June 10, 2011


Am I the only person who goes into a funk on their birthday? You'd think I would be happy (or at least relieved) to have made it through another year. Certainly, part of me appreciates the unearned privilege of life. But a larger part of me prefers the company of the Three Horsemen of Regret: coulda, woulda, and shoulda.

The Anniversary Syndrome—for this is what we are talking about here—is a well-documented phenomenon, usually linked with post-traumatic stress. Something marks you in a way that links time and place and event, and the sub-brain remembers and goes on alert when those factors realign, like planets lining up every 500 years cause us to gaze skyward in the vague expectation of some portent of doom.

I go through this every October, the month I went to Vietnam. The effect has diminished with the passage of time, but in those years right after I got back it was sometimes overwhelming, a feeling of unease and sadness that would creep in on the tide of memories, catching me unawares.

When you think about it, life is one big episode of post-traumatic stress, so I guess a certain amount of Anniversary Syndrome is inevitable. I have my own cure for these damp-drizzly-November-of-the-soul days. Tonight, I will sit out on the deck and watch the birds in the tree and the clouds in the sky and the way the leaves shimmer in the early evening breeze.

Happy Birthday To Me!

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