About six months ago…
I’ve already written a bit about how this milestone birthday hit me — it is, after all, included in the title of this blog.
I am a Libra, in love with being in love, quick to fall. You’d think I’d know better by this time in life, yet there I was, falling again for the distant and unavailable man in Chicago, falling faster and harder than any rational, reasoning soul ought. It was as though everything out of his mouth was customized especially for a sucker like me!
Meanwhile, as my birthday approached, I was despairing my not having yet attained the stature or status in life that I would have like to have claimed for myself. The successful career and marriage I’d imagined for myself had eluded me — in fact, I had just that week interviewed unsuccessfully for a new role. I had envisioned I’d be spending my upcoming big day in France or Italy with the love of my life. Or, barring that, a poet.
I experienced some incredibly ugly feelings, a range from self-doubting and unworthy to angry, hateful and outraged. The best I could describe it was “prickly,” like a porcupine, as though anyone who came too near was in danger of me flaring some fierce quills. While my friends insisted on taking me out to celebrate my birthday, I was in no mood to inflict my toxic self on anyone.
I remember thinking that, if Chi-guy had been feeling anything like this that last time I’d seen him, no wonder he didn’t want to get close to me! He had been pretty low at that time, and what I was experiencing gave me greater empathy and opened me to be more forgiving. We had continued to be in contact, loosely — in fact, he had just texted me a very hot photo! After the attention I had paid to his birthday, I wondered what he might do for mine.
On the big day, I dragged myself to the store for a new outfit — dress and heels — to wear out on the town. As I shopped, I started to get excited for my night out and spending time with my girlfriends. Yet my excitement was muted, like being as happy as you can be when you’re depressed, which isn’t particularly happy. Even as I got ready, went to dinner, bar hopped and danced with some amazing girlfriends, I was very down and emotional. Meanwhile, I put on a smiley face and plowed forth.
I’m not always sure whether I’ve found the right balance between “fake it ’till you make it” and being truly authentic. I genuinely believe that happiness and contentment can be a conscious choice. Sometimes this involves deciding to make the best of a situation, putting on a brave face and going out. But my gamely facade crumbled when one of my girlfriends told me how beautiful I looked, how much she admired me, and how fabulous and empowered a strong and sexy forty-year-old me seemed to be. (This was from a woman who has yet to hit this milestone birthday.) I immediately began to tear up, because I felt none of those things — and, by the way, thank you for pointing out this conflict between how I look and how I feel and, therefore, bringing up all my feelings of inadequacy.
Chi-guy, meanwhile, had not called, texted, emailed or sent a card. One girlfriend remarked, “Well, it’s better to know now.” (He left a message a couple of days later. Miss.)
While the intense malaise of my birthday lasted for about a week in total, I continued to feel low for several weeks — maybe months — following. That I was forty, in an unsatisfying job and without a loving partner in life were conditions that did not just evaporate, after all. And it was going to take some time and work to make the major transitions that would bring greater balance, peace and a feeling of forward progress.