Last year on my birthday, I attended BYU Women's Conference with a Presenter name tag around my neck. That whole experience was pretty surreal, but I have marked its milestones--receiving the invitation, attending the orientation, writing the talk, flying to Utah, and speaking at the conference--over the last few months and weeks. Today marks the beginning of another Women's Conference, and this time, I'm not there.
At 11:00 this morning, as the first break-out session of Women's Conference began in Provo, I sat in an elementary school gymnasium, watching the Littles play with hula hoops and basketballs while the Bigs took their end-of-year literacy tests. Instead of standing at a podium with trembling knees and voice, I listened to one mother crowing about her upcoming adoption (a Chinese albino girl who is completely adorable) and another discussing her latest read.
A year ago, I celebrated my birthday in what felt like a very significant way. But I was incessantly nauseated, in lots of physical pain, and so worried about the health of my unborn baby. Today, that little baby is pulling on my computer's power cord and mastering her forward crawl in pursuit of the garbage can under my desk.
I haven't been very excited for my birthday to roll around, but I'll turn 33 on Saturday whether I like it or not. It's not the aging that upsets me. Getting older is what it is. I think some pesky expectations are bothering me. Last year at this time, I spent a lot of time thinking about what life would be like today. I imagined my healthy, happy baby--and she has certainly lived up to my greatest dreams. But I also had great expectations for my own health and happiness, both of which are floundering right now. I thought I'd have my body back by now. I thought I'd have my life back. I thought I would have rejoined society and reclaimed my personality and overcome all of the obstacles that pregnancy put in my path. None of that has really happened, and I'm frustrated.
When I think about my Women's Conference assignment, I think about how significant it made me feel. I never set out to do anything flashy or of great acclaim in my life. I have always been quite content with my small and simple existence, my happy family, my little church calling, and a quiet spot on the back row. And I still am. But somehow, this year, I feel less important than I did last year. Less visible. Less needed. Less capable. Just....less. My birthday is always a time of reflection, and this year, I don't love what I see in the mirror. Last year I had dreams of "fulfilling my life mission" and "blessing more people than ever." What the heck does that mean?
Since I really have no idea, I got a haircut today. I always think that getting a haircut will change my life. (Hint: It never does, but I'm going to keep trying.) I have decided that even though my jeans still don't fit and I will probably feel like barfing, at least I'll have great hair for the Pinewood Derby, which is my plan for a birthday celebration. Stay tuned...the boys have some wicked-awesome cars and I promise to post pictures. They are a lot more fun than birthday candles this year!