Birthday Introspection

Every year for about a week around my birthday, I find myself being even more introspective than usual. I think about my past, my present, and my future, and dig deeply into who I am and who I want to be.

This year was a little bit different. This year I found a way to clear my head first, and then start to dig into my annual process.

The weekend before my birthday, my husband and I splurged on a trip to Portland, Oregon. We filled our time with music, great food, and catching up with close friends. The long drive together offered a rare opportunity to be with each other with no other responsibilities or agenda. We listened to music, we talked about food, we shared our thoughts about our two boys alone at home for the weekend. All kinds of things came up during that long drive through some beautiful parts of our country, as well as some of the not-so-beautiful parts.

It was bittersweet to drop my husband off at the airport in Portland on Sunday morning for a week-long business trip in Washington DC. I love spending time with him. He's funny, smart and kind, and he treats me with respect and deep love. Spending hours by myself can be very rare and I treasure my alone time. So when I drove away from PDX, I was sad to leave Bob behind, and filled with anticipation for my long drive -- alone -- back to Montana.

The first part of that drive is absolutely spectacular. Leaving the city and driving east took me right into the Columbia Gorge region. the winding road parallels the river, with green curtains of leaves and vines clinging to the walls of the first part of the canyon. It opens into the wide part of the river where it's rare not to see boats, windsurfers, and kayaks along the banks. It was quiet in the car. I didn't turn on music, I didn't start one of my books on CD, I didn't call anyone to visit (hands free, of course) as I drove. The car felt like an extension of my body as I drove along the river and observed the other vehicles and drivers, and the scenery all around me.

I don't remember thinking about anything in particular. It seemed that I could just BE, without my mind racing along as usual. For the first time in months, my mind felt clear. It took more than an hour of driving quietly by myself for me to realize my head was finally open, and not consumed with thoughts of what I needed to do, what I had forgotten, and where I wanted to be in the near future.

After about 11 hours on the road, I pulled into my driveway and unloaded my bags in the house. Our boys were still awake and enthusiastically happy to see me. Big hugs and stories, snuggles with the dog and a short glass of whiskey later, I was ready for bed.

I had forgotten -- or just hadn't remembered -- to take a few hours by myself like that in recent months. Hiking is great, but simply doesn't provide the kind of mind-clearing I need sometimes. Walking up a mountain, breathing heavily, and appreciating the scenery brings me back to the present, but it doesn't clear my head the way a long drive by myself can.

It was another beautiful birthday, filled with love and friendship. I clicked on a link to a video my mother sent to me that day. It's about taking the time BEING rather than spending our days DOING. I can honestly say that while I have some days filled with doing, the majority of my life has been being. Being in love. Being loved, being kind. Being comforted, being comforting. Being nourishing, and being nourished.

I think that's why I enjoy my birthdays so much each year; I am so grateful for every moment I get to spend with my family, my friends, and in nature. I'm not a big fan of regret and avoid it as much as possible. That's part of why I fill my days with BEING.

Now I'm ready for another year of adventures, a roller coaster ride of life. This year I have a plan to spend more time driving by myself, to make it a priority.

What will you do with the precious time you have on this planet?

Here's my theme song for the year.