I've given myself some leeway on my own birthday breakdown, because it's been quite a year to process – many losses, many lessons, and I don't like barfing my guts into the public until I've had a bit of time to digest. The annual (or not-so-annual) “what have I learned this year?” question is still in question form – although I know my subconscious has been doing its best to prevent me from exploring it, and the last week has been quite a battle, as that pendulum swings between “I deserve a week off, it's been so busy” and “why are you taking a week off when there's so much to do?” and everything in between. Ah, I digress (did I mention I've become more suspicious that I have ADHD on top of my C-PTS? My therapist insisted it was just similar C-PTS symptoms, but even after I've “graduated” from therapy with a bucket full o' healthy coping tools, I'm finding the ADHD overlap is still un-overcome-able.). There I digress again. Ahem…
Back to the reason why I opened up this blog page to begin with:
Today, I celebrated the birthday of one of my honourary nieces. We'll call her B. A brilliant and energetic and compassionate young woman who I see as having recently sprouted her wings, ready to explore the many paths available to her. Cue “We've only just begun” (yes, I'm showing my age in just that song quote…).
I couldn't remember what age she was turning, so I asked my sister-friend (her mother) and was told she was turning 26. Ah, 26. So young, so unfettered, so full of potential and freedom and…
HOLD. THE. DAMNED. PHONE.
Where was I the day I turned 26? I was in the middle of my first divorce. I was trying to dig myself out of all the overcompensation my now-ex-first-husband and I had invested in to prove we were loveable and capable grownups.
I was jumping into the arms of the first man (and later my second ex-husband) who showed any interest, to prove to both my mother and myself that I was a loveable and capable grownup.
For those new to my story, keep in mind that my first marriage ended about a half a year after my then-husband threatened to kill me (for the horrific sin of keeping my promise to drive my mother home from the celebration after her choir concert) and then quit couple's therapy after our first session – it took him a while to agree to go – when the therapist didn't think that was such a good thing for him to do. My mother, however, kept insisting that the reason for the end of our marriage was because I was a flaky “artiste”, and that we would live happily-ever-after if she paid for a new fence for our too-big-and-unmanageable dog in our too-big-and-unmanageable house – that she had mortgaged to us at over double the current bank rate, as a “favour” to help get us started, not that I'm bitter. Sadly, I took the bit about my not being a proper human being to heart, although both my ex and I agreed that a fence wasn't going to solve a freaking thing. And yeah, she had worded the private mortgage in such a way that I was 100% responsible for it after we split, and she didn't cut me any favours even after I had to sell at a loss and also pay rent on an overpriced basement apartment as well as the mortgage on a house I didn't own, not that I'm bitter… ahem… where was I? Ah, yes…
I spent my 26th birthday alone in my kitchen, chain-smoking DuMaurier-s and drinking way too much scotch while listening to the finale from Shostakovich's Symphony No.5 on repeat, and thinking (or maybe hoping) my life was over. Good times, good times…
It's these moments, though, when I can step out of the story for a bit, and contrast how I see 26-year-old B versus 26-year-old Me, and finally have some compassion for that person-of-yore. How lost was I? How unloved did I feel? How unsupported did I feel? Yes, I was angry – of course I was, I was being treated crappily by everyone who was “supposed” to love me. (Hence the Shostakovich – a ridiculously cathartic piece of music, especially when sung along with, with my NSFW lyrics!)
And it's hard not to go to “what could I have done, where could I have been, had I had the support I needed back then?” [Next-morning edit: I just saw a post that said “What is a privilege that people act as if it isn't?” and someone responded “supportive parents”. Oof…]
Because it's not like B hasn't had her share of life traumas – not my story to tell, but trust me, she's gone through a lot by 26 as well. But she's spent her entire birthday weekend surrounded by people who truly love her, including her adoring mom – who has of made her own share of mistakes and regrets and imperfections, because THAT'S WHAT HUMANS DO, but who I know for a fact would jump into Mama Bear mode if anyone, for any reason, threatened to harm a single hair on her body, let alone her life. Tonight alone, B was celebrated by her mom, two brothers, one bestie and three doting aunties (and three others there in spirit but unable to be there in person), all in awe of the person she has become, and ready to pick up a sword against anyone looking to damage her wings – although with every faith she can take care of herself, as well.
Yes, I wish I had the same kind of 26th birthday – of course! But damn, it fills my heart with such joy that she is able to be her true and glorious self, and that I, her mom, and the other aunties are able to bear witness to that glory. Not my stories to tell, either, but her mom and other aunties have also been through a lot to get to this moment. This is the sisterhood. This is the auntiehood.
This is the love of the two friends who recognized my stupid freaking social anxieties and let me know they were at the restaurant, so it was okay to go in. This is also the love of me after waiting 10-minutes-seemed-like-two-hours before realizing they were holding space for me at the wrong restaurant… oops! This is the love of the universe that shows us all that even when the people who are “supposed” to love us are incapable of showing that love in healthy ways, we are still 1000% loveable, we just have to stop looking for love in the wrong (but oh-so-familiar) places, and find the people who will hold space for us, even if in the wrong places. 🤣
What have I learned this year?
I've learned that there will always be shitty people doing shitty things in this world (see: Slanderpalooza, AWOL contractors, and other crappy events of the past year), and no amount of tapdancing will ever be “enough” to prevent that. I've learned that there's no way of avoiding deep loss (see: Macie, and the deaths of many people close to the Sisterhood). I've learned that I have to stop making excuses for people not doing what they're supposed to do (see: the contractors who tore down the wrong retaining wall and destroyed a whole bunch of other stuff and then disappeared, or a certain no-longer-a-board-member who turned into a liability and make-work-project because I didn't want to upset them earlier).
I've learned that putting my needs at the forefront (still not at “first” but baby steps!) may piss some people off, but the world does not explode, and I'll get a better night's sleep.
I've learned (again) that I'm resilient, and loved, and other people's lies about me are just that.
I've learned that even a broken heart (see: Macie) is able to love fierce again (see: Laila). And that even when things are confusing A.F. and scary and weird, a little bit of love and patience can create miracles (see: Laila and the Catpulets, Laila and food anxiety, Laila and strangers, Laila and the crate, Laila and the leash, etc.).
I've learned (again) that trusting my gut instead of trusting the excuses I make for others is always a good thing (see: the contractors who fixed the damage caused by the AWOL destructo-contractors, made my yard a place I like to spend time in, and even became fans of my music).
I've learned that there are people (see: Sisterhood, and many others) who will love me because I'm me, warts (and social anxieties) and all, and I don't even have to try.
What do I want to learn in the coming year?
Goddamn it, I want to learn how to let myself eat dinner before Cinderella-ing myself into the wee hours, and get to sleep at a decent freaking hour.
I've come a long way with many things in recent years, but no matter how hard I try, I still am forcing myself to “earn” the right to nourish myself. Heaven forbid I just eat because I'm hungry. Or sleep because I'm tired. Nope, the checkboxes apparently still need to be checked before I “deserve” such “luxuries”. Bloody freaking hell.
Oh, look at that – I think I just completed my own birthday breakdown, despite the title of this post.
There is still quite a bit percolating. I anticipate a longer post at some point. But at this moment, cheers to 26-year-old B. And cheers to 26-year-old Me, who was doing the best she could.
Thank freaking Christmas I haven't smoked in decades. The Shostakovich and single malt, however… but… as an enjoyable moment, not on endless repeat!
And now, I'm going to get back to my beasties and maybe bed at a semi-decent hour (for me?). Happy birthday, B. Happy Belated-Birthday-Breakdown, Me.
I give you Cadeau, Gráinne, Laila and Jasper.