This is 36

Birthdays mean you made it here. You survived the trip. They mean you hung on with your teeth when your arms gave way. They mean you are the type of grit sandpaper that can subdue a sidewalk into silk stone. They mean, also, you held on hard, and the life you feel you are missing isn’t even missing anymore. It is gone.

And here is this foggy one, you beg:

Body forgive me

But who am I

Now

That

You stole the show

Who I am now?

This is my mother’s profile and nose.

This is my great grandmother’s firey hair.

This is my dad’s tenacious bones.

This is my mother’s fearless bite.

This is my father’s resolve.

This is my daughter’s harbor.

This is everything that has tried to kill and erase me has failed.

This is absorbing the shock of asteroids colliding in the cosmos and letting it go and starting again each day.

This is fall down 9 and get up 10.

This is the face that has been loved roughly and walked away.

This is the face that has been loved by family who was chosen.

This is I can’t but I will.

This is I don’t know how but I have no choice.

This is life is brutal and beautiful.

This is giving birth to myself again and again.

This is I am worthy I am worthy I am worthy.

This is my body is failing but I look normal.

This is any given day I could stop breathing.

This is my brain is failing but I am still able to trick you into believing I remember what I read yesterday.

This is humiliation and humility disassemble me cell by cell and grow a forest in its place thick enough to evade dementors.

This is a chest begging to be cracked, gland snaked around the heart like a root system, killing me just enough.

This mouth bravely says words it isn’t sure are real anymore.

This mouth says no, afraid and unafraid, again and again.

This crooked face and half full lungs are the truth no one wants to admit.

This body is fatter in person.

This face has scars on the good side and one droopy eye.

This is a woman afraid of not seeing her daughter grow up.

This is a woman unafraid of growing older, unafraid of the sagging and the wrinkles and the loss of appeal, grateful for one more year. This is a woman sad about so much time spent trying not to die; there isn’t room for much else.

This is 36.

Make room.