It’s here. I couldn’t stop it from happening. For some reason that I don’t fully understand, I’ve been dreading this milestone birthday, and Superman didn’t show up to gallantly circle the earth at inhuman speed backwards to reverse time so I wouldn’t have to face the fact that I am now 40. Fuck you, Superman.
I woke up this morning and found myself continuously fighting back tears, despite the kisses and hugs and shouts of ‘Happy Birthday’ from my family. I didn’t want to appear sad or ungrateful in front of them, so I smiled and thanked them for their love. My son was so excited, and he dragged me by the hand downstairs because he wanted to present me with my birthday balloons. (My husband and I always set up balloons and decorations after the kids go to bed the night before their birthday, so when they wake up it’s like the birthday fairies visited to surprise them). But there were no balloons. Bryce looked confused. He stood there looking around the empty living room and said, “Mommy, where are your balloons?” He doesn’t understand that these things don’t just magically happen. All I could say was, “I don’t know, buddy.”
My husband could tell I was emotional and asked if everything was ok. I told him it was fine. He had this look on his face like he was disappointed that I wasn’t more excited to face the day. I know it sounds terrible, but I don’t feel like this birthday is any more special or different than any other, and the truth is that I wanted this birthday to be special. I’m 40. I suppose I was hoping for something out of the ordinary to help ease the transition. I didn’t get to do anything exciting for my 30th birthday. While all my friends were throwing themselves big, elaborate parties to celebrate entering their 30’s, on my 30th I was 9 months pregnant and having contractions. So I spent my birthday lying on the couch enjoying a celebratory pizza. I gave birth to my daughter four days later.
A group of my college friends and I had been planning a 40th birthday trip to Mexico. Since we all turn 40 this year, we picked a weekend to celebrate all of our birthdays together. Unfortunately, I had to cancel the trip for myself due to some financial constraints. The trip is coming up next month and I’m disappointed and sad that I’m not going. Most of my close friends live in other parts of the country, so I tend to feel isolated out here in LA. I’ve also been missing my family and the support and unity that come from living close to people who have known you your whole life. This is a big part of the depression I’ve been experiencing. I miss my people.
So this morning, as I faced the fact that I am now a member of the 40 club, I allowed myself to have a few minutes of privacy so that I could host my own little pity party. I cried and processed through my feelings. I cried for missing my best friends. I cried for missing my family. I cried for all the safe choices I’ve made and the risks I didn’t take in the last 40 years that have prevented me from doing much of anything that I could look back on and say, “Wow, that was so amazing and I can’t believe I did that!”
When I was finished feeling sorry for myself, I dried my tears and reminded myself that attitude is everything, and I have always been a badass, take charge kind of girl. I reminded myself that I am responsible for my own happiness, and it’s up to me, and only me, to change my attitude and embrace this new chapter in my life. Sometimes you have to be your own Superman. Sometimes the people who love you are so busy taking care of you in other ways, that they can’t foresee and anticipate all of your emotional needs. Sometimes you have to save your own day.
When I accepted this and embraced my new attitude, so many wonderful things happened. I had an amazing lunch with my dear friend and neighbor. She took me to a fantastic seafood restaurant down by the beach and we enjoyed several gourmet small plates, all made from fresh caught seafood. (One of the benefits of living alongside the Pacific Ocean). When I arrived home, there was a vase filled with beautiful multi-colored roses waiting for me, and my husband went to my favorite bakery to get a sampling of all my favorite cupcake flavors. The day was starting to look up.
That evening, my husband made dinner reservations for us at our favorite sushi restaurant. At first I was a little surprised that he chose this particular restaurant because we go there frequently. It’s sort of our go-to sushi spot and part of our ordinary routine. I thought to myself, “What’s special about that?” But my new attitude prevented me from suggesting we go someplace else. He made the effort to arrange our dinner and make the reservation, so I would appreciate his thoughtfulness and enjoy our date.
When we got to the front doors of the restaurant I started to slow my walk and hang back a little so he could go in first, but he was holding my hand and started to sling-shot me forward, sort of gently pushing me through the doorway. I started to turn around to tell him to stop shoving me, when out of the corner of my eye I saw several balloon bouquets…and a wall of our friends and family. I was sort of struck dumb as I stood there processing the room and looking at the excited faces of several people that I know and love. Some of my husband’s fraternity brothers were there with their wives and girlfriends. All of these men I love like big brothers, and their wives are amazing, too. My neighbor and friend who had taken me to lunch (and led me to believe she had other plans that night), was standing there with her husband, smiling radiantly. My godmother and her wonderful husband were there. Another very good friend that I hardly ever get to see because of her crazy work schedule came as well.
I was overwhelmed. I wanted to cry. Again. But this time the tears weren’t for self-pity, but for this amazing realization that all of these wonderful people were willing to go out of their way and come together to help make my day special. Some of them drove from over an hour away. I moved through the room, hugging and laughing and kissing all of these lovely people, and feeling happier than I can describe.
When I managed to make my way back to my husband, his face revealed so many emotions. I could tell he was happy, relieved, and proud. I hugged and kissed him fiercely, and thanked him for everything he had done to make my day so special.
Superman came after all. He may not have been able to reverse time and prevent me from turning 40, but he went out of his way to not only plan this party, but keep it so secret that he had to allow me to wallow in my self-pity in order not to spoil the surprise. He filled my day with my favorite flowers, desserts, friends, and love. And he didn’t forget the balloons, which were my favorite color, red.