Another year older

and 85 posts later, the story continues.

Thirty seven years behind me... who knows how many more ahead of me.

I have this magnetic poetry calendar on my wall here at work and before I left on Friday, I put the following words together:

I dream to live and grow through another birthday.

And, so I have. It was a nice weekend. A weekend of music and wine and sushi and indulgence. A weekend of friends and laughing and phone calls bearing birthday wishes. A weekend of one more year - of feeling a bit older but, as every year, surprised at the number of my age. I had always been sort of ambivalent about birthdays - or should I say, I never really wanted to hope for too much because when I was younger, since it was during the summer and school was out - more often than not, either I was away or people simply forgot. I think after time I learned not to hope for much so that I was always pleasantly surprised. As I got older - particularly for the past four birthdays, I began to like them more. The realization that it was perfectly OK to be the center of attention for a day began to make sense to me. The fact that someone was carefully selecting gifts that he knew I'd like or knew I wanted was pretty special to me. Now, I roll with it - wherever my birthday-type celebrations take me. Next year we'll be at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon again.

I tend to reminisce at times. I know that it doesn't really matter where I've been and that where I'm going is what makes all the difference - but sometimes I can't help but to look back and observe the path that got me here. I suppose that birthdays and anniversaries of diagnoses or events of that nature tend to bring that out in me. It's not that I get nostalgic, I think sometimes I like to realize how far I've come. And sometimes that realization makes me very emotional. I haven't decided whether or not that's OK, so I choose to believe that as long as I continue living and thriving and not looking back, it's acceptable.

This year for my birthday, my gift to myself (and to those around me, indirectly) was to not mention cancer or treatment the entire day. It got hard at one point when Esther asked me how I'd been feeling and such, but I quickly turned the conversation to other topics. I know she meant well - I hadn't seen her in a few weeks - and I had to make the quick decision whether to be perceived rude and say, "you know, I just don't want to talk about this today" or simply respond. I chose the latter - because it was just easier. But that was it. I think.

There are times that it crept into my mind. The fact that last year at this time we were ready to embark on the roller coaster ride of chemo and treatments and aftermath. Then again, we were also looking ahead at Mt. Whitney. I can't believe it's nearly been a year - but still, conquering Whitney keeps me going sometimes. The feeling of utter accomplishment - of faith in myself, in the world, in the people around me. Faith in my strength, in my ability to overcome, and in my relationship. I found God, for certain, on that trail. I found hope and love and life and invincibility.

I hope that one day I can put into words what I experienced on that trail. The experience of rising before the sun and quietly making coffee in a dark campsite. Of heading up the trail as the sun began to slowly rise and watching the terrain change with every step we took. Of realizing that we were above the tree line and that I wasn't experiencing altitude sickness. Of that last excruciating mile to the summit and the wave of tears that accompanied our success. I was overcome again on the way down - I think it was on the way down the 99 switchbacks. I looked up and realized what I had just done, what I had overcome, what I had to look forward to, and the person beside me. I knew that no matter how uncertain I had been about various things in the past that right there, on our way down Mt. Whitney - I had no doubts in the world. Every now and then it helps to go back to Whitney in my mind.

Next, Kilimanjaro.

Meanwhile it's the start of another year. The first of many that I will be succeeding on this journey. I wondered, in the days leading up to this weekend, if I would always be somewhat nostalgic and weepy around the time of my birthday, because if that was the case, it would really suck. After some serious thought I realized that no, it wouldn't always be this way, but only this year. The first year. The first of many years to come. With that realization, I also knew I had to give myself a minute or so to reflect and to grieve - to acknowledge the road behind me and to digest that it was just that, at this point - before willing myself to nod knowingly and turn my back and continue to walk into the future with my head held high and my conviction strong.

Last year at this time we did a lot of crying and praying and laughing and living and holding on very, very tightly.

And dreaming and hoping to be exactly where we are. Right now.


    Happy Birthday!

    happy birthday gorgeous.