Well, since the last time we met here in The Bee, I’ve had a birthday. And for the fourth year in a row, I was sick. That’s right – stuck in bed, feeling like junk, having a piece of cake as an 8 p.m. afterthought at my kitchen table with filthy hair and pajamas still on from that morning. Hey, last year I had pinkeye … so this year was a step up.
You know what? It was fine. (I mean that.)
For years, I’ve been inexplicably passive about my birthday. (This coming from someone who used to celebrate an entire week!) In recent years, my husband has done his due diligence with “What do you want for your birthday?” inquiries. Each year, I react the same way: like I don’t even understand the question. I say, “I don’t really want anything.”
Before you start telling me what an idiot I am, here’s my defense: What I wanted, what I always want these days, cannot be wrapped up. Instead of presents, I want presence from those I love the most. I also want presence from myself.
These last few weeks, I’ve been running on empty. My own mother will tell you that I always run on empty, but these past few weeks have been especially depleted. With the forthcoming launch of my first book (out April 4) and regular work and mom duties, I’ve been beat.
Day after day, I’d tell myself, “I need a day to just relax,” and swore I’d take the day after the next day to do it. I never did – although, I did manage to squeeze in a quick massage at a local spot a few weeks ago. No rest for the weary often means that the weary will soon get slapped into stopping whether she thinks she has time for it or not.
It wasn’t until my recent “sick birthday” that I realized how thankful I was for being forced to lie low for an entire day. For 12 hours of daylight, I lay in my bed with a box of tissues, cough drops, my phone and my laptop. I scrolled social media (and then shut it down thanks to all the negativity blaring these days).
I called into work sick (it killed me to do it) and just let my sitter take the reins with my daughters while I sipped on fluids, blew my nose and dozed off between watching reruns of “Sex and the City” locked in my room. I had time to think, even if I wasn’t really thinking about anything all that productive.
I woke up to a spaghetti dinner, an ice cream cake from my husband and two little girls wielding homemade cards that said “Happy Birthday” and “Feel Better.” Wow, what a drama. Poor Mommy? Nonsense.
That’s what I needed (presence from myself) and that’s what I wanted (presence from those who love me). I’ve now come to expect my birthdays to yield much-welcome respites of rest and reflection, rather than wild celebrations – even if getting sick is the only way to make the rest and reflection happen. And I’m absolutely OK with it.
You can’t slap a bow on stuff like that.