Had a birthday recently. It’s one number away from a really big one. I’d like to go with that as the reason for the lumbering funk I felt creeping up, but I’d be lying.
In the weeks leading up to the day I felt a sense of excitement at celebrating my birthday with my new man, in a new home in our new life. A life I am very much enjoying. So imagine my surprise when the day dawned and I felt anything but celebratory. What I felt instead was a non-specific sense of dread.
Wait, did I not just say that I was happy? Yes, I did, so what could cause this malaise? It took me a couple of hours to come up with an answer, but I did, and it is not easy to talk about or admit.
The thing is, there are parts of my old life, the one that was not fulfilling, or satisfying, that I find myself missing. Though that life included things I did not enjoy, it was familiar. Like the sun rising in the east and setting in the west, everything and everyone was in its/their place. I knew my role as wife and mother and caretaker and did all of them to the best of my ability.
A year ago when I shook the snow globe of my life, nothing landed where it began. Mostly, and luckily, that was a good thing, but the part that included many of my friends and all of my (birthed and non-birthed) kids, was bad. And though I know the power of nostalgia over reality and that even if I’d never left my home or my husband, all those kids would have gone on to lead their own lives separate from me, which is as it should be of course, the realization of the sudden and obvious lack of them in my life on my birthday came as a terrible blow. I used to know who I was and what I meant, in the context of everyone I’d left behind. But when my circumstances no longer fit who I wanted to be, and I changed them, my sense of self had to be reinvented too.
This is not to say that given the chance, I would not make the same decisions I made a year ago, or that I regret where or who I am now, because I would totally pull that trigger again. Unfortunately knowing that doesn’t stop me from noticing the holes that that gunshot left.
By mid-day the malaise turned to full-blown sadness and I went to see a movie to distract myself. I had read the book “This Is Where I Leave You” and liked it a lot, so thought the movie would be good. It was, but being that it was about dysfunctional family members finding their way back to each other, it only underscored my current lack of membership in anything that resembled a family in the former/traditional sense.
As I sat in the theater parking lot afterwards I could not stop the tears. Nor could I answer the Happy Birthday phone calls coming in from my son, his wife, my nephew, or my brother and sister in law. It seemed like too much to have to explain why I was crying too hard to speak. Hell, even I didn’t fully understand my upset, or its intensity.
Again, I take full responsibility for my decisions and their consequences and probably 360 days a year will be fine to great with them, with the possible exception of major holidays. These are the details of my life altering decisions that I neglected to factor to my not so grand (or planned) plan. A damned good thing too, as if I had, I wonder if I’d have been able to leave in the first place.
Birthdays are not in and of themselves inherently good or bad but they do offer an opportunity to take stock and alter direction, when appropriate. As I said, right now in spite of missing my kids there isn’t much I’d do differently. I am grateful for things that I am and have and am learning.
Not the least of which is that regardless of where I am in life, things are going to change, some for the good, and some for the not so good, or at least comfortable. As long as, on balance, my life makes me more happy than sad, I’m going to maintain perspective, congratulate myself and keep moving. And it’s ok to cry over the stuff that hurts and makes me sad. It means I’m human and fallible and helps me realize and remember how lucky I am.