I'll be honest; I'm difficult on my birthday. My loved ones would be happy to skip the day I was born because I tend to fall into a funk but they put a brave face on it and love me anyway.
Why do I do this? Well, I've dug into that reason for most of my life but it wasn't until I was older and more mature that I started to decipher the root cause of my melancholy and, to be honest, I think it remains a work in progress.
For some reason, the weight of time's passage has always landed like an anvil on my shoulders. Time is the one thing we never have enough of in this lifetime. Birthdays remind me that the sand in my hourglass is continually trickling down to the final grains, which then kicks off a panic that I haven't accomplished everything I'd hoped to do when I was still young enough to dream big.
I've accomplished a lot — but not enough, the voice whispers.
Loss has amplified the negative voice lurking in the back of my head.
I never imagined I would be 48, starting over, staring down an uncertain future, afraid and lost, crying in the shower, screaming into my pillow.
But here I am.
Letting the picture go in your head of how it was supposed to be is probably the hardest thing to do but the most cathartic.
One day at a time, they say.
One minute, one hour, one day.
When bands of anxiety are threatening to squeeze the life from my chest, when the tears won't stop, and the fear has become a monster powerful enough to rip my heart from my body, I remind myself, this too shall pass. Nothing lasts forever, not even heartache.
We are given one life. We choose how to live it.
In the past year, I've lost something I always thought would be mine but I found something else.
Somewhere along the road of living, I lost important pieces of myself. Now, I'm finding those pieces again, putting them back where they belong and promising never to lose them again.
It's a myth that adults have it all figured out. Somedays I feel just as bewildered and ill-equipped to handle a crisis as my 15-year-old. I'm come to realize that we're all just doing the best that we can with the tools we've been given.
What I have figured out is that I don't want the second half of my life to be a repeat of the first. I've discovered what matters most — compassion, kindness, laughter, respect, autonomy, a strong moral compass — and I won't compromise my values for anyone ever again.
I won't allow people with dirty feet to walk on the beauty of my soul.
Boundaries and expectations — these things matter.
Every day we teach people how to treat us. When we draw a line in the sand, it has to mean something or nothing has meaning.
The pain of metamorphosis can result in something magnificent — it can have meaning and purpose beyond the agony of rebirth.
My birthday wish is that I have the strength and courage to grow into the best version of myself, that I can embrace the challenge of an uncertain future with excitement rather than fear, that I can forgive myself for loving others more than I loved myself.
It's a tall order but one I think I can manage.
If I can do it, you can, too.
I know I am not alone. Somewhere out there, someone is going to read this and feel as if I'm talking straight to them.
And I am.
We can do it together.
Life is a cycle of renewal in every way. Endings make way for fresh beginnings.
It is our choice to embrace what is new or continually mourn for what is gone.
I know my choice.
Happy birthday to me.
Kim Van Meter is a former reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Escalon Times and The Riverbank News; she will continue to provide occasional columns.