Let Us Eat Cake.
Birthdays are complicated when you reach a certain age. Oh, don’t get me wrong. You’re grateful for another year. I mean. You’re still alive and kicking, right? Waking up to a fresh start. Starting a spanking new year on the planet with one more number under your (slightly pinching) belt. A number that grants you a whisker more authority in the world. A tad more wisdom.
If you’ve been paying attention to the lessons life likes to offer up as experience, and not sleepwalking, that is. Not acquiescing to the expectations of others. Or choosing safety over the challenge of the new. Or worse- finding yourself somewhere, in some situation, or relationship, strictly for the sake of momentum, chafing inside a role you don’t remember signing up for. Birthdays can be markers like that. Defining where we’ve been. And how far we’ve come. Or not.
Earlier this spring my husband’s birthday marked another spin around the wheel of time. And yes, I baked a cake. And as I stirred the batter and scooped it into cake pans, I thought about the other cakes I have baked for him. The chocolate cake in our first year of marriage. Children beneath our roof. Blue balloons and candles. The newness of each others’ dreams. The shine of our ideas. The belief in what was possible.
We’ve shared twenty-five birthdays now. And the single constant through these twenty-five years is change. Change has woven its intricate design deep inside our marriage, our thirteen different living spaces in seven different states, our evolving work as artists and writers, our sons’ own changing lives.
There isn’t a piece of our life together that has not been burnished by change.
I asked my husband what he felt about this birthday, if anything. He said at first he didn’t feel anything about it. That is was just another day. Another number. But later he turned to me and said he’d been thinking about his early years. The stuff he assumed was important. The choices he made. Or rather, didn’t make. The times he stuck with things out of a sense of duty. Or a bone bred stoicism, believing in the virtue of sticking it out. Trying to make the unworkable work.
Looking back, he said, I don’t understand it. When people say they wouldn’t change a thing? I’d change ten thousand things, he said.
And that’s why I love you, I told him.
And it got me thinking. Would I change ten thousand things? Or would I choose the devil I know?
The thing is this. The devil I know?
So let’s eat cake.