As I approached my birthday, I told one of my dearest friends that the only thing I did not want was to be alone.
I had a rough breakup this year. I had hoped it was the kind of relationship that meant I would never spend a birthday alone again. Looking back, I can see that was never going to be the case, but at the time that is what I thought.
I don’t even think I could articulate why it was so important that I wasn’t alone. I was afraid of some kind of bad luck charm that would curse my year. Or if I didn’t have a momentous birthday it would reflect on who I am. There was some story I made up in my head, and I wasn’t even sure of what it was or what the root of the story was.
So this friend said that she would gladly celebrate with me and we made some plans for drinks. And then things went awry and she had to be in the hospital. I told her that I would love to come and just be with her.
And then it was the morning of my birthday I was thinking about the idea of being alone and I started feeling anxious. And when I felt that anxiety, I knew that was exactly what I had to do.
I had to confront this feeling of “I can’t be alone.”
I wish I could say that I loved being alone. I didn’t. But I didn’t hate it. I didn’t die. The Facebook messages saying “happy birthday” continued to roll in. Which felt ironic in a way. All these people that were sending me wishes and here I was sitting alone.
I picked up some delicious and fresh eggplant parmesan from the nearby market and my mom had made me an individual sized cherry pie the day before and I saved it for my birthday. That was lovely. I had that with a nice big glass of wine and The Queen’s Code. And I ended the night writing reflections and goals for my year ahead and also purging some things that I no longer needed.
While these are activities that I do love doing and I needed to do them, it’s not exactly how I wanted to spend my birthday. I would have rather been out with a friend talking about our lives over margaritas.
But the fact that the idea gave me anxiety was a strong enough reaction that I couldn’t ignore it. I couldn’t NOT do the thing that scared me that much. And one thing I want for the year is to confront these stories I am clinging to and prove to myself that they are just made up and worthless. Spending a birthday alone does not mean that your year will be less than. It is not bad luck. It does not mean people don’t care about you.
The one treat I gave to my self was a massage. The muscles in my back are a tight and a stubborn mess. He had to do a lot of work, and it’s probably just scratching the surface to fix those problems. It was not comfortable or relaxing. I did a lot of deep breathing to let oxygen into the muscles as he really worked. It was uncomfortable but I definitely stood taller with less pain in my normal places, and I can see the benefit after just one uncomfortable session.
It was exactly what I needed.
And at the end of the solo birthday experiment, there were no major revelations, no earth-shattering breakthroughs. But, it didn’t kill me. It didn’t mean I like myself less. Or that people don’t care about me or don’t want me around. It doesn’t mean that I am less important or that I am going to have less of a great year.
In fact, I think it may point to the opposite.Like the massage, the more willing I am to be uncomfortable the more I am able to grow and stretch. And that is what I am all about. Growth. Becoming the best version of myself. Becoming a person beyond what I could dream of being.
I just have to lean into the discomfort and see what is there.