It’s been a weird week. A trip to the emergency room, the death of a friend.
Then, I spent the day before my birthday in bed with an evil stomach bug. When I woke up on my birthday and didn’t need to heave, I felt giddy. I was alive, and had somehow made it to 39.
Still weak from the accidental cleanse, I rested in the morning and had a leisurely lunch with a friend. After lunch, I went to Soakology for some pampering with three of my favorite women. If you are a Mainer and you like pleasure, I highly recommend a trip to Soakology, a foot sanctuary and teahouse. We descended down the stairs into a dark room with exposed brick walls and shimmery curtains. It smelled like we had walked into a giant cup of tea.
We sat in big, comfy chairs that felt a little like thrones. Our legs dangled over the edges like a toddler in a loveseat. One of the staff brought us each a big, warm bowl of water and essential oils to soak our feet in. I rubbed my toes and the arches of my feet along the smooth, hot stones in the bottom of the bowl. Next, we were presented with warm shoulder wraps. I could feel the heat and the weight of the wrap pressing my shoulders down, sinking my body into the soft cushions of the chair. My belly still unsettled, I ordered a Moroccan mint tea sweetened with honey and sipped it slowly.
Two of us indulged in shoulder and neck massages. I was mildly agitated that the young woman in charge of my shoulders and neck kept calling me, “My dear.” But I closed my eyes and shifted my focus to the feel of her fingers circling the knots in my shoulders, the tight cords of my neck. The places I hold all the little and big hurts that I gather through the day. I let go, rooting into the chair, into myself.
After she was done, I opened my eyes. I looked around the dim room, taking in the faces of my beautiful friends. 2013 has not been the easiest of years for any of us four thus far. I took in the sweet sight of their relaxed faces and smiled.
Afterwards, I went home to my little family. My parents were supposed to join us for a fancy dinner, but they had come down with the same virus I had. So Scott and the kids ate pizza while I ate the traditional post-stomach-bug birthday toast. After dinner, we somehow migrated to the kitchen floor. Max sat on my lap while Violet marched back and forth to the living room. Max faced me and sang, exhaling warm pizza breath into my face. I closed my eyes and felt the bubbles of evening sun through the window on my forehead. Max got up and whispered, “Can I have my M&M’s now,” in Scott’s ear, which tickled Scott, which made them both laugh. Then Violet marched up to Scott’s ear and Irish whispered, “Ba Ma Blah Blah Blah,” which made us all laugh. We sat on the kitchen floor and laughed and I could still smell waves of lavender from my feet and I thought this is what all the work is for.
Then Violet explored my kneecaps with her cool, pudgy little hands and Max asked, “Why are they called… why are they called…” and Scott said, “Kneecaps?” and Max started screaming, “NO! I wanted to say it!” and the moment was over.
And this is my life. Little envelopes of sweetness that end in shouting. Eating toast on my birthday because my stomach is still gurgling from being sick. The smell of lavender and the faces of my friends and family. In the shadow of the death of a friend and a virulent stomach bug, I felt warm trickles of gratitude all day long.
I remembered a word I came up with years ago, when I was still fresh from my brother’s death, which cracked me open enough that I had to put myself back together in a different way. A deeper way. Majedy. Part magic and part tragedy. (With a hint of majesty, but mostly just for the “j” so it doesn’t sound like “maggoty.”) Glennon Doyle Melton calls it “brutiful.”
It’s not perfect and it won’t be. Ever. And I still struggle with that. I can’t cook to save my life and my house is always a disaster and part of me thinks I am the only one. I have big hips and little boobies and it’s all okay because just for today, I get to be here. I get to be here and feel hot stones on my feet and see the faces of my friends, soft and relaxed. I get to giggle with my family and watch my insane little angels stomp around and cackle. I get to be 39, while others I love didn't get to make it so far. Life is good, life is hard. Life is majedy.