Celebrating an anniversary of my life was a daunting prospect when a month prior my doctor had put me at death’s door. Many handed me the gift-wrapped rhetoric of “you’ve survived!” and “this year will be better!” I have learned to smile politely and say the things that people are looking to hear.
There are some things I have learned since blowing out the candles of my last birthday cake. I’ve learned how to die with both fear and grace. I have found my old sense of humor that had seemingly gone astray. I have realized the best thing I can do at times is to not say anything at all.
And I have at last found my worth.
People always ask “why do you write?” and I never have a fully formed answer. I’ve often felt inferior in the face of other writers who have glorious imaginations or intense passions for the written word. For me, it’s always been about having a conversation with myself. More recently, I’ve been working on a series of short fiction stories that tie in with my music obsession. But you see, I’m a writer of little imagination. Too often I am grounded in reality and despite the dark clouds that hover over me, I rather like it that way. Telling the very real tales that are universal yet uniquely different – it leaves me feeling that I have a place in what is a very large world.
Of course, it’s easy to delude myself into thinking that what I’m doing, I’m doing very well. I believe people when they tell me as much, but I almost wish that just once someone would tell me I’m terrible at what I do and that I should drop my pen before I truly poison someone with it. Perhaps then I’d feel as though I’ve arrived.
It came about that this year on my 46th birthday, I would be spending it in the company of two women, one whom I admired very much and the other who was more well known in the literary world than I’ll ever be. I was to be presenting them at a lecture later in the evening. Being an extremely shy person by nature, I spent weeks wondering what would I talk to these two authors about. Being a bestseller? Writing award-winning work? Having my words acted out before thousands? That’s all about them, not about me. I wanted to ask advice, to walk away with more knowledge and instead, I walked away with an experience that held a magic I hadn’t expected.
I’ve met many celebrities in my time. Some pretty impressive names. This evening, however, on the 9thday of August, I did not have dinner with two well known authors. I shared a meal with two best friends who welcomed me into their world for an evening. They laughed and displayed a familiarity with each other that I envied. I’ve lost many friends as of late and being on the fringes of such a relationship made me miss having that in my own life.
Victoria and Anne have only known each other for just a few years but sometimes instant connections quickly make up for a lifetime. They mothered over me as I picked at my macaroni and cheese, but I was more interested in the conversation swirling around me. They talked of how they’d met, chuckled over shopping excursions, told of how they collaborated and didn’t hold back on each other’s bad habits. There was no pretense, no politeness, only an authentic affection for each other and even for me too. Victoria has enchanted me from the time we first met with her talent and energy. As I spoke to them both, I related my own stories of edits and creations and inspiration. Then we talked of personal issues such as family and childhoods the state of the nation today. I was privy to not only what made these two women successful, but what made them human. While our experiences were different from each other’s, there was a universal bond and I thought, I belong here.
And I felt my worth.
It was at the end when the birthday brownie arrived at the table, complete with a candle to make a wish on, that I truly sensed a kinship. They could have simply said “Happy birthday” upon learning of the day, but Anne and Victoria took the extra step to make it special. Such a simple act left this old girl still believing that good does exist in this war-torn world.
These are the gifts that need no pretty paper or bright bows. These are the gifts that cannot be bought because time can’t be found in any store. It’s not what others can do for me, it’s learning what I have to offer of myself.