35yrs ago, at 9:20pm on June 2, 1980, I was born. My mom has reminded me of this for the last several years because her impulse is to call me at the actual time that I was born, but doesn’t want me to think that she’s forgotten my birthday. I think it was on my birthday last year, in the morning, that she sent me a text in the morning and I immediately called her to tell her that as my mother, I am not open to accepting a text from her on my birthday. She was quick to tell me that she wanted to actually call me at 9:20pm but didn’t want me to think she forgot so she was sending a short text that morning with the full intention to call later. With that explanation I let her off the hook.
I have noticed something among my friends that approach seemingly “landmark” birthdays. Ten years ago I had a friend that upon turning 30 experienced a lot of anxiety about it. He had this overwhelming sense of responsibility that he should already have a house for he and his wife, be supporting them both financially and maybe more that I can’t now recall. What I could not understand was how he could feel that when he and his wife were working together on a cruise ship as performers, traveling to Europe, the Mediterranean and the Baltic and getting paid to do what they loved to do. I have another friend who turned 40 this year and when I asked him how he felt about it he shared with me that he thought he would be in a different place in his life by the age of 40, in a meaningful relationship, working in a field he was passionate about, among other things. He was feeling his own anxiety about entering a new decade of his life. I again found it difficult to understand on either a logical or emotional level what he was feeling. And since the journey of life is unique to the person living it, I would never fully be able to understand why they felt the way that they did. Where I made a judgment was in that it seemed to me that they were focused on things they felt they were lacking, based off of a formula created by society.
Leading up to my 35th birthday I was unemployed, single and I didn’t care. Two weeks before my birthday I started to miss the sound of my dad’s voice. For some time I had a voicemail saved on my phone that he had sent me months before he would die. When I saved it, I didn’t’ know the importance it would hold to me later. It stayed saved on my phone for a while until it was lost. I’ve wanted to hear that message on more than one occasion in the past year, yet now I had a stronger yearning to hear it. As dramatic as this may sound, that was the first movement of an emotional avalanche that would hit me the week of my 35th birthday. I began to feel emotionally disconnected and even indifferent to my life. I was simply going through the motions. The weather forecast for June 2, 2015 was cloudy with rain all day and a temperature in the 50’s. It is the coldest and wettest birthday I ever remember having and my mood for most of the day mirrored the weather. I have described that day as the sharpest of double-edged swords. With each loving text and phone call wishing me a “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” I was simultaneously saddened by the thought that with all of the wishes I’ll get, none of them will come from my father. I do not share this to elicit sorrow or pity from you; I do so to paint as vivid a picture as I can about how I was feeling. What is so interesting to me is that I knew that this birthday would be a very difficult one for me and I wasn’t sure how to approach it. In years past, I have celebrated with friends and yet I knew that for the actual day, I would not be in a place for that.
I spent the day in a heavy emotional fog that was a combination of joy, sorrow, missing and appreciation, just to name a few. As difficult as it was to feel all that I was feeling, it was exactly what I needed for that day. I gave myself the gift of honoring what I was feeling and not apologizing for it and in doing so I was able to get through it. We are all quite clever and resourceful when it comes to finding ways to avoid emotional vulnerability and there is no fault in that. Avoidance is often necessary to find healing or even to just find a way to keep going. And for me, avoidance served a great purpose for quite some time and now its work is done. The next level of work for me to do would involve my therapist, whom I met with this week. I wanted to see her so that I could address the loss of my father as well as that of an almost 2yr relationship that I ended last year. I have spent the last year distancing myself from being vulnerable and I am now in a place that I want to embrace that vulnerability again.
I recently started reading a book by Dr. Brene Brown titled “Daring Greatly”, in which she writes about “How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent and lead.” The continued and varying ways that I miss my father, the reading of this book and my meeting with my therapist again are all pieces of a puzzle that I am putting together in order to move to whatever my next stage/level/phase of grief might be.
I have two closing thoughts I’d like to share with you. One is a lovely note that a friend sent to me after I shared with her how I was feeling about the grief I’ve been dealing with. “Grief never really ends. But it changes. It’s a passage. Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith…It’s the price. Because you loved.”-Unknown.
The second is; ‘Life seldom looks how we want it to look, but as long as I am here it means I am LIVING it. I am love, I am thankful for each day and I take responsibility for the energy I put into this world.’-Me
May this find you in good health and spirits.