Sunday, November 26, 2006

37 Is The New 36

It's the strangest thing. Normally the self-loathing juggernaut that accompanies my birthday should be well underway by now. With only two more days to go until I turn 37, I should be eating cookies and crying into my pillow on a pretty regular rotation, but I find that my inclination to participate in such festivities has fallen off steeply in the last couple of years.

I first recognised this as a pattern in my life as far back as a decade ago, but it took me half a dozen years to arrest it, so inexorable was the pull of this particular downward spiral (aka I'm a Loser Going Nowhere). This is not to be confused for its siblings, the I'll Never Be An Artist and I'll Never Get a Boyfriend, which can still be somewhat troublesome if I'm not vigilant. It's only been the last couple of years that I've been able to make my birthday about my personal growth on my own terms as opposed to about some failure imposed on me by external forces such as chronology or other people's expectations.

For me, the way to make problems of this nature go away isn't to forget or not care ABOUT them (apathy is no one's reward) but to not care FOR them. As any neurotic will tell you, neuroses don't live long without extensive nurturing and frankly I'm just too busy trying to be a Winner Who's Going Places, and the best possible Artist and even Spinster (or, if the universe is man enough to dare to send me one, Boyfriend) to waste my time maintaining an archive of past hurts to remind myself why I shouldn't be enjoying life now.

Last year was the first year I'd actually been looking forward to my birthday since I was seven or eight. And it was a great party as well. 13 people came, which was not only a personal record but a serious strain on my seating capacity.

I'm still coasting on the vibes from that event a year or so later, so the fact that I'm not going to be able to celebrate my birthday this year, at least not in any big way, is fine. Normally I'd be moping around, griping about how unfair it is, but this year I am busy with some professional development and won't be able to do anything except maybe dinner out with a couple of people if I can scrape together the wherewithal to do it.

Besides which, I figure every birthday you miss is automatically a do-over. That, plus the fact that 37 is the new 29 or whatever, I figure I have years and years of rocking parties still to come, parties at which I can be a Successful Artist with a Boyfriend, and not just a Grouch with a Grudge, and so ensure that they will all be standing-room only events.

I did, however, indulge myself in a birthday present: the handsomely executed graphic novel "Wimbledon Green" by the Canadian cartoonist Seth. I bought this because after I finished reading the incomparable Alison Bechdel's graphic novel slash memoir "Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic" (another birthday present to myself) I was compelled to reread all such materials in my library, and there just aren't that many others. Those I do have are:

Maus I and II - Art Spiegelman
In The Shadow of No Towers - Art Spiegelman
Stuck Rubber Baby - Howard Cruse
Road To Perdition - Max Allan Collins

All of this, of course, is in anticipation of my own contribution to and expansion of the genre, a photo-graphic novel which is gradually forming in my brain, along the lines of slaying my demons and all the personal development work I've been doing to make those slain demons possible. Only funny.

The way I spend money, though, the presents I give myself are almost beside the point. Every payday is like Christmas, and I have the lack of shelving to prove it. It's the personal tradition of mine that matters more: to try and give myself something for my birthday that'll not only last at least a year, if not longer, but also take that long as well. Five years and a hundred pounds ago it was to lose weight and keep it off: so far so good. A couple of years ago it was a renewed commitment to my friends, which has yet to come to full fruition. In the future I might (for example) take a course, or go on a trip to somewhere meaningful, or give up dairy.

This year's gift is to find a way to take my myriad ideas and start to make them happen, rather than just endlessly talking about doing them.

I can already tell, it's going to be quite a year.
share on: facebook