It’s been a big week. I volunteered to coach U9 girls lacrosse for our town, and I’ve been helping out with the class art projects for the kids’ school auction.
Also, I turned 45.
Happy birthday to me February 2015
I probably should have avoided the first two, but the third really seemed like the only option.
My husband celebrated by reminding me that I am older than him. And he brought me with him to San Francisco where he went on a work trip. Also, he signed me up for a day at the spa that they call Day of Indulgence.
Day of Indulgence consisted of a one-on-one yoga class, a massage from “Scott” (totally his real name), and a 90 minute facial that included décolleté, whatever that means. The yoga class reminded me how inflexible I truly am, and the massage from Scott was one of the best body experiences ever (apologies to my husband, but the man was a professional.)
The facial though was a bit of an eye-opener. And I mean that literally although not in the sense you might think. When you get a facial, they blow steam on your face and wrap it in towels, cover it in creams and massage it to within an inch of its life. But your eyes are closed the entire time, with teabags or cucumbers or some kind of wet, eye-shaped thing covering them.
And shortly after I asked my aesthetician if I was going to leave with my face red and puffy, but shortly before she exclaimed, “You do have some of the most sensitive skin I’ve ever seen,” I experienced a burning sensation on my forehead. She’d been strenuously massaging the enormous cracks that rise up on either side of my nose into my forehead, which is also covered by enormous cracks.
Some call these newly developed cracks wrinkles, but I think that may have been her problem. Because with a wrinkle in fabric, you assume that if you rub your hands gently across the “wrinkle” enough, the wrinkle will disappear. Whereas if you rub your fingers across a crack in something from the natural world, eventually you will just dig a deeper hole where there once was only a crack.
When I left the spa day, she had begun affectionately calling the crater on my forehead my third eye. Which was sort of appropriate for a 45th birthday, that one would develop a third eye, a way of seeing more deeply the meaning of what lies beneath.
Later on the afternoon of my birthday I was walking down the San Francisco street holding my husband’s hand. My husband pointed out the gorgeous shoes displayed in a high end shoe shop and declared those exactly the sort of shoes I should have. My third eye immediately spotted a pair of delicious red Mary Jane platforms with a black-and-white polka dot heel and strap.
The red shoes February 2016
And so that night as we walked down the street in San Francisco holding hands, me in my new red, black, and white Mary Janes, I said to my husband that the shoes were like a combination of every great shoe I’d ever worn. They reminded me of the red Mary Janes I wore on the first day of kindergarten when I was five years old. We sat around the circle and said something important about ourselves. I remember that I told everyone that I had red Mary Jane shoes on. It’s one of my very first memories.
But this new pair makes me taller, so that I can see further with my third eye. Also, they are as comfortable as the pair of clogs I had in middle school with the heel strap. I used to run down the street in those clogs, and I assure you I can do the same in my new red Mary Janes. And they are of course polka dotted like the red and white pinup girl shoes that my husband bought me a few years ago for Valentine’s Day.
At the beginning of the one-on-one yoga class the teacher suggested that I could dedicate my practice to someone. And I immediately thought about my children, because as much as I loved running around the streets of San Francisco untethered in my new red shoes, I missed the weight of them, the warmth of them.
Then my yogi had asked me to focus on my intentions for my practice. I wasn’t quite prepared for this as I’d been too busy trying to work out taxi cabs and where to put the key to the very spa-ish locker they’d provided me and I hadn’t yet acquired my third eye. But as I sat, two words came to mind, accept and aspire.
I want to be better at accepting the things I cannot change, and yet strong enough to change the things I can. It’s something I’ve been working on for about forty years, ever since I first read the Serenity Prayer my mother had tacked up in our upstairs hallway throughout my childhood. I’m not sure I’m getting any closer to either, but I hope in my heart that I am slowly gaining the wisdom to know the difference.
So the celebration of my birthday was a lovely day, but one that was neither here nor there, present but not really accounted for, if you know what I mean. I am not young now, or quite old. I am beginning to know what I don’t know, but I’m not exactly sure quite what to do with it. My children don’t depend on me as much these days, and so I can go away. And yet each of my days is dedicated to them. It is a bit of a muddle.
But the shoes, the shoes. Somehow, I found a perfect melding of what was and what can be, of strength and comfort and style and memory.
May we all approach our birthdays, with good intentions and loving dedications, and patience with ourselves for wherever we are in our journey, with our third eye focused on the future, standing tall in a pair of the most kickass red polka dot platform Mary Janes ever invented.
Oysters in San Francisco with the one I love February 2016
P.S. If you are looking for my yearly birthdaysong gris-gris, I have to tell you that Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters came on in the hotel lobby as I headed out for spa day. And I’m not sure how it fits into turning 45 except to say, I thank the Lord there’s people out there like you. xo
Mother, artist, daughter, wife, and friend: with four children in three years things get pretty crazy. Finding time to reflect on motherhood, identity and making art, brings me back to sanity (or as close as I’ll get in this lifetime.)