When I was a little girl at summer camp, I'd send my mother the first letter on July 10 reminding her that my birthday was three month's hence.
August 10, September 10… all were days leading up to that magical one: October 10, the anniversary of my entry into the world.
On the morning of my birthday, I would wake to a house festooned with banners and balloons, all proclaiming, "Rebecca is eight!" "Happy Birthday, Beck!" "We love the birthday girl!" Depending on whatever color I loved that year, they'd be green or pink or blue or magenta, and my mother would be waiting with some sort of particularly elaborate breakfast and the whole day would be spent celebrating… me.
On November 10, I'd remind her that she had only 11 months left to plan for the next one.
How and how those were the days.
These days, on August 10, my eyes skit away from the calendar. By September 10, I sigh deeply and begin the month-long process of bracing myself. In the week leading up to October 10, I try to steel myself for it, and -- new tactic -- even try to convince myself that I am happy about the day.
I tell myself that lives aren't measured only by being married and having children.
It's not that I am another year older… it's not that my life is passing me by without moving forward (my nieces and nephews are another year older, stunningly old -- kids now, no longer babies). I tell myself that lives aren't measured only by being married and having children… my life is rich, full of friends and family, a great job, and I even have the privilege of living in Israel -- fulfilling a life-long dream. I can look back at the last five years and claim real achievements -- emotional growth, solidified relationships with family, goals met.
But, somehow, when October 10 rolls around, all I see is the fact that I am no longer the little girl thrilling to magenta balloons… that I don't have anyone to make special breakfasts for, the way my mom made them for me.
It's a burden the rest of the year. I feel it, and when the yearning occasionally overpowers me -- for an hour sometimes, and sometimes for a day, sometimes longer -- I am sickened with myself. There is so much good in my life, and yet all I see is the lack. There is so much good in my life, and yet, sometimes, every moment aches.
Believe it or not, I have a naturally happy disposition. And, sometimes, when I am taken over with longing for a life other than the one I have -- work, home, work, home, date, doesn't work out, work, home -- I wonder just what it is that women who don't have the incredible blessing of a sunny outlook go through. What do their days look like to them? How do they manage to get themselves out of bed -- to another day that just seems to remind you with every moment that, for whatever reason, you can't have what you think you were created for? Why did God give me such a loving nature if I wasn't meant to have people to give to, and people to spoil -- the best way to be challenged and grow?
And, yes, monotony, and struggles, and disappointments. Because being married and being a mother doesn't mean that your life suddenly becomes easy and perfect. If anything, it brings with it a set of enormous challenges that I can fathom only because I've watched so many of my friends struggle with them.
My life is my own -- marriage and especially motherhood make you utterly beholden to others. A wife must always consider her husband, and a mother must always, in some ways, give her life over to the needs of her children. Their schedules, their requirements, their moods… they dictate the ins and outs of nearly every moment of their mother's day.
There's no more leisurely reading, no more running out at the drop of a hat, no more deciding to go somewhere on a whim. Sleeping through the night becomes a major accomplishment.
And yet, I think, it must all be so utterly worth it when your child opens up his eyes and sees you there in the morning.
So I remind myself of this: Of my independence, of the way that I can expand my mind and challenge it while it is still free of concerns over bottle temperatures and peanut allergies, when I can still go to a lecture without worrying about tracking down a babysitter, when I can make what I want for dinner or not bother going shopping for two weeks. I can sleep late and go away on weekends and dispose of my disposable income however I like.
I even try to convince myself that dating is fun -- after all, almost all the men I've ever gone out with are good and kind, if not the man I should marry -- and that my life has an excitement and variation my married friends somehow envy. After all, they sometimes tell me this.
And I see how hard marriage can sometimes be, and how one is forced to grow, accommodate and bite one's tongue. It's not all wine and roses.
And still I long for the days when I will roll my eyes because my husband, yet again, didn't change the toilet roll, or is being a pig-headed guy, or has his annoying friends over again.
Will I be so beaten down by the weight of all this longing and impatience and yearning and frustration that I won't even recognize him when he finally appears?
On those days, will I remember how I cried at night after another date with someone else who wasn't him, wondering how on earth I am ever going to find the man with whom I'm going to build my life?
Will I remember the frustration of trying again? Will I even recognize him when he does come, or will I be so beaten down by the weight of all this, of all this longing and impatience and yearning and frustration, that I won't even recognize him when he finally appears?
What I wonder the most is how I can bear all this -- all this whining and kvetching and feeling ridiculously sorry for myself -- and still be a bearable person? People tell me that I am cheery and sunny and funny, and men I've dated have even paid me the dear compliment that unlike so many other "women my age," I'm "not bitter." The sadness inside me apparently has eaten away only that which is too deep to be seen.
The worst thing is that those who are closest to me know, and must feel, the murk and the whining and the oh-so-not-sunny part.
A friend who just suffered a miscarriage -- her second in a half a year -- told me that sometimes she feels that if someone touched her, she might crumble away from sadness. My heart went out to her; she is so good, and I don't know any better than she does why God sends such challenges her way.
I admire her courage though… and her steadfast belief that whatever comes to us is somehow necessary for the growth we have to do in life.
There are times when I feel like it's enough. I've grown enough from these challenges. I'm ready to move on to the next set.
And when I do, when I am annoyed with my husband and exhausted from the kids, I just hope that I'll be able to remember what I felt now… and be grateful, so grateful, for what I'll have then.