Birthdays. For better or worse, they tend to be a time of reflection and introspection. And sometimes, that introspection doesn’t feel completely comfortable.
Today I have a wonderful post by my friend Missy of Wonder, Friend. She just had a birthday, and she’s feeling adrift. Take this little peek into her here-and-now and see if you’ve ever felt the same way. I’ll bet you have.
I turned 39 last weekend, and it was no big deal. People joked, throwing out all the standards.
Thirty-nine and holding, huh?
I guess this is your last birthday!
I laughed along, telling everyone what I thought was the truth: birthdays don’t wig me out. They’re an excuse to eat (way too much) cake, and celebrate with friends and family. Birthdays are not a reason to get philosophical. Or to mope about gravity’s unrelenting grasp.
I’ve only had one birthday – as an adult – that felt big: number 33. It wasn’t the number that got me (what kind of weirdo gets hung up on 33?), but instead it was a feeling of being adrift. The previous year resulted in motherhood, a new city, and the loss of my income. I was a stay-at-home mom in a new place, with no friends, and not nearly enough to do. Thirty-three arrived with an air of panic, a notion of oh, crap, is this what it is now?
That feeling didn’t last long, thankfully. I began to find my way, settling into our home and my role as mom. I considered The Great Panic of 33 a blip, an oddity in the life a girl (okay, fine, a woman) who takes birthdays in stride.
Six years later, my stride is broken.
On the eve of my birthday, it’s fair to say I was sucker punched by an awareness that, once again, I’m untethered. I felt raw when I pulled up the covers, as if even soft bedsheets could abrade my skin. What the hell? Where did this rawness come from?
I brushed aside the feelings, tried to ignore all the words pinging around my head. What did you accomplish this year? How much time have you wasted? Ugly words. I shut down the negative talk, and went about my weekend. Mostly.
Over the next 48 hours, through cupcakes, balloons, and hearty cries of Happy Birthday, Mommy!, periodically my heart would flutter or my stomach would drop. By Sunday night I understood where all of these feelings were coming from…
I am broken, and I’m adrift. Again.
The last year didn’t bring major changes, at least not obvious ones. But things are changing. Things keep moving, so fast. I don’t have babies anymore, and in 18 months – a mere sneeze and you’ll miss it time frame – I’ll have two school-age kids. I’m starting to get my free time back.
Not so fast with the hooray. It’s good, of course, this time to be someone other than mom. In between dealing with backpacks full of paper (Really, school, why so much paper?), driving to practices, doing homework, making meals (Really, kids, three meals a day? And snacks?), managing the laundry, and all that other stuff that comes with being an adult and a parent… In between that, I’ll soon have time to be me.
Whoever that is.
I’ve dallied in me-ness over the last seven years. I write a little, I train for triathlons and running races, I still read books that don’t have pictures. But I feel… I feel like I have used this mom gig to avoid, well, me. The boys will forever hold the biggest pieces of my heart, the very best parts of me, but they can’t be my island.
So. Here I am, at 39, no longer welcome in this ocean of my own creation, adrift in complacency. Or is the busy-ness of motherhood that I’m floating in? Both, perhaps. My children, my motherhood, they can no longer be my sea of excuses.
Now I must swim. I have no idea where I’m headed, and diving in scares me to death. Time to take one last deep breath, and… off I go.
Missy Stevens writes, blogs, and fails at homemaking in Austin, Texas. She’s a reformed social media addict, meaning she’s only on Facebook and Twitter part of every day now. You can also find her once a week or so on her blog, Wonder, Friend.