On the eve of a birthday

Ethan told me to meet him at the parking garage near his office, and so at 4 p.m. I started the 15-minute walk through The Loop to get from my office to his.

The workday had been good, as an accumulation of projects and responsibilities allowed me to carve my place in my new job, but then a quick zip through Facebook sucked out any building confidence.

One Facebook friend announced a series of upcoming storytelling/reading shows and another a writing award. These are both talented, deserving people but their accomplishments were all the invitation my insecure, berating voice needed.

You accomplishments are minuscule compared to theirs.

 They work harder than you do.

 You are from where they are.

 More people like them and will give them opportunities over you.

I rolled through a picture show of others’ success matched against my failures as I walked through the Loop. Downtown was busier than usual, not because the Cubs were hosting the Giants in the playoffs nor the looming three-day weekend. Most of the buzzing people wore black and gray lycra pants and bright neon and pink long-sleeve shirts.

It was marathon weekend.

Inspirational banners advertising the 2016 Chicago Marathon have hung from street posts for weeks now, but, already in the mood of torturing myself, I made sure to study each one as I moved a block south, then east, then south again.

A pain in my left knee has lingered for 10 months. I can’t kneel, stand for too long or run. I took a break from running and went to six weeks of physical therapy and the pain is as present as it was in the beginning. I could feel it as I rushed by the fit tourists, ready to overtake a goal.

The voice came back.

You should be running a marathon this weekend.

 You aren’t running because you are lazy.

 You have no greatness in you.

By the time I reached Ethan, 16 blocks later, I was in tears.

It’s normal for this voice to come out and tear me down when it gets a chance, but the “you are not enough” song was much louder on this particular day. And, it’s lingered through the weekend, hitting me when I was trying to sleep or having a conversation with a stranger at a wedding.

Then, today, the reason why this voice continued to sing became clear.

Tomorrow is my birthday. Another year passed. Another anxious look at the time running out.

Birthdays often put me in a funk of feeling like I haven’t done enough or that I am so far behind, mostly because of my own fear, laziness and lack of dedication.

The older I get and the higher that number attached my birthday is the feeling has not abated, actually intensifying. What has changed, though, is that I am turning to others less to justify my presence in the world.

And, so on the eve of my birthday, I look at the year that was not because I need you all to tell me that I am on the right path because I need to hear it from my own heart. I need to feel my lungs widen with a calming breath and the notion that where I am in life is enough and then exhale out of all that doubt worry.

I didn’t run a marathon this weekend, but I did get better health insurance that will allow me to find out what’s going on with my knee with an MRI this week and hopefully return to running. I’ve also done more yoga and fallen back in love with swimming in the time I’ve been out of my running shoes.

I am not booked to do a bunch of shows and no one is knocking at my door to publish my writing, but this week I finished the first draft of my first fictional novel, which has taken me four months to write. I also did publish a few pieces and told some stories on stage.

I got a new job, travelled, moved into a new apartment and felt the love of good friends and family. And, in the last year, I’ve learned to accept some heartbreaking situations and find forgiveness (for others and for me) and hope in them.

As I go into 32, my life is far from perfect but it’s also far from the disappointment I sometimes make it out to be. The greatest gift I can give myself is the permission to let me be where I am and the permission to let that and myself be enough.

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