34 & More


Today's my birthday. I'm thirty-four years old.

This isn't the first birthday post I've written. In fact, I've been celebrating my birthday here in this space since I first started blogging. But there's something different about birthdays now--something special, something victorious. Something even magical.

Something so much more than another year around the sun.

Five years ago, I lay in bed unable to walk from the pain or lift my head from the fatigue. Nightmares plagued my sleep. Rooms shifted off-balance when I stood. Anxiety kept me isolated while outside, the world enjoyed the hope that sprang from summer.

I didn't think I would see September.

I didn't even think I would see past the week, past the hour, past the day.

Back then, life was about just trying to survive. But then, as the months passed and I started to improve--as birthdays came and went--so did the fear.

I was still here. I was alive. And I was getting better. I've anticipated each birthday with the same excitement as I did when I was little. Birthdays are special occassions--meant for friends and family and fun, after all. But these past few years, there has been a melancholic undercurrent, something lurking beneath the surface, a question whose answer was always relief once the day came and passed: Here I am. I survived again. Because these last few years, that's what birthdays have meant to me. Survival. A reminder that I'm alive. It's not easy facing your own mortality when you're young. It's not easy when a disease tries to take everything from you, and so you hold on with everything you have and then, when you feel like you have nothing left, you hold on even tighter. It's not easy when life becomes a physical and spiritual battle, and you just pray you have enough willpower to battle again tomorrow. Illness isn't easy. Which is why I'm so adamant about celebrating when it counts--every success, every victory.

Every birthday. Because it's not just my birthday I'm celebrating anymore--it's life. Beautiful, breathtaking life. This gift that we're each given, this one chance to create something for ourselves--to build something special for others--right here and now, in this time and this space. It's being part of a world that is rooted in love, binding us to each other through incandescent threads that light up with each connection we make--friendship and family, strangers to soulmates... This is life. This is what I'm celebrating. For the first time in five years, it's not relief I feel today. It's joy.

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Susan Pogorzelski.