I recently celebrated another birthday. As I shared on my last post, My 5+th birthday was a quiet one; my daughter and I enjoyed a wonderful lunch before she had to go to work, and I returned home to a quiet afternoon and evening of knitting, reading, and life as usual.
This birthday was a bit more challenging than most before it. It wasn't nearly as difficult as the one I endured back in 2010. I was immersed in a cloud of memories accompanied by "this time last year everything was fine" and "in 8 weeks from today last year, our lives changed forever" as I neared the 1-year mark since my husband's diagnosis with stage IV cancer. I was, of course, still struggling to come to grips -- any semblance of grips -- with his death less than 9 months before. If that weren't enough, I had just learned I'd gotten a much-wanted full-time job (a bright spot that I am still so very thankful for) in a city 2 hours away; as a result, I was struggling to sort and pack our possessions from almost 25 years of marriage and sell our rural home and acreage in a very depressed real estate market and economy. No, this year's birthday came nowhere close to that, as I marked in my gratitude journal on May 22, 2014. But it was still more challenging than the 3 birthdays between the two and any other I could remember.
I knew even before the day arrived that it might be difficult. I could feel a sense of unease and sadness, even a bit of apprehension, steal over me a few days before my birthday. I tried to ward it off. I bought some chocolate ice cream and indulged myself a bit, watched a few of my favorite funny movies, and even popped in the dvds for two whole seasons of "Big Bang Theory". Even the movies and show that typically cause me to laugh out loud, sometimes until tears fill my eyes, only elicited a few forced smiles.
I plugged along and the big day arrived. On automatic, I went through my morning routine and got ready for lunch with my daughter. Her arrival immediately made my day brighter. The beautiful card with a beautiful card with a touching personal message and a totally-unexpected gift (for Christmas and my birthday since I've moved to the area, she buys 2 sets of a ticket package of 5-6 St. Louis Cardinals games, and we attend those games together throughout the season, so I'd already received my birthday gift at Christmas) were icing on the cake. We enjoyed lunch at one of my favorite restaurants, and then she left to go to work.
Not long after she left, the blues creeped in to take her place, and I finally just gave in and had what my Grandma L. called "a good, cleansing cry". Then I squared my shoulders, sat down at the computer, and journaled about my feelings, hoping to identify the root of my sadness. Those roots became apparent right away.
First, cliched though it may be, slipping past the halfway mark in a decade so that I'm now "pushing" the next decade mark (I steadfastly refuse to type the numbers and leave you to figure it out if you haven't already. lol) saddens me. It's not the number itself; it's what it represents. I'm just now starting to get myself together and figure out what I want to do and make the first of what I hope are several (many?) changes to create the life I dream of, and all the while it's at the back of my life that, in truth, my time here on earth is limited. Oh yes, I know that's true for anyone. Trust me, I know. But when you reach the age I am, even if I elude some unexpected catastrophe, I am still marching steadily into the last 1/3, at best, of my life.
My son's absence was also tugging on my heart. I hadn't seen him since before the New Year and, with the time difference and his work schedule -- around 80 hours a week on a consistent basis), it was difficult to even Skype or chat with him via Facebook the 3+ months I was in England. He called me, of course, and we had a wonderful chat, but oh, how I missed his presence that day.
I think of my husband and miss him every day; as is always true on a holiday or special day of some kind, I missed him even more on my birthday. Thoughts of past birthday surprises and dinners kept sneaking into my head, and I even indulged for a few minutes in imagining what we would be doing on my birthday this year if he were still alive. Silly, perhaps, to someone who has never lost a spouse or child, but it's hard not to wonder. It's hard, too, to look to the future and see more birthdays spent without our loved ones.
Sheer loneliness also weighs heavily on me.
The experts are right. Holidays and other special days can be difficult, sometimes overwhelmingly so. But they eventually pass; after all, once sleep is factored in, a day consists of about 17 hours of wakefulness that will, without fail, eventually become nothing more than a memory.
And that's exactly what happened. Those 17 hours passed, and finally I let Dazey out while I brushed my teeth and got ready for bed. A few minutes later, I slipped under the covers and turned off the bedside lamp. Another special day behind me, a new milestone to mark my journey through life. And I made it. I may not have run that day's race with joy and wild abandon, and I may have reached the finish line feeling pretty darned depleted, but I reached it. And some days, that's really all that matters.