On January 27th, I had my 37th birthday. And I had some…feelings…about it. Those of you who know me will know how much I hate having feelings. So I’m calling them out here and now: Feelings are liars. Yep, that’s right, I said it. This week we are talking lying feelings and birthday blues. Hope you brought your party pants.
I just turned 37. Though normally I don’t give a rat’s ass about my age (just a number, and all that) this year, the number hit me harder than expected. It’s not the big 4-0, it’s not even the halfway point in this decade. But by my calculation it’s the first foray into the “late” thirties; The days inching closer to when I can reasonably have a “midlife crisis”. My thirties have been wonderful. I don’t want them to end.
My thirties were when I started blogging, started running seriously, traveled solo and intentionally for long stretches of time. It was when I quit drinking and when I bought my first house. It’s been a time of great challenges, and awakenings, and wild, romantic love stories.
My thirties have been so wonderful, after the fog of my twenties, that I’ve relished each year. “I’m getting better with age,” I’ve said and meant it. But now we’re entering the final chapters of this stage, and after that it’s uncharted territory. And I’m afraid.
I’m afraid of passing time. A tiny voice inside me insists I’ll never make my dreams come true. That I‘ll die trying. Or maybe get too tired and give up. I worry that by the time I’m ready to take the plunge and make a baby—after said dreams have been fulfilled—that the opportunity will have passed me by. That the alternatives will be too expensive or invasive, or too much trouble, for me to hunker down and do it.
I’m afraid that I’ll put off committing to someone for so long that eventually I’ll be old and alone and have to change my own diapers. That I’ll end up one of the millions of Americans that contribute to the horrifying statistics in the so-called ‘Epidemic of Loneliness’. Or, that once I finally do decide to commit, I will realize shortly after that it was the wrong person. Both fates seem equally terrible.
I hate being one of those people who cares about age. I hate it because, up until now, I’ve been evangelizing getting older. “This shit rules!” But still, here I am, a basic bitch with Botox and a fear of the unknown. As human, and as culturally conformist as the next guy.
“I won’t work forever, you know.”
But my birthday blues weren’t limited to the two-digit number this year. In a trick of brilliant, shining human fuckery, my feelings told me not just that I was old, but that I was alone.
The week had been progressing beautifully. I’m in a bit of a motivated phase right now, ducks in a row, and all of that. I’ve been training for this ultramarathon and getting my financial life in order and felt really, really awesome. Until two days before my birthday where, seemingly out of nowhere, I suffered a pre-birthday breakdown.
I’m flying to see friends. For all of their things. Their weddings, their showers, their birthdays, their new homes, to help them. I’m driving, an hour and a half, three hours, one way, to see family, friends. Who’s coming to see me, I wondered. Who is meeting me halfway? Who is offering? Who has even thought of it? And by the time I have something deserving of notice—will anyone be there? Or will they all be too busy? Kids and homes and dogs and cats. Business dealings and precious family time.
It sounds resentful, I know. Sometimes it is.
And the truth is I haven’t invited. I haven’t planned. I haven’t asked.
(Do you guys know I hate asking for things?)
And the real truth, the one buried underneath this discovered truth above, is that I don’t believe they’d come. If I asked, if I planned, if I invited. And how much worse would resentment feel when I had good reason, and not just my lack of planning to blame? How much more would a physical blow hurt than one you’d imagined in your mind?
She was the saddest girl to ever hold a mocktail
Feelings are Liars
Don’t cry for me, I’m not anymore.
This wasn’t a revelation. It’s just something that happens sometimes. I look around me, and instead of the usual cozy warmth, and pride, and contentment for being on my own, I just feel alone. It happened when I flooded the house. And when I bought the house. And it happened on my thirty-fifth birthday. And when I couldn’t move the mattress. I suspect it will happen more times. It won’t be deadly, it will be difficult feelings over the span of a few hours.
I should say, too, that my feelings are liars. That I can sense their lies even while they wrap themselves around and through me. I have wonderful people in my life. I felt so loved, so special, so much joy on my birthday that it was almost too much.
I also don’t hate being alone. I created the life I’m living by all of my choices, stacked one atop the other. And honestly, I wouldn’t trade it. It feels really fucking good to do things on my own, to only eat what I want and watch what I want and spend my time however I please. To not have to consult someone else about scheduling. To not have to share finances or responsibilities. To not have to compromise—hardly ever. (I know this one will get me in trouble someday, so I’m just milking it while I can.)
The point is not that being alone is better than being paired up, or throupled up, or kid-ed up, or whatever other people are doing. The point is that for me, being a single adult person in this world is mostly pretty great. I enjoy the shit out of it 9 days out of 10. But every one of us, no matter how much we love our lives, will have a day or a week or an hour, where it feels like trudgery, or boredom, or blazing, infuriating bullshit. Or loneliness. We will know our feelings are liars, but we let them in anyway.
With any luck, we don’t allow them to take over. We let them in on a very short leash: A venting session to the one person who won’t judge us, a cry timer, set for 15 minutes. A self-indulgent blog post, to add to the growing pile.
I swear I love doing things alone.
Gratitude (at last)
I got over my birthday blues quickly. I had to, I had plans that evening. The friend I went out with caught me off guard with an unexpected and very thoughtful birthday gift. And though it was days before, and though our outing had nothing to do with my birthday, she insisted on treating it like a celebration. I felt like the most sniveling little whiney bitch for my earlier feelings, and also so happy to be in the company I was in, so lucky to have the friend that I have.
“I told you so,” eyes rolling at my past self.
This would continue; heightened feelings of remorse over my self-pity and joyful gratitude for all I’ve got.
The day before my actual birthday, I hopped a flight for a long weekend in Colorado. And for five days, my oldest and best friend made me feel splendid, joyful embarrassment over how much thought and care she put into making my 37th birthday special. It was truly one of my favorite birthdays of all time. (And I’ve had 36 others, so like, lots to compare.)
I feel so much gratitude for the amazing friends I have in my inner circle. I also feel it for the family members and acquaintances and work friends, people I’ve met on trips and people from my past lives. Everyone who reached out in any way to acknowledge my birth, in the sea of other January 27 Aquarians, quite literally made my day.
I have a whole post about How to Have The Best Birthday Weekend in Colorado, that I’ll be sharing in tandem with this one. You won’t have my bestie Corey to plan it for you, but you can still follow along. That post is much sunnier, so I hope you’ll check it out—for the sake of balance, if nothing else.
Best friends are the ultimate cure for birthday blues
The reality is birthdays are not a big deal. Millions of people are born every day. But for each of us individually, it is measuring something precious. It prompts us to think about where we’ve been and where we’re going. Maybe how long it’s taking to get there. Maybe how little time is left. Maybe we’ve blinked, and the endless possibilities once spread before us seem wilted, unlikely now. Maybe we feel a clock ticking, our bodies threatening “I won’t work forever, you know.” Maybe we’re comparing—to other people or to ourselves: Who we once were, who we thought we would become. Maybe it’s just astrology making us a little fucked up around our birthdays. How should I know? I’m just a blogger.
What I do know is that feelings are liars, birthday blues come and they go, and I wouldn’t change a single thing. (Unless I could be 36 forever.)
With all the gratitude and a very happy heart,
Thanks for stopping by.
I’ll see you next time. <3