In AA, your sobriety birthday is known just as your birthday. The anniversary of your actual birth, is known as your belly button birthday.
It’s one of those AA things that I really don’t like. I’m not sure why, really, but, it annoys me. It sounds gross. To be honest, I don’t like belly buttons. And, for that reason, when I began this day, the first day of my 30th year on Earth, in an AA meeting, I did not tell anyone it was my “belly button birthday.”
When I was called on to share, I spoke only to the lessons of sobriety, not age, which tend to be different as different can be. And, after the meeting, I didn’t stick around to chat with the other smokers outside. I drove home and immediately started getting my things together for my birthday present to myself, a hike in the Columbia River Gorge.
To be honest, my day didn’t start with much excitement or optimism. Frankly, for reasons unbeknownst to me, this birthday has been a real source of stress and sadness. I’ve just entered the last year of my twenties. And, while I know I should be stoked that I got sober at a young enough age to really enjoy my youth and see what the world really has to offer me, there are still moments where I feel like I missed it all. Moments where I still feel like I am missing out. Moments where I feel that, at this point, I should have more figured out than I do.
I take all this self-judgement with a grain of salt. I mean, I can see what’s real and what isn’t, I think. But, at the end of the day, I know I’m not done yet. I’m still a work in progress and always will be. I am still working on accepting that I am not a pie or a batch of chocolate chip cookies. There is no set time for me to be in the oven, and just because I’m on the brink of thirty doesn’t mean I’m going to burn. It just feels like that today. I feel behind.
So, I suited up and hopped in my car. Drove out along highway 84 into the gorge. I exited at Bridal Veil, and parked at the trail head for the hike up to Angel’s Rest. As I ascended the side of the gorge, smoker’s lungs panting, and sweat beading on my brow and neck in the first of the warm weather and sunshine, little trillium flowers greeted me along the side of the trail. I passed other hikers, mostly older folks with little hiker hats and walking sticks. They made me hope that, one day, I too will be climbing trails when I’m gray and wrinkly.
When I made it to the top, Angel’s Rest, after a few sneak-peeks of the incredible view along the way, I sat atop the rocks in awe. The Columbia River Gorge never ceases to make me feel small. It makes me feel that God is everywhere. That in the scope of this great Earth, this tiny piece, is so incredibly epic. It’s a paradox of great beauty and always takes my breath away. And, today, it did more than that. It brought me to tears.
I stared out over the river and wept. This feeling of being utterly small, both a pain and a comfort.
I went up seeking something, and found something else. Which, these days, seems to be the name of the game. It’s never going to be what you expect. But, just because your expectations aren’t met doesn’t mean that you haven’t stumbled upon something valuable.
Your birthday is, more or less, a day for your ego. But, sitting where I sat, looking down on the great Earth of which I am only a teeny, tiny part, I became right sized. It may be “my day” but, what am I in comparison to this? My twenty-nine years are nothing in comparison to the millions and millions of years that water ploughed this gorge in the Earth, where I sit now, like a spec of dust upon a boulder, once a mountain, before rain wore it down.
Life goes on. Years go by. Some, are far better than others. But today, even though my sadness prevails, I am present enough in my own life to know that what seems big, is truly small, and what seems tiny, is more vast than one can imagine.