeling 90% good about spending it on my own, because seriously, at 44 I really am ready to start ignoring birthdays (how the hell am I 44 already?), but there's still that 10% of me that wants someone to fuss over me. Sigh.

    Bring on the cake!

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    1. Oh, it IS hard to be so far away from loved ones on your birthday - there's no way around it. But think about how often you've wished you could just spend some time alone doing what YOU want and then relish that! And I know! I can't believe I'm 38 either. Seems like someone carried an extra 1 or something...

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  9. I really enjoy your writing, and your stories. Knowing your big heart for the short time I did, I feel sometimes empathetic, or maybe thats the power of your words. Anyway I felt compelled to reply this time even though you answered your own sadness with the understanding of being away is enlightening, while at the cost of not having more familiar family and friends.

    I left Buffalo almost 20 years ago only to travel a state away. It wasn't until I went back and saw the same people doing the same thing, talking the same talk, that I realized leaving your comfort zone (like any adversity) builds character.

    What it comes down to is your perspective. When you dwell on the what I don't have, side of the coin you will notice all the thing you miss or hate about you current situation. While if you change that view to the great things that you are becoming, living, and embodying suddenly things aren't that bad.

    Thats one of the reasons that people here have become so self-entitled. To busy complaining about what they don't have.

    Imagine all the great stories many birthdays from now you will tell from the time spent in Africa. How many people can say that? Not me I still tell lame high school stories.

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    1. I totally agree DJ - so much is really about your perspective. And even on a "slow day" here, I'm still creating terrific memories. Thanks for your very thoughtful comment!

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  10. Happy birthday, lovely lady :) I so identify with this. It's the only time of year, really, that I ever miss home. I love your neighbour. What a treasure.

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  11. I can relate to the birthday tears - it is always holidays and birthdays that I miss my family and the friends that have known me for a really long time the most. We are not going to make it back to the States at all in 2012 and probably not until the end of 2013 and we've had no visitors from the States this year either (usually my parents try to make it out). Even though I love our life - it doesn't make that side of it easy. I'm so glad you ended up having such a great day and that your neighbor made it extra special for you.

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  12. Happy Birthday! Growing older is all about attitude and cocktails. Glad you had a good one!

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  13. Glad the day worked out. I think that for many Kenyans birthdays are a luxury they might not be able to afford. I agree it may be perceived as narcisstic. Well, back to the presidential debate. Foreign policy I find hard to focus on, am half-listening

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  14. YEAH! Loves this. So happy that you ended up enjoying your special day! I know what you mean about feeling how far away from home we are on birthdays (and every other holiday that comes along, in addition to the occasional Wednesday) and the desire to feel surrounded by loved ones. It sounds like you found the perfect way to do that. Lotsa' birthday love sent your way!

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