When we are babies our age is measured, first in days, then months, and at some point the measurement switches to years. As children, it’s important to us to specify our age as “and a quarter” or “and a half” or “and three quarters”; we can’t wait to grow up and be big girls or boys.
At some point in our life, perhaps around forty, we realize that time is passing quickly. Some embrace a “thirty-nine and holding” attitude and refuse to think of themselves as growing older. Some take extraordinary measures to try and hold on to their fleeting youth, while others walk gracefully into their advancing years, pleased with the wisdom and sense of self that growing older brings
I’m fifty-three. In two more years I will be eligible to retire; that’s how I am marking the years now. Sometimes I wish for the years to pass by faster so I can get to the day I can retire from corporate life, other times I want it to slow down so my grandchildren don’t grow up too quickly. Most of the time, I try to take it as it comes.
For a number of years a sense of melancholy has fallen over me on my birthday. I insist on minimal celebration: phone calls from my children, the special gift bag from my best friend, and a card and flowers from my husband has been enough.
“It’s just another day,” I insist.
Yet every year, at some point on the day of my birthday I am overtaken with sadness. I’ve only recently understood the reason for the melancholy.
When I was born there was no celebration. There was, I imagine, only tears and sorrow. It grieves me when I think of the joy I experienced at the births of my children and grandchildren, and consider that there was no joy in the delivery room on the day I was born.
Despite the Chosen Baby story (I am not a fan of this story) I was told by my adoptive parents, the concept of being chosen, has always been overshadowed by a sense of rejection. I can’t explain it. It’s just the way it is. Every year on my birthday the underlying sense of sorrow, and my desire for the day to pass by mostly unnoticed, is coupled with a sense of wanting to be special; of wishing I was special.
If you’re an adoptee, it may help you to know that you are not the only one who experiences sadness on your birthday. If you are not an adoptee, chances are you know someone who is, and this might help you to understand her better. The more we understand, the more we can learn to love and accept ourselves. As we find that peace we will be able to walk forward with grace, and with empathy toward those around us.