(Personal) The 36th Time

Self Improvement 150This Saturday, at something like 2:16 AM local time, I will have completed my 36th trip around the sun! I’m not necessarily planning anything intense for my birthday; in the morning, I’ll take my dear rabbit Puckles for his annual check-up with the vet, and in the evening I’ll share dinner with a few of my closest friends. Between those two things, I’ll probably write some, get in a bit of exercise, and spend some time with my wonderful husband. I’m looking forward to the day, and already I’m really, really grateful for the people that will be a part of it.

We all tend to get philosophical and introspective around our birthdays, and I’m no exception. It’s been about two years since I’ve been dealing with my anxiety disorder and ADHD in earnest, and so much in my life has changed since then. Next month, it will have been eight years since Ryan and I got married — and I can’t tell you how lucky I feel and grateful I am to have him be the Constant in my life. Later this month, it will have been ten years since I moved to California to be with him, a seismic shift in my life that’s laid the foundation for everything that’s come since.

Over the past several years, a lot has loosened within me. In dealing with my fear and anxiety, I’ve come to face long-held difficulties with sexual expression, the culture of my background, my family and attitudes about a lot of things. I’ve expanded my social circle to include more women, more people of color, more people with various gender and sexual expressions, more people along the political spectrum. It’s been wonderful, disorienting, fascinating and overwhelming. And, oddly enough, it’s proven to me just how transient everything is. The idea of self as a permanent identity, distinct and separate from everyone and everything else, truly is an illusion. I am a nebulous, porous collection of influences that responds to my environment by remolding myself to whatever allows me to flourish within it. The person I am today is not the person I was a year ago, or two years ago, or eight years ago, or even ten years ago. That was a different me. A different life.

What’s fascinating to me about this is not necessarily the fact that nothing remains static in this world — it’s that so much of the trouble I and everyone else gets into is built on our resistance against this. The concept of self is a very useful fiction, but loosening our ideas about it — allowing ourselves to change and adapt, to become different according to the influences that surround us — will reframe our perception about who we are and who other people are. We spend so much time wondering if people can change, but of course they can. They do. All the time. Whether they want to or not.

Next year, when I write about my 37th birthday, things will be undoubtedly different. We’ll have a new President, and we’ll be talking about different things in the new and pop culture. Hopefully, I’ll have written a novel-length story through my Patreon serial and several other short stories elsewhere. I’ll hopefully have cooked in more, saved more money, lost some weight, gained a little muscle and a lot of wisdom. I’ll be calmer, more patient, and more confident. I’ll be able to think and express myself more clearly. And I’ll be better able to express love and affection physically, in words, and through every small and grand gesture I can think of throughout the day.

I sincerely hope that the world will be a more loving and understanding place — if not, I at least hope that I’ll be a more loving and understanding person. For now, that starts with my birthday and making sure that all of my friends and chosen family know how much I adore and appreciate them.

Here’s to the interconnected set of influence that make up who I am. May they fit together harmoniously, and may they encourage harmony wherever their influence takes them.

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