It was my birthday yesterday. It was a mundane sort of day. Work was more hectic than usual as I’m also now covering for someone who is away sick, and when only 5 people work for the entire business, you really feel that extra work. But I need the money and am lucky enough to love my job, so I don’t mind.
I woke at 6.57am, feeling slightly pleased with myself that I’d beaten my alarm … I take each small win where I can these days. And then I felt a bit tired. And then I realised that I didn’t feel any different to any other day, even though I’m a year older.
There was a day, four years ago, when I didn’t think I’d make it through that day alive, but I did, and here I am. There were no balloons. No man to spoon me awake. No-one to kiss me ‘Happy Birthday.’ My youngest, the night before, was full of excitement about how he was ‘going to do something for me in the morning’ but I poo-pooed it by saying I can’t eat before 10am, but that if he really wanted to do something special for me he could … (clean his bedroom? he proffered), but no, he could make me a cup of coffee and bring it to me in bed. A first.
He didn’t of course, and I wish I had just let him do what he wanted, cook whatever he wanted to cook, and just be grateful. But I didn’t, and so we both missed out and, like with every morning, I ended up making my own coffee.
I wanted to tell people I met at the shops it was my birthday, but no-one knows me, and no-one would care. Plus, it would be a bit odd wouldn’t it? Me telling random strangers it’s my birthday. I wondered if I looked like it was my birthday, but didn’t know what someone looked like on their birthday. Happy? Full of energy? Bursting at the seams? I just felt … very ordinary.
But ordinary is OK because I’m at peace with who I am. Finally. It took a long way to get to this stage, to find this peace, and some days are better than others, but I’m here and it’s great, if a little lonely sometimes. But I can compare it to my dark days ‘back then’ and know that anything is better than that, even loneliness.
I ate a skinny lemon muffin for lunch, and apple and grapes for a 3pm snack. And when it came to dinner, after my son and I deliberated where we should go that was special enough for such a grand occasion, we ended up driving round the corner for a KFC, that we brought home and ate separately. And then I took some headache tablets and was in bed by 7pm watching a murder documentary on BBC2 and eating a Terry’s Chocolate Orange.
And as banal and ‘just like any other day’ it seems, it was almost perfect. Dad dropped a card off that he’d clearly spent a lot of time choosing (I know this because he asked me if I liked the card this morning, a first), and it contained some scratchcards and lottery tickets because I know what he wants more than anything, is to know that even though I don’t have a man in my life, I’ll be looked after and OK when he’s gone – and money can do that. I don’t think he quite understands that I can do that on my own, but I know where he’s coming from. And I saw my brother and his wife who bought me a bottle of rose that I probably won’t drink, but I’m grateful nonetheless because they made the effort to come round and see me, and that means more than alcohol. At least it does on my birthday. And my best friend took the trouble to send me a bespoke card that was too rude to leave on the sideboard but let’s just say it talked about alcohol and cock, and we’ll leave it at that. (And yes, Dexter ended up seeing it anyway.)
And I Facetimed my eldest who’s in Bournemouth and got a tour of his new shared house and we made plans to see each other in two weeks, and he’ll give me his present then which he may, or may not, have already got. But either way, I got to talk to him on my birthday and that made me happy.
Because you see, the older I get, the less I want or need in life. I remember Mum being so happy when we did group family photos, and I never understood why it meant so much to her.
Now I do. And I want to tell her, “I get it now Mum!”, but she’s not here, so, like with most things, I just talk to her in my head and that gives me a little peace.
Men come and go or, in my case, never even show up, but I’m surrounded by love – my family, and my friends, in real life and virtually. You know Facebook told me 100 people had left a birthday wish for me yesterday. 100. It’s strange that it was exactly that number, and I’m sure it’s the universe telling me something, although I’m not quite sure what. But to know that I was in 100 peoples’ thoughts yesterday, even fleetingly, was really special. So if you were one of the people who reached out, thank you from the bottom of my broken and patched back together heart.
So that was my birthday. Quiet. Uneventful. And almost perfect.