… when I’m sixty-four?
I loved my birthday. As a summer baby, it happened during the holidays, so there was an added magic to it. I felt so sorry for those classmates who had to go to school on their special day.
As a wife and mother I loved it too. My husband and I would either go out for a meal – usually accompanied by a bottle of Dom Perignon – or we’d have all the kids round at the weekend for a family meal.
And then… suddenly I found myself facing my 60th birthday alone.
Forty had been ‘interesting’. Fifty, even more so. Where had all the years gone so fast?
Sixty, alone for the first time in my life, was terrifying. Instead of celebrating, I felt old, discarded, useless and unloved.
Occurring less than 3 months after my husband had left me, I couldn’t face being at home for what I felt would be a mockery of a day I had always looked forward to. Instead, a very good friend invited me out to her place on the West Coast, where she made it as special as she could.
But it was hard. I remember having a panic attack in a store that day, my head light, my knees buckling under me, feeling that I was about to collapse in the linen aisle. Those panic attacks were pretty frequent in those early months.
The last few years haven’t been easy. It’s been a long slog of stress, grief, tears, sleepless nights, weight dropping off me, and my hair falling out. (Not completely, thank goodness.) But I was loved and supported by family and friends and they helped me get back on my feet. They will never know how much they meant – and mean – to me.
So here I am, four years later, returning to the West Coast to celebrate my 64th birthday – with a slightly added twist. I’m giving myself the amazing birthday present of buying into a house on the coast with another friend who found herself in a similar situation. It’s been a huge decision that’s taken a lot of soul-searching and discussions with my bank manager, but I believe it’s the right one.
What a difference to my birthday four years ago, and I wish – oh how I wish – I could speak to that vulnerable, frightened woman of four years ago and assure her that things would turn out all right.
Because they have – mostly.
A few friends recently commented that I couldn’t possibly want my old life back because my new one is so much richer… could I?
You know, a huge part of me wishes the divorce hadn’t happened. I loved my husband. I really did. Going through that betrayal and bullying and sense of abandonment was so very – very – hard, and the resulting break-up of my family – particularly the current situation with my son – breaks my heart. Hopefully time will heal most of the wounds such an ugly divorce inflicted on all of us.
But… the reality is my life IS so much richer now. I’m travelling. I’m sleeping. I’m working. I can finally focus on reading a book again. I’m putting all the weight that I lost back on. (Sigh) My hair has stopped falling out.
I’m finding ‘me’ again. And ‘me’ is an okay person. Even if today she is now older than she ever imagined she could ever be when The Beatles were singing that famous song all those decades ago.
Yes… today’s going to be a good day.
Hang in there. If you’re facing your first birthday after a divorce, it will get better. You’ll have to work at it, but it WILL get better.