Some weeks just gut you and leave you raw and exposed to the elements. This has been that type of week for me. I have been laid up battling ick since last Friday; so much ick that I actually refrained from going to my office all week for fear that I might pass out in the middle of Boston and no one would give a damn.
My first illness post-separation has been a real adventure. Thankfully, the estranged spouse has been as supportive as ever which while great also brought home a painful reality: that in the event of a true emergency in this new life, who would I call? My aging dad doesn’t have the ability to get to me, my son is off on the road more days than not and even my brother is often in transit. My closest and oldest friend in the world lives up in Minnesota and is currently working 40+ hours a week while raising a family. Even my old backup support, the woman known as my first mother-in-law, has recently relocated out of New England is currently probably wondering why the snow keeps following her in her new state.
I spent one very scary night alone in my tiny abode on the island with a racing heart, soupy head, fever and barely able to shuffle off to the bathroom. The next morning, I managed to pull it together long enough to give a sermon on Black Humanity before the ex picked me up and brought me back to the old family abode and took care of both our daughter and me.
It’s a week later and I am on the other side of this brutal bug with the realization that after a year of going nonstop, I was going to collapse from sheer exhaustion (as my healthcare provider warned me several months ago). Lesson learned, but a lesson that in the midst of great change has opened me up to more reflections.
Tomorrow is my birthday, and birthdays have always been very touchy for me because of my upbringing. The cliff notes version is that for the bulk of my childhood, birthdays weren’t days of celebrations in my household. It’s admittedly a sore point for me and one that I still struggle with, but my own views on birthdays shifted after my marriage when my then husband made a point of always celebrating the day and making me feel special. Of course in the post-separation world, there is a huge void in that category and one of the many ways that I am learning life shifts and it leaves you feeling frankly like a throwaway human being.
So I made the decision many weeks ago that I would celebrate myself and make my own plan for the day much like I decided on my 40th birthday to create my own special day and, frankly, invite any and all to share in the day with me. Now, I wouldn’t have thought much about sharing any of this in this space but a reader left a comment on this post that frankly hurt me.
Years ago I would have done anything to avoid admitting to being in a vulnerable and emotionally tenderized state but I am old enough now where I can admit to not having any shame in being open with both myself and even strangers.
Increasingly, my views and my words have made me a target in online spaces where spineless cowards feel emboldened to do an emotional drive by with words. I know…haters gonna hate; ignore them. In the end, I suppose that is my best course of action but these words struck a note with me: You were born?! Wow. So were billions of other humans. It seems so childish, a middle-aged woman making a fuss over her “born day.”
Frankly as a collective, we don’t celebrate people enough. We are never too old to feel appreciated and valued regardless of how old we are. A few weeks ago here in Maine, there was this sad story of a lady found dead in her home after her neighbors not noticing her missing for two years. How do you live in a small town and no one notices that you just vanished? That means for two birthdays and other holidays, no one noticed that this woman who had been, by all accounts, a gifted musical teacher before her retirement…was just gone.
I don’t want that to be my fate, I don’t want that to be anyone’s fate. Yet in this hyperconnected world sometimes it feels like we are moving further apart instead of closer and the new reality of not having a built-in mate has brought that home to me in a very painful way. When we strive to be authentic, it seems there are those who rejoice in cutting us down, never realizing that words can be weapons. Yet, as a writer I take those words, catch them in my hand and turn them into something that can be hopefully used for good.
So on this weekend, I celebrate another year of life because I know all too well that the next day is never promised. I strive to find some joy in each and every day and trust me the other day, breathing freely from both nostrils was quite joyous. More importantly as I enter my 43rd year of life, I hope to find joy in the presence of others because this new stage of life is teaching me to value human connections far more than I ever have. After 20 years of companionship, sometimes the silence of this new life, while healing in many ways, is also the loneliest feeling ever.
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