Monday, May 23, 2011

Re-BirthDay in New Orleans

It's my birthday today. Apparently, the tradition here is to pin a dollar to your shirt on your birthday, so others can know its your day and, if they are so inclined, can pin another dollar there, to, as my friend eloquently put it, "make sure you stay drunk."

In the midst of a monthlong retreat, of sorts, I woke up to birthday wishes - electronic, postal, and face-to-face. My mom and friend are here to help me celebrate. The air is balmy, the birds fill the air with sound, as do the garbage trucks, workers, tourists, boats, and the cathedral. I'm sunburned from a day on the bayou listening to great music yesterday. And today I truly hit that next great decade of my life: the 40's.

I admit I came here in the hopes that I'd experience a rebirth. A rebirth of hope, of ownership of my own life, of joy. I didn't have many expectations coming here, but I think I did expect to somehow channel a different part of my personality, the one that's always the life of the party, always knows the right thing to say and do, and is never bored, cranky, sad, or drinks or eats too much. I wanted to rediscover self-care, wanted to recommit to getting physically active, eating well, and taking care of my body and psyche. It's a funny place to do that, New Orleans, the center of debauchery. But for me it's never been about the parties, but about the deeper, darker, more complex nature of this town. OK, and somewhat the parties.

I have been meditating regularly, doing yoga almost every day (well, until my visitors came, but now I'm still planning to do it three times this week) have been talking to people, have been writing and thinking, pondering and simply being. But, of course the mantra of "wherever you go there you are" is true. My personality, I have discovered from this trip, is what it is. My lesson is to be grateful, compassionate, and loving of who I actually am, in all my complexity, and not wish to be different than I am. 

I feel very lucky: to have family and friends who want to celebrate with me, to have people I barely know and have just met sending me birthday wishes (Thanks, Facebook!), to have a friend who sent me a real physical card to my New Orleans address, to have my physical health, my insight, and my childlike wonder. I even feel grateful, in a strange way, that my heart is still tangled and knotted so deeply into a situation back home that I recently came to the conclusion that I might as well just accept that I can never extricate myself, and to learn to live my life in spite of this. Being able to open my heart is a gift, even if the outcome is messy and frequently difficult.

Thank you to everyone who has (and will) make my birthday a special one. Be well, happy, and heartful. 

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