Ashes, Hearts and Birthday Cake

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This year Valentine’s Day, Ash Wednesday, and my fifty-fourth birthday are stacked on top of each other. It’s the first time since 1945 that Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day share the same date.

I take this as an auspicious sign.

Since I was a teen, I rebelled against my Valentine’s birthday and the sentimental, craft-store imagery of hearts, candy and flowers. I wish I had a dollar for every time someone tilts their head and through a breathy smile says, “Oh, you’re a Valentine’s baby, that’s so sweet.”

From the beginning of my romantic history, the specter of my Valentine’s birthday loomed large like sick-green tornadic clouds in the rearview mirror. Even my earnestly supportive husband of twenty-six years is often rendered celebratorily paralyzed during the month of February.

In response I have shooed away my birthday and Valentine’s Day like unwanted flies. Having the two combined sounds like it should be more special than each stand alone event but the mashup has never equaled my imagined script.

With the addition of Ash Wednesday to the mix, I must admit that I harbor a quiet yearning for something extraordinary to flare.

More accurately, I need a plan.

It’s been a stale start to 2018. I’ve been trying to reboot but the absence of concrete goals past my birthday’s horizon makes me anxious. There are no sparkly adventures or deadlines, no moves or significant transitions. I’m not comfortable with what seems to me like standing still.

We humans are meaning making machines and from that charge I desperately want to assign significance to my birthday falling on Ash Wednesday. I want this rare occurrence to usher in a dramatic shift.

I grew up wedding-and-funeral Episcopalian in a predominately Catholic small town in the Northeast. More than anything I wanted to go to catechism with my friends and get in on the mysterious spiritual goodies that I imagined being doled out every Wednesday after school. I wanted the rituals, the Friday night fish dinners, and the white confirmation dress.

As an adult, I’m not a practicing anything, but I still love the Lenten season. I’m drawn to the story of Jesus having to wrestling his demons, literally and figuratively, alone in the desert for forty days to find the clarity and strength to go forward.

There’s a nurturing austerity to the traditional pillars of Lent – prayer, fasting, and service – that disrupts habitual thinking.  Ash Wednesday requires change and begins a season to look within, try something different, and think about purpose and mortality.

The message of Lent is a fitting theme to my fifty-fifth year ahead. It honors my discomfort, even my jaded achy birthday neediness.

My husband and I do not usually give each other birthday gifts. So I was surprised last night to find the box that he left on my side of the bed. It was a necklace of tiny blue stones that catch the light just enough to draw awareness.

It’s perfect.

This morning I awoke to the kind of quiet that only happens after it rains. The wet streets muffled the traffic and the sun light was muted and made tangible by the fog. It was the first time in a while that stillness made me feel sturdy and protected.

I take this as an auspicious sign.

 

Note: I took the photo in Grenoble, France.

 

 

4 thoughts on “Ashes, Hearts and Birthday Cake

  1. Oh Liddy, you’ve nailed that feeling of not having a plan, and the aching tension that keeps the mind overworked. Glad you saw the necklace, and saw the importance and delight in standing still, in doing nothing, in turning inward, and relaxing. You are so special!!! love, kat

    On Wed, Feb 14, 2018 at 4:03 PM, Days in the Fifties wrote:

    > Daysinthefifties posted: ” This year Valentine’s Day, Ash Wednesday, and > my fifty-fourth birthday are stacked on top of each other. It’s the first > time since 1945 that Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day share the same date. > I take this as an auspicious sign. Since I was a teen, ” >

    • Hi Kathy! It looks like you are having fun in Florida – ahhh – just to be out of the gray and the cold must be heaven! As always thanks for taking the time to read and respond. Love to you and Dick.

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