how I turned 49

My birthday happened

I'm 49.

At my most recent eye appointment, the doc checked to see if I needed reading glasses. I didn't. "Most people need them at 40," she said. "You're bucking the system."

Hell. Yes.

It's not that I care whether or not I need reading glasses, but may I always be a bucker of the system.

I'm not old and I don't feel old but sometimes I feel vulnerable.

The more time that goes by, the more I feel like the layers of protection around my heart have been pulled away.

My heart is a lotus with paper thin petals, the thinnest of gossamer veils.

But it isn't really protection that's been pulled away, it's defensiveness, because I am stronger than I have ever been, and more deeply rooted. 

I'm not easily thrown by the words and actions of others.

But my emotions flow - honestly, organically.

I know who I am.

Even so, I don't always recognize my reflection in the mirror.

it happened during Lent

My birthday was the second day of Lent.

I wasn't quite sure what to do with this. Do I eat cake? Do I celebrate?

Then I realized, the inner conflict I felt around this was perhaps misplaced.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent. Lent is characterized by “bright sadness.” It is a time set aside to practice awareness with renewed intention. During Lent we turn and return to those practices that reorient us toward that which is of ultimate importance. The imposition of ashes is a stark reminder of who we are as well as a physical sign of our intentions for the next forty days.
— Bushwick Abbey

Reorienting myself toward that which is of the ultimate importance feels exactly right for right now.

I plan to live to 100 (at least), so 50 will be my halfway mark.

I have some plans for where I want to be when I hit that mark.

There are some changes to be made and I'm ready to engage them.

I recently read an article that stated, "Lent is a time when we die to our hopes and dreams." We empty ourselves so that we can be filled with that which God wants for us.

I hear that. I feel it.

And yet, I began Lent this year with celebrations and will end it with a vacation. And I do have these plans - these hopes, these dreams - for where I'd like my work to go, how I'd like my body to function, what I'd like to see when I look at myself, what I'd like to feel.

I'm stepping onto a path. I'm walking toward a vision.

But I'm doing so while holding on lightly. I'm reminding myself to come into silence, to empty the vessel, to let the Holy Spirit move.

God's dreams are always richer (and wilder) than mine.

Christian life begins and ends with love. Every worship gathering, every spiritual practice, and every season should root us more deeply in the love of God and send us out in the name of love. Even the season of Lent? Especially Lent.
— The Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers, Living Well Through Lent 2018

What I'm giving up

When I thought about the discipline of fasting and what I needed to give up for Lent this year, I thought about an aspect of my personality that I only really became aware of a few years ago. It's my tendency to notice - always and first - what needs to be fixed.

When I walk into a room, I see what's missing. I see what isn't working.

In my relationship with Tracy, in my work, driving across town, every time I speak in public - I'm constantly noticing what needs improvement, things I wish to change.

Did you just see that guy turn out of the wrong lane? What is wrong with people?

Can you believe what that woman just said? What is she thinking?

Look at this big blank wall - this room doesn't feel cohesive.

Could you not...

That's what I'm fasting from during Lent.

Complaining. Unnecessary criticism. Noticing what's wrong.

I'm not really talking about the big things - the necessary criticisms - but the moment to moment stuff. The little stuff. 

It's a re-orientation.

That's how I'm going to make space - by loving everything just as it is.

Even my body when I turn toward the mirror in yoga class.

Even the lines around my eyes.

I'm making this Lent about light and love and softness and opening my heart and making this year about moving into the next phase - whatever is is I'm going to become.


Tracy says I should teach a class on how to make your birthday last a week.

Hey, I think it should last a week at least.

I launched my birthday week with my birthday blessing on Sunday morning.

It occurs to me that among us who engage in religious ritual and practice, there are those who imagine the the things we do to be largely symbolic and those of us who...don't.

I believe in the real presence of Christ in the consecrated bread and wine, I believe there is something real that happens during ordination and changes the ordained, something real that happens in all of the things we do in church.

It is a deeply moving moment each year on the Sunday of my birthday week to kneel at the altar and have my priest lay hands on me and pray on my behalf.

This year when Fr. Andrew asked for the strengthening of my relationship with God, asked for me to draw closer to God, for God to draw closer to me, it felt like an energy healing. It felt like being surrounded by love.

Tracy baked a custard French toast (instead of pancakes) for Shrove Tuesday. 

When he came home from the grocery with his supplies (bread and maple syrup), he gave me psychedelic roses.


Inside, he presented me with a box of chocolates.

"You know Valentine's Day is tomorrow, right?"

"Yeah," he said, "But you're standing here seeing this stuff."

That's how we roll.

On Wednesday, we drank Valentine's Day coffee.

And yes. We ate the chocolate.

I went to Ash Wednesday Eucharist that night.


On the day of my birthday, we went out to lunch at Honeywood. I'd heard mixed reviews, but we decided to try it anyway. I'm so glad we did because the food was delicious and the environment lovely.


We stopped by Lush for some Karma and bath bomb love.


If you're thinking we couldn't possibly have eaten two restaurant meals in one day, you'd be wrong.

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I even bought myself a dessert at Whole Foods. I did. And it was outrageously delicious.

I also did a bit of journaling - because what else can you do when your birthday falls on a new moon solar eclipse?


There were two events I'd planned to attend during my birthday week - and looked forward to them both. The first was new moon yoga at Wildfire and the second was a Velvet Underground tribute show.

I didn't make it to either.

It turns out that even when I really want to do something, by 8 pm, I'm wearing pajamas.

On Sunday, my mom made a lunch for me.

The best part was hearing stories of high school life from my niece.

...and also, the red velvet cake.

My mom couldn't find her birthday candles, so she opened up a drawer of the hutch that is absolutely filled with candles and candle stubs and selected this yellow one.


That's how I did it.

That's how I became 49.


I'm grateful to be standing right here right now in this life.

It's a good place to be.