Partial Disclosure — Or, Airing My Dirty Laundry … List

Thirteen years ago, I had finally reached a place where I no longer thought it was vain or needy, or greedy (or any other thing I didn’t want to be) to make a big deal out of celebrating my birthday.  I adopted a friend’s tradition of “birthday week” — planning large and little celebrations for myself to draw out the specialness of having a birthday.  I threw myself a party … and I didn’t feel guilty about it, I just had fun.  The next year I bought a super-fancy cake to share with some friends.

And then eleven years ago my birthday was eclipsed and I’ve been struggling ever since to find a way to remember that September 11th is also a good day because it’s my birthday, to find a way to celebrate myself without seeming disrespectful, to find a way to just have something be a little normal.  The double significance of the day can sometimes catch me unawares.  Even now.  When I started writing yesterday’s “it’s the day before my birthday” post, I thought I was so clever: I was going to call it: “On the Almost Incendiary Eve,” stealing a line from Dylan Thomas’ “Deaths and Entrances.”  But then I heard myself.  Because not only are there too many incendiary images/memories about today, there is also the fact of the poem being written about dying in a building bombed during the Blitz … not the way to go.

Still struggling to find the balance between observances, still looking for some normalcy.  I’ve succeeded in some years, failed miserably in others.  I think at this point I’m a little reconciled to the reality that this is just what my birthday is going to be from here forward.


So.  I’m 50.  It’s old news already (pun sort of intended — I got my AARP membership invitation in the mail last week!).  Let’s get down to business.

You’ve probably noticed people making lists all over the place.  All those people with their buckets and such.  I make lists, too.  All the time.  I don’t usually pick a specific number of items for the list, I just jump in.  Then I happened on the birthday listers, the people who make an age-numbered list of things they want to do.  And doing all the must-do stuff before you turn 50 seems to be a big goal.  There are about 800,000 blogs and lists online that catalog the many things people want to do before they are instantly too old to think straight, stand and walk, and talk without drooling turn 50.   Here’s a random sampling:

Life Gets in the Way, or SimeyC’s Hub Page,  or Julie Hibbard, or Lori Mole’s 50 Paintings Before I’m 50 (which is actually pretty fabulously ambitious and just plain fabulous), Madeline Perry, or 50 Before I’m 50,  or Carolyn’s 50 … Before 50 … you get the idea.

I’m not sure I do, however.  Why do we feel the need to get everything done before we’re 50?  There may be many things that need to be done earlier in life, but why is 50 the dramatic deadline number?  It is my great hope and sincere expectation that I will still be running around making a fool of myself for another 20 or 30 years.  Do I really need to cross so many things off my list so “early” in the game?

Perhaps more helpful are the lists that tell you things you should be sure to do after you turn 50.  The Telegraph’s 50 must do things for 50-year-olds pleased me for the most part — I love that “come out of the closet” is on the list, but could someone tell me what “a personal MOT” is (#45)? — and the ones that tell you what not to do/eat/hang onto/buy/try after 50 (courtesy of my soon-to-be-new-friends at AARP).

In any case, I decided to make a list of things I want to do this year, and exactly half of it is ready for prime time.  The rest is more personal than I need to be writing about in public.  So here’s a half-serving of my 50-List:

  1. Write every day (no, EVERY DAY)
  2. Take three writing vacations (the first one’s already in the works!)
  3. Apply to four residencies
  4. Become fluent in Spanish (finally!)
  5. Make time to read more
  6. Be as much of a locavore as possible (goodbye to mangoes? … no)
  7. Go dancing (I want to say “more” but need to just say “GO”)
  8. Ride a roller coaster (It’s 10 years since I last rode the Cyclone)
  9. Have knee replacement surgery
  10. Learn canning and jam-making
  11. Do African genealogy test
  12. Take voice lessons
  13. Get new helmet and new tires and learn to ride bike my bike without abject terror
  14. Go on photo walks with my “real” camera
  15. Start making jewelry again
  16. Take glass bead-making class
  17. Save for metal clay tools and kiln
  18. Save for spinning wheel and floor loom
  19. Go to Calabash festival
  20. Pay down my mountain of (in)fertility debt
  21. Interview my mother, StoryCorps-style
  22. Plan trip to Africa
  23. Walk minimum of 15 miles/week
  24. Take a life drawing class
  25. Go back to New Orleans

It’s far from earth-shaking, and some of it’s much more “work” than “walk on the wild side,” but it all moves me forward, and some of it will just be flat-out fun.


Because it’s Tuesday, you can head over to Stacey and Ruth’s to see what the other slice of life writers are up to.

8 thoughts on “Partial Disclosure — Or, Airing My Dirty Laundry … List

  1. I have trouble sleeping, so I’m reeling at the energy level in your list alone — as the ache in my head throbs and I wonder how to drag my butt to bed when I’m a chapter behind on my current WIP. (I can’t think or see straight right now so I guess I better start that process.)

    I wish you all the luck in the world with the public and private parts of your list. You’ve blown my mind. 🙂


    1. I’m curious to see how successful I’ll be with this list. I stopped being a New Year’s resolutions person years ago, but I enjoyed making this list, and have already started working on a couple of pieces!


  2. What a thoughtful, reflective piece. The conclusion you’ve drawn about the reality of having a September 11th birthday indicates to me you have found the right balance. Having turned 50 a few years ago, I enjoyed your journey through the 50 lists and your public 25. I am not much of a list maker myself but do laugh at the fact that I am member of AARP. It is a good place to go to get a pep talk about the benefits of this time of life. Happy Birthday week!


    1. Thanks! I think this birthday balancing act is going to work for me. I’m sorry it took me eleven years to reach this place, but I’m nice with myself about it as, clearly, I couldn’t have gotten here any faster.


  3. I have three other friends who share your birthday. Each share the same conundrum. As I watch the new towers rise, I feel we should as well.

    A decade has passed, I personally think we dishonor them more by letting the event stop us from celebrating the good things as well. As I told one friend — give a mental nod of respect in honor of the event and then move on with your day, for it is your day as well and you have a right to enjoy it.

    Love your 1/2 list, your have a couple of things (okay more than a couple) that are already on mine. Oh, an when you’re ready for an Africa travel mate don’t forget to give a gal a call!


  4. I love your list and my late birthday wish for you is for these things to come easily to you, and to give you a lot of pleasure. I am very impressed with your thirty stories. It has been a privilege to watch you grow as a writer over just the few years I have been reading you. Congratulations!


    1. Thanks so much, Molly. I’ve finally gotten a couple more of the stories up, and hope to post the final three before week’s end (making my challenge more like “30 stories in 45 days”). I’ve been such an absent blog reader, and I’m grateful that you haven’t given up on me.


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