I turned 62 yesterday, which in normal times is not a birthday that would be particularly memorable. But these are not normal times.
I woke up early on my birthday, and for the first time in weeks, I didn’t immediately remember that we’re in the middle of a pandemic that has my area in an indefinite lock down. I even forgot my current personal worries. For just a moment, life seemed normal and good. Which made it all the harder when reality hit, and my mood took a definite nosedive.
But it was still a fine Spring day, and my phone began beeping with texts and calls from friends and family wishing me a happy birthday. My son and his wife had a gorgeous basket of flowers delivered, and my daughter and grandson dropped by with gifts. My husband gave me lovely roses, a cake and several cards. (Including one from our dog, Finn, with a note from Finn explaining that between the shelter-at-home order and his heart worm treatment, he wasn’t able to shop for my gift this year…..but hoped that he would be allowed to have a slice of my birthday cake anyway.)
Friends left gifts of wine and flowers on our doorstep, then lingered in the front yard for a chat while I stood on the porch. It was so good to see their faces for the first time in weeks, and I can’t begin to say how much I appreciated their thoughtfulness. Later, my husband got take-out food from one of our favorite restaurants and then let me beat him at three straight card games. I know he let me win, because he has the ability to remember every single card that has been played and to calculate the odds accordingly, while I’m doing good to remember what game we’re playing. When I get tired of losing so much, I play solitaire…and cheat, just so I can experience the “thrill of victory” for a change.
In more ways that I have time to list, my birthday was a good day. But I would be lying to say that it was a completely good day, because no matter how hard I tried not to think about them, my worries and frustrations never totally went away. I also felt a bit guilty for not feeling 100% happy in the face of so much love and support.
Sometimes it’s so hard to allow ourselves to be human, and to feel anxious, afraid or frustrated, or any of the emotions that come when our world has been turned upside down and no one knows what the future will bring. But if this year’s birthday celebration has taught me anything, it’s that it’s not only possible to feel conflicting emotions during these times, but that it’s perfectly okay.
We’re allowed to feel grateful for the support of our friends and family and still be worried about the millions of people who have suddenly found themselves unemployed. It’s okay to be afraid of catching this virus and still long to gather with our loved ones. Life these days is nothing but a mixture of contradicting emotions, and I think that’s actually a normal response to these abnormal days in which we live.
So when I think back on my 62nd birthday, I think I’ll remember a lot of things. I’ll remember feeling frustrated as the weeks of sheltering at homes stretches into months. I’ll remember the love of friends and family who went out of their way to make my birthday a special day. I’ll remember feeling so very sorry for those who are suffering from this virus, in any form. But mostly, I’ll remember that even in these difficult times, lots of good things still happen and lots of good people are trying very hard to help others cope. Which means that in all the important ways, this was a memorable birthday after all…..