My birthday is a few days away. I have always been one of those people who *loves* my birthday. I’d make sure EVERYONE knew it was my birthday, and I mean everyone. To the clerk at Safeway: “No thank you, I brought my own bags. But, by the way, today is my birthday.” I practically shouted it from the rooftops. For as long as I can remember March 30th has been like a national holiday. I make sure I have the day off from work, I go shopping, get a pedicure, or take myself out to lunch — historically it’s a Treat Yo Self kind of day.
That changed when my husband left. In February of 2017 I came home from a trip to Tanzania and, after my husband picked me up from the airport and dropped me and my luggage off, he packed up and moved out of our house after 25 years together. We had been in therapy for some time and things had been tense, but I was utterly and completely blindsided by the abrupt end to our marriage. He never came back, never even entertained the idea of coming back. That was a month before my 49th birthday. When March 30th rolled around I was not shouting anything from the rooftops.
The next year a dear friend went all out and planned an extravagant bash for my 50th. I was touched at all the effort she put into it and was truly humbled by my friends who came out to celebrate with me. Unfortunately, it was all overshadowed by the feeling of being alone in the world and having to navigate this next stage of my life all by myself.
The list of things I haven’t ever done alone is huge: bought a car, moved out of one house and into another, filed my own tax return, paid a cell phone bill, paid a property tax bill (and two supplemental bills that just appeared with no warning), set up and paid for my own health insurance, car insurance and homeowners insurance, sold a car, managed an adult budget, planned a vacation, purchased a major appliance, bought a power drill, used a power drill, dealt with a bathroom leaking so profusely that the subfloor was practically rotted clean through, cleared out a decades old hedge that dislodged from the side of my house and blocked my entire driveway and map out my finances to make sure I have enough money to support myself for the remainder of my days. I’m sure there’s more, but that’s all that comes to mind at the moment. You know why? Because at almost 51 I cannot remember what I did 5 minutes ago. My memory is shot. Is it age? Hormones? Stress? Probably all of the above.
What was I saying again? Oh yeah….it’s not that I did nothing during out 25 year relationship. We had a division of labor in our household. I managed everything to do with the kids: doctor appointments, dentist appointments, orthodontist appointments (with 3 kids just managing those appointments seemed like a full time job), haircuts, clothes shopping, school supply shopping, laundry, school lunches, being a room parent, scheduling and attending IEP meetings for my son with ADHD, driving to and from soccer, baseball, gymnastics, cheer and tuba practice, planning and throwing birthday parties, purchasing presents and driving to and from birthday parties, hosting and transporting to and from playdates, filling out field trip paperwork, chaperoning field trips, taking the dogs to the vet, buying dog food, buying groceries, making sure kids had what they needed for vacations and packing their suitcases, packing up bags of snacks and activities to make sure the kids were entertained on the airplane, breastfeeding each child for 1 year, waking up in the middle of the night for feedings since none would take bottles….. I think I’ve made my point. But at almost 51, and with 2/3s of my children out of the house, I have a lot of catching up to do on real world adulting. And it’s scary. And overwhelming. And I wish I had someone to help me navigate it.
But, I digress. This started out about my birthday. So we’ll get back to that: my birthday is in 4 days and I will likely spend it alone. My older two kids are away at college (and will stay there because, thankfully, we did not pay someone to take their SATs for them, nor did we bribe someone to get them in). And my youngest son is flying to Boston the day before my birthday to attend a video game conference with his sister.
I know that I have no right to feel bad about this. I am healthy, I have a roof over my head, a car to drive and food to eat. I have 3 healthy and happy children and am relatively healthy myself. I have family and friends have not had to deal with racism or sexual assault. Those are all biggies, I truly do know that, I just wish I could get excited about my birthday.