Because I'm the Mom

How mothering pervades all relationships in life.

I Want to Feel: What's on YOUR Midlife Birthday Wish List?

Dump the bucket! What's your All-You-Can-Wish-Midlife-Birthday-Buffet list?

I'm looking straight down the barrel of another midlife birthday, reminding me that statisically, the ride is more than half over.

Thank god. Sure beats the alternative.

I love, love, love my birthday. Everybody makes a fuss because I tell them to. My students disrupted the entire building in class last night blowing birthday honkers I brought in. My Facebook page blooms with lovely birthday wishes from a collision of students, colleagues, family, friends of all stripes from many, many (many) decades; pals I see every day and cherished friends I haven't seen in 40-ahem-something years. They post sweet birthday messages because Facebook reminds them it's my day because I tell Facebook to remind them.

A couple of years ago I taught my morning class, where my bleary-eyed writing students sugar-surged awake after I supplied them with cupcakes and granola bars. Mercifully, we avoided a repeat of my night class — which launched into a rousing rendition of some bizarre Millennial birthday remix.

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More celebrations continue throughout the day and evening, where the company, language and fish will be raw.

For me, it's not about what I want TO DO. It's about what I want TO FEEL. Meaning, I want to feel.

In the meantime, I'm treating myself to an All-I-Can-Wish Birthday Buffet for the next half of my journey. Here goes:

1. Celebrating Wishes: I wish that I let/make people celebrate with me.

2. Finding Wishes: My second wish is a tough one for Midlife Moms like myself – who are hardwired to put our own needs just below laundry and above finding lost socks – that we often can't answer the question: What do YOU want for your birthday? I wish I could come up with some birthday wishes for myself that I will allow myself or others to make come true.

3. Grieving Wishes: I wish my brother were here. Losing him is the worst thing to ever happen to our family, to me, and no day, especially no birthday, will ever be right without him singing his atmosphereically piercing rendition of "Cheppy Boiday" in some indistinguishable Eastern European attempt at an accent meant to sound like our Russian grandfather but always ends up more like Boris Karloff meets Ricky Ricardo. I just wish he was here. Every minute. Every second. Every day.

4. World (and Inner) Peace: I wish the world – and myself – peace and freedom from hatred, strife, injustice, inequity, and meanness.

5. A Mother's Wish: I wish my daughter knew – every minute of every day – how grateful I am for her, how she is the greatest gift and blessing and miracle of all existence. And I wish she'd clean the hair out of the shower drain.

And how about these:

I wish I had a pair glasses through which I could only see The Big Picture and The Glass Half Full.

I wish I was brave enough to fully feel the grief, to ride it like the wave of energy it is and see what's on the other side.

I wish I bought those boots.

I wish I had more faith.

I wish I appreciated myself – and others – more.

I wish I let people in.

I wish I knew then what I know now.

I wish I knew now all I needed to know.

I wish I wasn't so full of regret.

I wish I could let go.

I wish I could hold on.

I wish I could find more ways to appreciate and celebrate my beloved family and friends and be certain they always felt treasured and cherished by me.

I wish I could entertain the thought of finding love again, as this version of myself, finally, the real, coolest, sexiest, smartest greatest-hits version of myself.

I wish I knew what I wish I knew in a couple of years when I look back at this self and think - 'Man, I would have relaxed and enjoyed the ride if I had only known......."

I wish I saw myself as (some of) my students (and rarely but sometimes my daughter) sees me.

I wish my family, friends, and students really knew how deeply I admire them, how much they inspire me, how moved I am by their struggles and victories, how much I understand — and wish — for them.

I wish I took nothing and no one for granted (including myself).

Pamela Cytrynbaum teaches at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

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