Happy Birthday, Rayellen Louise

I have never liked the date of my birthday. I won’t say it is the WORST of the possible 366 days available, but it is up there. January 3rd is the day the diet starts, the school vacation ends, and nobody wants to party. But what is a girl to do?

For a while, I complained, which worked to some extent. My sister has always done a really generous job of ensuring that I get a separate, BIRTHDAY wrapped gift, but even *I* am sick of partying on the third. Also, my husband found so many sweet ways to celebrate me in a way that was carefree and laid back. He even convinced his mother to stop trying to throw me a party and she even started to give me an UNbirthday card. But I still wasn’t satisfied.

So, one year for my birthday, I got a new one — A new birthday. Who says that’s not possible? My dear friend (who I think was broke that year?) knew a way to see me in a way I’d never seen myself: as the architect of my own experience. So she gave me two outstanding gifts: a new birthday, and something else that cost her nothing but still means the world to me.

See, when I was born, my parents were TIRED. Not even 25, with 2 babies already, and they’d already had their “Joy.” I was actually due before January, but the insurance plan after the new year started was better. So, my Mom put her feet up for the holidays in 1968, then after the ball dropped, she rearranged the furniture on January 2nd, and had me on the 3rd. I can’t imagine how she had any energy to fill out the birth certificate.

I got their names. My Dad is “Ray” and my Mom is “Ellen.” And then this really long last name. After all that, who had time for a middle name? Growing up, I longed for a middle name… Maybe one with a story like my sister’s, or one that was a tribute to some woman in my family’s history. But 16 letters was enough. Until a birthday in my forties, when I got a new birthday AND a middle name. Because who says I can’t?

So my “gestational” birthday is today, but I will be celebrating it May 19th. And you can address me that day as Rayellen Louise. Because that was the other gift… a middle name. I know, Louise isn’t the most beautiful name, but it is the first or middle name of at least six amazing women in my family, so I love it.

But more importantly, I love the idea that rules are for interpreting, and that I can make life what makes me happy. With two simple gifts, I got to assign my own significance to the days on my calendar, and to identify myself as I see fit.

And I see fit to be steeped in gratitude today that I have been so loved… By my family, my ex husband and lovers, my beautiful quirky friends, and finally, by me. I have not always served you each as well as I’d like, but I will keep trying.

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