40.

The annual birthday post.

Last year I wrote my 10th annual birthday post. I’d started this blog tradition with the big 3-0. And here we are at the big 4-0, birthday post #11.

To be honest, I haven’t known what to say this year. Part of me wants to be able to say that this particular number is arbitrary and not worth having special feelings about. I could tell you that today is just another day.

But I won’t. It doesn’t feel like just another day. For better or worse, I attach a lot of meaning to special occasions. This birthday does feel bigger than others, and I’ve been struggling with it.

In the aftermath of a bad breakup, which I did not recover from quickly, someone once cautioned me about entering my forties with a bunch of regrets.

I’d like to report that I’m leaving regret in my thirties. But this, too, would make me feel mature at the expense of being truthful. When I write about regret, which I probably do too often, it’s because I’m working through mine.

If you were reading back then, do you remember birthday post 37? It seems pretty wise when I revisit it now. Full of good advice.

Lately I feel like the last person who ought to give anyone advice, which is something I touched on during NEDA week this year. I have no clue what I’m doing. I practice a lot of yoga and hope for the best.

There’s probably more intelligence in that approach than I recognize, but still, it feels a bit unmoored.

Unmoored is not my happy place, but it’s not the worst place to be, either. It’s not depression. It’s not despair. Today is heavier than I’d like for it to be and not as heavy as it might be. Not as heavy as other days have been. It’s bittersweet.

I’m grateful for this. It takes a lot for me to accept that things aren’t all one way or all another way. For me to say “it is what it is” today and mean it, which I do, is something.

I was more impacted than I expected to be when Steven Sondheim died late this fall. And as I listened to my favorite of his works again and again, I couldn’t help but keep landing on this passage from the song “Move On”:

Stop worrying where you’re going
Move on
If you can know where you’re going
You’ve gone
Just keep moving on

I chose, and my world was shaken
So what?
The choice may have been mistaken
The choosing was not

Last year helped me to understand that life itself is the point. And this year has helped me to understand that choosing is also the point.

Choosing, by which I mean making moves, taking risks, doing, experiencing, getting out of my head and into the world—that’s the point of my time here. I won’t always like how things turn out, and sometimes they’ll turn out better than I could have imagined.

That’s life. And life, all of it, is what I want.

Speaking of doing and getting things done, I’m thinking about another passage today. It’s from Kenneth Koch’s “On Aesthetics”:

AESTHETICS OF THE MAIN PART OF LIFE

The late early and the entire middle
Are the main part of life.  Be as kind
As you can in this part, and get done
What it seems to you has to be done.
If you find time for it, have a good time.

I read this last summer and cried. I didn’t think I was getting done what I thought had to be done, and I didn’t think I was having enough of a good time, existentially speaking.

I’m receiving the passage more gently today. Gently enough that I can simply say, I’ll try.

Thanks for sticking with me through another year of this main part of my life. I’m so grateful.

xo

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Categories: Food and Healing

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    11 Comments
  1. Happy birthday Gena! I look forward to reading your birthday post every year. I hope that what you wrote about choosing and taking risks sinks in for me this year as well.
    I saw ‘A Strange Loop’ last night and these lyrics (technically spoken word at the end of a song) struck me:

    “If you’re not scared to write the truth, then it’s probably not worth writing. And if you’re not scared of living the truth, then it’s probably not worth living.”

    Hoping for continued growth and joy for both of us this next year!

  2. Happy birthday Gena ❤️ I’m grateful you’re here sharing with us and I’m rooting for you to have more of a good time, this year and beyond.

  3. Oh Gena, how I love you, and Happy Birthday! I read this post with the richness of having read many of your other birthday posts, and you always touch my heart with your honesty.I love what you say about the choosing. And this beginning of the Koch poem: “The late early and the entire middle
    Are the main part of life.”–made me laugh. Indeed. Please know the next line: Be as kind
    As you can in this part, –is something you are an expert at, even if you don’t yet have a clear Idea of getting done what needs to be done means. I think it means being present for whatever presents–whether it’s replacing the water heater or navigating a relationship or learning how to make sourdough. I suspect you are much better at it than you know. And I also know that when you manage it, you have a really good time! Love you forever and ever Dear Heart! And as my Dad used to say, “Life begins at 40.” xoxo

  4. Happy birthday, Gena! As others have already said, I am grateful to you for your presence on this blog, and by extension in this world.
    I think that what birthdays and anniversaries can make us conscious of is the grief we feel – grief for the sad things that have happened to us, but also grief for the things we wish had happened in our lives but didn’t. Grief, perhaps, for the life that we dreamed of having but now know we won’t have.
    I don’t know if this is helpful, but as I live out the main part of my life I have found that the most important thing I can do is to acknowledge and honour not just my joy but also my grief. They are conjoined, anyway. And even the quietest lives can be rich with nuance.
    Please know that you are treading meaningfully through this crazy world, even if this isn’t clear to you. It IS clear to us, your readers 🙂 xo.

  5. Happy birthday, Gena! Thanks for staying with all of us all these years. Your honest voice and perspective is a gift.

  6. Happy birthday from a longtime reader, very rare commenter. I came for the recipes over ten years ago, stayed for the writing. I really appreciate your authenticity and can’t wait to see what your forties bring. As someone halfway through her own forties, the years have come with their own challenges but for me more savoring, peace, and acceptance. I wish you the same, if that sounds good 🙂

  7. Bon Anniversaire, Gena! The French light three candles on an adult birthday cake, representing past, present and future. Perfect.

    I agree with the comment that your forties can be a wonderful time. I do believe that being able to appreciate the beauty of simplicity and finding meaning–and sometimes (often!) magic–in small things are both easier to realize in one’s forties. In a lot of ways, it is the most interesting decade re awareness (self- and other)/confidence/curiosity/adventure; a time to accept and appreciate your sensibilities and the person you have become.

    Thank you for the nutritionally informative and wondrous recipes you share, as well as other thoughtful writing that you share.

    Please light your three candles and enjoy your special day!

  8. Happy Birthday Gena! I think you are maybe missing the forest for the trees – seeing what you think hasn’t happened and not realizing all that has. As a reader of your posts, I don’t think you realize how impactful, how valuable, your vulnerability and what you share are. What effect you unabashedly expressing how unsure you are has on those who read it. You bring a feeling of connection and acceptance into the world and the impact that has is immeasurable. You might not see it, but your willingness to express your vulnerability is in itself a rare and valuable thing that positively affects many. If that were all you “get done” in these middle years, that is quite a lot!

  9. Happy big birthday, Gena! I’m grateful to you for helping me feed my family. For what it’s worth, my 40s were my best decade. Hope you enjoy every minute of yours! x

  10. Happy Birthday, Gena!

    I always appreciate your personal posts and the wisdom in them. I wish I had something wise to say in response, but I don’t. I just wanted to thank you anyway!

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