Happy Birthday to Me and My Blog

I began vinegar and vanilla on my birthday – December 9 –  in 2009.

That’s SIX years ago.

I am very proud of myself. #whoohoo #gome

Even though I have had spells where there were very few posts,  I have always come back to her (for some reason the blog feels like a “her” to me. I only just realized that.) calendar-december-2009-8877086

Here is a snippet from my very first post:

December 9, 2009:

The point of this, the inaugural post, was to introduce you (dear reader) to me, (dear writer) and I suppose I have inadvertently told you more about me right off the bat than I intended to. Ah well, I will have plenty to add and subtract at a later date.

The reason I am starting this blog today, December 9, 2009, is because it is my birthday. Not a major, huge, milestone one like 16, 18, 21, 30 or 50…but a year older nonetheless. I don’t know how or when I became the adult in my life. It comes at you at a slow boil and then – like the proverbial lobster – you realize you are cooked. I am no longer a child, a teen or a young adult. I am a married woman, a mother, an adult. Someone who seems to have her shit together.

What?!? Who? Me? Really?!?

Some days I own that fully and some days not so much. My goal for this year is to own all parts of me equally, and give them all their due. This means the wife, mother, friend parts and ALSO the writer me who has been trying to get out and stay out for so long. Even though I let her out from time to time like a charming party trick, this year I would like her to make her official debut to polite (notice that, dear reader, p-o-l-i-t-e) society. She is a little scared, so please, be gentle.

 

I LOVE this birthday post from 2010. I was in a good space, by the sound of it!

 

BIRTHDAY MIRTHDAY!

So far, so good! Woke up as chipper and happy as my sun son. Shaved my legs without a nick – even though the kidlets startled me when then came in to wish me a happy birthday and show me all the goodies waiting for me.

Got dressed without incident, coffee maker had successfully brewed me some of the dark nectar, thermos was waiting to be filled. Hubby greeted me warmly, kids begged me to at least open the cards. Little Man’s handwritten greeting was adorable, Miss M made me a huge card with balloons and cakes and so many happys and so many loves ~ I hung it on the wall in my classroom for joy.

Happy, funny fellow Starbucks addicts in line exchanged witty banter (there is a family of 3 I see there from time to time – they are my Starbucks friends.) Everyone knew it was my birthday because I said YES! to the offer of whipped cream on my birthday mocha. That’s how I roll people, stand back!

Got to skoolork (school+work=skoolork) a little close to the wire but it was all good because Michael Franti worked hard the whole time reminding me to stay human and listen to the words of the Dalai Lama – or at least the words of your momma. Every flower got a right to be bloomin’!

A student was waiting for me with birthday greetings and a gift, a fellow teacher came in with a card signed by my co-workers and my first class sang happy birthday – with an 80% pass rate – whoo hoo!

The day is off to a good start folks…

Stay Youthful,
Jess

 

 

December 2011: I didn’t post on my birthday. But I posted this on January 1, 2012. It gives a peek into what I was going through at that time in my life. It was a tough time. My marriage was on the rocks and I ended up moving out just a few months later.

This poem is so sweet and tenderly hopeful.

 

A PRAYER FOR 2012

A Prayer for What Seems Impossible 2012:

May there be time and space
for contentment to grow.

For sweet, green tendrils of joy
to unravel
like fern fronds in spring.

Let contentment settle
like a seed in the soil.

Let it send its roots
into the Earth
deep enough to give it purchase.

Let the winds of disbelief
and cynicism
be not so strong.

Let not the rain of self-doubt
nor any fickle frost
cause us harm.

Let the warmth of hope
protect us
like a mother does a child

with guidance
and optimism.

~j. johnson 2011

 

December 2012: 

No birthday post. I was in NYC with my sister. We were celebrating my birthday and the fact that I was “officially” a match to give her a much needed kidney. (she is on the left, then me, then two friends on the right.)

 

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December 2013

No birthday post. This year I was in Maui with my new, kind, gentle sweetie. I wore a bikini, we ate great food, we swam with a giant sea turtle. It was lovely and perfect.

December 2014:

Again, no actual birthday post, but close. I posted this just a few days after my birthday – a retrospective on the year:

Each year I like to look back at my journals, Facebook posts, blog posts, daily calendar, etc., to review the year. Where was I this time last year? What did I do right this year? What would I like to change? What are my goals and dreams for the coming year?

It helps me recognize what I have done (since I often gloss over my accomplishments in favor of beating myself up over what I haven’t done) and refocus for the coming year.

The fortunate thing is that my birthday is in December, so it works well with an “end of the year” evaluation. Of course, my birthday was over a week ago now and guess what I have been doing? Telling myself that I “should have done the evaluation” ON my birthday. That I’m late on it. That I SHOULD HAVE done it already. Which brings me nose to nose with my first, ugliest realization: I am too hard on myself.

This, I’m sure, comes as no surprise to many of you. And I’m sure any of you are too hard on yourselves as well. But this year I realized it. Like, viscerally. As in “I get it, Universe, I really do.”

I think of this phrase that I wrote down after hearing it somewhere: “Don’t should on yourself.”

Ooops, I think I stepped in something.

Now, to be fair to myself I have been this way for a very, very long time. As a kid I can remember essentially grounding myself. Once I taught my little sister some bad words on accident while I was babysitting her. When my parents got home she proudly shared her newfound vocabulary and, unfortunately, my attempts to brainwash her that I had actually said “Truck and ship” were for naught.

Let’s just say I went straight to my room and didn’t come out except for meals and school. For a few days. What’s more, I can remember at least one other instance where I did the same thing – an intentional self-grounding. I must have been in high school and who knows what I did, since I didn’t have many restrictions. Nonetheless I did something I knew upset – or worse, “disappointed” – my parents and I clearly remember essentially just staying in my room, not talking to them, not asking for anything, for a week.

I am sure that if we really wanted to dig deeply we could come up with some analysis about my parents and their parenting style (or lack thereof) and the roles that children and parents adopt in order to adapt, but I am not interested in airing that particular pile of dirty laundry right now. (I know, a sudden bout of modesty or privacy – what’s happened to me?) 😉

In any event, I am hard on myself. Harder than those around me are (thank goodness!) And I have a very long history of being hard on myself. It is a difficult pattern to break. But, like so many things in life, awareness of the issue is the first step. It was during a day-long meditation I attended this year that I really understood how much pressure and stress I bring to myself, by myself.

You know, I trained for years to be a hurdler. Get over the obstacle in your way and immediately focus on the next one. There is no time in-between obstacles to relish the fact that you got over the hurdle successfully – without banging your knee or tripping over it. You keep your head up, your eyes on the horizon, and keep running as fast as you can. Even at the end of the race you review it – see where you can tweak this or adjust that or do the other better next time.

The thing is this: if you are always looking to the next challenge, always critiquing your performance, you miss the space in between. The sweet space where you get to enjoy the run, the race. You miss the feeling of the sun on your skin, the power of your legs, the strength of your body in motion. You miss the joy of the win.

During the daylong mediation we became open to hearing what it was we needed to do next and I heard the message loud and clear:

Cut yourself some slack.

So, for year 47 and all the rest I am gifted beyond that, goal #1 is this: To quit shoulding on myself and cut myself some slack.

In relief,
Jessica

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