I celebrated my birthday a week ago. Since then I’ve had a lot of people ask me how it was and my response has either been the tongue in cheek “as good as it could possibly be given the world right now” or the more direct and more honest, “Highly emotional” It was weird. I’ll remember it forever. And I hope that the best case scenarios come to pass and I won’t have to have a “socially distant” birthday again next year.
I have felt so many feelings quite deeply recently. Part of me feels kind of weird to be celebrating at all right now. The world feels dark and I have been really struggling with anxiety and depression and the desire to try and shield my kids from that darkness but knowing that this is too big to really shut out, that this is something that will shape them and stick with them. Another part of me feels like this is exactly the time to be celebrating. I have been keenly aware of what a blessing it is just to make it to another year, draw another breath, celebrate another anniversary (soon!) with someone who I love being with even after months together barely leaving our small house (because even before official stay at home orders he was on paternity leave and I was being paranoid about flu season with a newborn… so we’ve basically been doing this since mid-february… we just added homeschooling to the mix a month later… which has made the exhaustion even more real than the newborn days…)
Last year was hard. I approached my last birthday with some foreboding joy- it had been such a great year the year before. Huge personal growth physically, mentally, emotionally. But as I approached a new year I felt nervous that I couldn’t possibly continue to progress so quickly, surprise myself in such pleasant ways, and I was nagged with the conflict over whether or not we’d have another child and how impossible that choice felt. I felt like our family wasn’t complete but I also dreaded the idea of facing another difficult pregnancy.
This year I approached my birthday in the middle of a freaking pandemic. With deep concerns about my friends and family staying safe and healthy. Wondering if, after a hard year last year, this year will be even more difficult. Daring to hope it will get better. Holding tight to my new baby and the rest of my immediate family and wishing I could hold my extended family and sweet friends just as tightly but settling for zoom meetings, Marco Polo messages, conversations through windows, and the occasional passing by while trying to stay 6 feet apart.
This is not the first or last time that there have or will be celebrations in a dark or weird or sad time. I had a pretty wonderful birthday celebration, all things considered. I had cake for breakfast and handmade cards from my kids, a surprise drive-by parade of family and MOPS friends, my husband had organized some surprise birthday videos, I got to watch a special Parks and Rec reunion show, all amazing! I felt really seen and oh so lucky to have the community I do, even while we are physically apart. I wanted to ignore and skip my birthday this year. I’m so glad my loved ones wouldn’t let me.
One of the things I keep thinking about his how difficult this time is for anyone losing a loved one. With the ban on group gatherings and travel being a danger, people are having to delay funerals or have them over zoom. I think about a few years ago when my grandmother passed away what a comfort it was to see so many people at her memorial, a reminder of the full life she led and the ways she made a difference. It is hard to think that a funeral is one of the “blessings” we have lost during this time- it is certainly not a blessing I would have counted before, but I suppose there’s a reason they are sometimes referred to as a “celebration of life”
So I’m trying to accept the disparate emotions I’m feeling in everyday life and I’m also trying to celebrate life in the daily actions- laughter with my kids, feeling well enough to get back to yoga, the slooooow miles as my body remembers what it is like to run again. One peculiar thing about right now is that ever since I read that one of the more mild symptoms of COVID19 that has been showing up even in many otherwise “asymptomatic carriers” is the loss of smell, I have been noticing and cataloguing smells I have probably never noticed before. It has given new meaning to stop and smell the roses. I have been savoring the scents of all the home cooking we are doing. And all the new baby smells are of course part of our daily life too (the good and the ugly!)
So with all that in mind, I am holding on to what joy I can for the rest of this month’s celebrations- Mother’s Day, my anniversary, family birthdays, long distance baby showers, we might even try to DIY a kindergarten graduation, (though part of me is still hoping we can reach a safe enough point this summer that we can do the real thing- naive as that may seem…) I hope you can find some ways- big or small- to celebrate as well.