Today is my birthday! Because I also celebrate my lunisolar Hebrew birthday (that happened to fall on August 30th this year), it has been more like a birthday week and a half. And what a week and a half it has been.
Come along while I tell my tale. Have you ever heard of the children’s book series ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’, that could be the subtitle for my story “Monica Berg’s Amazing Birthday Week Adventures, Mishaps, and Mayhem!”
The morning of birthdate #1, I woke up hot. Sweaty. Sticky. Because our AC has been out. Lest you think this a recent event, please let me disabuse you of that idea! Our AC has been out since August. Yep. And for whatever reason, the part that will fix it is the most rare and special of objects. So special, it is back-ordered and set to arrive in 6 weeks.
Summer in New York City—the sights, the sounds, the smells, the humidity, the 94-degree days!
Suffice it to say that not sleeping great has never been a positive contribution to any experience. But ok! It’s hot. We’ve done all we can do to find the part. Invested in some fans. Letting it go. Next.
Have you ever had a paper cut? Not a huge deal. Have you ever had a cardboard cut? It’s next level. The box lid had glue on it that had dried into an unexpectedly sharp edge. That was my first birthday gift of the year, a slice from a box the whole length of my thumb to the first knuckle.
Ok. Ow. Put on a bandaid, move along with the day. Weird, but whatever.
I had a full schedule for the rest of my day, and most of it didn’t happen because last-minute urgencies surfaced, and I had to redirect my attention and reschedule all my appointments. I had a nice dinner with my husband at the second restaurant we went to. Even my dinner plans shifted at the last minute. The next day was more of the same racing from here to there—except I wasn’t racing so much as strolling, casual and dignified in my giant black orthopedic boot. The tendon in my ankle that was torn and healed tore again the very day the doc gave me the ok to dance on it again! I’ve had to modify my workouts. Dancing for over an hour every morning isn’t in the cards right now.
My husband threw me a party later that week, so the night before, I wanted to welcome our out-of-town guests. Michael and I were attending a wedding earlier that evening, he officiated, and I walked the bride down the aisle in my orthopedic boot. We had planned on meeting up with our friends afterward, around 11 PM. We did not plan on the dregs of Hurricane Ida that hit the entire northeast that night. Rain was pouring in sheets, the wind howled, it was a monsoon. But we looked at the weather and decided we would still make the hour drive. How often is the weather forecast accurate? How bad could it really be?
Bad. Really bad, actually.
All the highways out of Manhattan were closed, so we headed North through the city. Time after time, we had to turn around because the water on the street ahead was sometimes up to the door handles of parked cars. Detour after detour and finally, we made it out of the city, and we figured it would be smooth sailing ahead. Nope. That route was closed because it was flooded. The next route looked good up until the part where a huge downed tree blocked all the lanes. Cars were just left on the roads and roadsides, abandoned. Our phones blared with severe weather alerts directing all non-essential travelers to stay home. Flash flood warnings were everywhere. Two hours into what was supposed to be a one-hour drive, we hit another blocked road. Now wondering if maybe we should just turn around and forget about it, we checked both locations in the navigation, both of which were 1 hour away. So we forged ahead and arrived well after 2 AM, safe and tired.
The weather also caused my oldest son’s flight to be cancelled. The next day it caused my oldest daughter Miriam’s train to be cancelled. David made it to the party, and so did Miriam, in a way. We put her on Facetime, and she even gave a speech. The party was really nice, and I am so grateful to everyone who came to celebrate with me.
Then it was Friday, Shabbat, dinners, guests, and preparing my lecture for Rosh Hashanah at the last minute. Then three days of Rosh Hashanah connections late into the night three nights in a row, standing for hours on end.
After which, I found myself laying on the floor of my closet, too tired to get up and put on pajamas, staring at the ceiling, sweating. (Still, no AC, remember?)
And I had thoughts. At Midnight. On the closet floor. Too tired to go to bed.
It’s been a whirlwind of a week, but really non-stop for several months when I think back on it. It’s really no wonder my ankle is in a boot. It seemed unfortunate and annoying, but maybe it’s fortunate, a forced pause I needed to slow down and refocus some of my energy inward. The treacherous drive through both city and countryside in a tropical storm was fortunate in its way, too. I got to spend four hours with my husband working together as a team, problem-solving, and relying on each other with total trust. When Miriam couldn’t get a train or flight from DC, she was devastated, and if I’d let her, she would have taken a 5-hour uber ride to get there. Just knowing how much it meant to her to be with me on my birthday was the best present she could have given me. So maybe that unfortunate event made us both realize how much we love and appreciate each other. In that light, it’s more fortunate than not. The cardboard cut still seems unfortunate, and so does the AC being broken, but maybe those stories are still in Act 1 and the plot and resolution haven’t fully been revealed. It’s quite possible those too are going to turn out to be fortunate events.
For sure, it has already made me pause and have more appreciation for a healthy body, AC, and in general, all the freedoms we often take for granted. Fortified by my short rest on the floor and feeling peace and certainty that my life is unfolding just as it is meant to, I stood up, forgetting about my ankle. It made an ominous popping sound followed by intense pain. I think the tendon tore a little bit more. It was almost like my ankle was conspiring with the universe, content that I’d hit upon the lesson of it all and deciding that I needed to rest a little bit more.
I’m a little glad that this is the last day of my birthday because I’m not sure how many more fortunate events I can take! But in all seriousness, I wouldn’t change a thing. As I always remind myself, the process is the purpose.