I had a great birthday.
Birthdays are not my thing. I don’t handle them well. From childhood on, the days leading up to my August birthday have always been a minefield of hurt feelings. I become hypersensitive (more than usual), prone to sulk and sigh a lot. There’s not much for you or anyone to do about it, except to stand back and wait for storms to pass.
This birthday is the third one that I have spent without Mark.
(Letting that settle in for a moment….)
Not long ago, I was asked in a grief therapy session to “talk about the best birthday you ever had.” And I couldn’t come up with one. Every single memory was tinged with a shortfall or regret. But later, my mind drifted back to a birthday that I had in college – one where I planned everything. It was simple, so much fun, and involved a small group of good friends. So that’s what I did this year.
I also took friends’ advice and declared a “birthday week.” It took the pressure off of trying to cram everything into one day and make it PERFECT. Friends were laughing and celebrating along with me for a whole week. The little celebrations that I planned were tailored to what I need most right now – friendship and fun, easy, casual, unpressured. A movie with my best friend. A dinner with friends who make me laugh, make me think. A brunch with girlfriends, trusted women who happen to be a lot like me, so they “get” me. An evening of dancing and conversation with people that I’m plumb crazy about.
On “the actual day,” I was home before midnight, tired and a little down. The boys were away, so the house was very quiet. I just wanted to go to bed. Unfortunately, the mailbox got to me first, and instead of birthday cheer there was a greeting from the hospital attorney who really wants that oustanding $$$$$ for Mark’s medical care.
Of all the days for this to arrive – it had been a year since I’d heard from them, and now here’s my birthday and — why even try, why bother, every time I feel like I’m back up on my feet, I get sidelined, swallowed up.
Anger and outrage and memories of very bad times flooded me. All the birthday happy drained away. The dungeon door opened, Depression returned,“Time’s up, head back down please. Your ashes and sackcloth have been pressed and are waiting for you to put them back on.”
Right about then, a friend texted me. He was just asking how my day had gone. After I texted back and told him, he said “Would you like a phone call?” Yes. By the time we hung up an hour later, I was smiling and I slept great.
I had a great birthday.
Now, it’s over. Back to reality. I’m dealing with deadlines and finances and dentists and poison ivy removal, and more cancer in my family. The future looks terrifying. The future looks promising. There’s so much that I don’t know, don’t get to know. So many more Big Scary Items waiting around the corner. Maybe some Big Awesome Happinesses, too.
I am a lucky middle-aged widow with a low-wage job and aging parents and two children who are heading into senior year and a shitload of medical debt looming, and I had a great birthday.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Phillipians 4:8