Last Friday was my 44th birthday. I like celebrating my birthday. The special attention, the presents, the dessert. What’s not to like?! I basically start talking about it a month in advance. Reminding Jim and the kids that my birthday is coming up. Creating a weekly countdown. Distributing my wish list. You get the point.
I did all of those things this year, but instead of feeling excitement about my day, I felt off the entire week leading up to it, including a few bouts of anxiety.
I would describe my actual birthday as “fine.” As my old therapist said to me, fine is not a feeling. It wasn’t a bad day; it just didn’t go as I had envisioned. There were tears (Sybil), an interrupted nap (me) and an upset stomach (also me).
After some reflection this weekend, I think there are 3 things that contributed to my lack of birthday excitement this year. They really have little to do with my actual birthday and more to do with the period of life I’m in now.
ONE // COVID-19
Obviously 2020 has been different than anything we could have predicted at the beginning of the year. The beach is my happy place and last year we flew to San Diego on my birthday. This year air travel wasn’t an option (no judgment if you feel comfortable flying during COVID, but I do not).
While I don’t expect to go on a beach vacation every year, there just aren’t as many options in the midst of a pandemic to make a day special. We did go to an outdoor brunch, which was really nice, and got takeout from a delicious Thai spot I had wanted to try. All was not lost, but it isn’t the same as our pre-pandemic life.
TWO // BODY IMAGE
Getting older is hard. Until this year, I was able to control my weight by what I ate and/or working out. This is the first time in my life that doesn’t seem to work. At 44, I feel like I should have learned to be comfortable and celebrate my body in whatever form. But the truth is that I haven’t. And I don’t know what kind of person I want to be.
Do I want to watch what I eat to get to a certain goal weight? Do I want to indulge in treats knowing that will mean I go up a size in my jeans? I don’t know. All I can tell you is I don’t feel good about myself, which reflects in all areas of my life.
I’m embarrassed to admit that I care so much about the extra softness of my belly or the cellulite on my legs. For the first time in my life, I’m considering purchasing a thigh rescue anti-chafe stick! I keep reminding myself there are much bigger issues in the world right now.
It’s not only the extra weight that is bothering me. The braces I thought would be on for 6 months are coming up on a year. My nutrition isn’t as clean as it is at times and fluctuating hormones gave me a big pimple for my birthday. I wanted to give myself a manicure and pedicure during the week and never made the time for it.
THREE // MOTHERHOOD MILESTONES
This time of year is an emotional rollercoaster. Sybil’s birthday is four days after mine and this year she is turning 4. I look at her and wonder how my baby is turning 4. She is most definitely not a baby anymore. She’s closer to a kindergartener than she is a baby!
Speaking of kindergarten, Lawson is starting next week. Even though he won’t be going into a classroom for the foreseeable future, it’s still kindergarten. Again, I am left wondering how my little luvs are growing up so fast. He is excited and a little scared, but so ready to learn. I know he’s going to love it.
I have spent almost every moment with Lawson and Sybil for the past 5.5 years. So much of my identity is wrapped up in being their mom. I absolutely adore them and love being their mom, but as they get older I need to reclaim more of my own identify. Who do I want to be for the next 5-10 years? What would going back to work look like? Would I still be good at it? Is this what a mid-life crisis feels like??!
I keep reminding myself that it’s a privilege to grow another year older. To be healthy, especially this year. To have family and friends that I love.
So I plan to do more of what makes me feel good – working out, drinking enough water, getting outdoors, reading, and writing – while giving myself permission to feel sad or depressed. Just like life, birthdays are filled with ups and downs and that’s okay.
If you sent me a birthday message and I haven’t responded, it isn’t because I haven’t read or appreciate it. I just wasn’t in a great frame of mind to reply, but I’m making that a goal this week.
I hesitated to publish this post because I want it to come across as one big complaint. Rather, I want you to know if identify with any of what I’m feeling, you aren’t alone. It’s okay to miss our pre-pandemic life and turning another year older isn’t always fun. It is a blessing though and one that I’m grateful for.