I pulled on my running pants and laced my shoes tight. I removed my wedding rings, the only jewelry I wear, and left them on the counter. This is how I get ready to run in the morning, except I wasn’t going running. I was headed to the office. I grabbed my I.D., leaving all credit cards behind, and picked-up my mace.
I was ready, just in case.
Today is my birthday. Four years ago, I found myself eating at a Chinese buffet and drinking shitty wine, with someone I didn’t want to be with, on a work trip in the middle of nowhere, which was exactly where I didn’t want to be. That was a crappy birthday, but I think this counts as the most surreal one.
Humans tend only to remember the really good times, and the really bad times, and not much in between. When I try and think back to the last great birthday I’ve celebrated, the only ones that surface are the ones I most want to forget. I have to look at the photo of myself sitting on a pony in a Sunday dress, wearing stockings and white patent shoes, as a reminder they used to be fun. That was a long time ago.
When I woke up the day I turned 40, I was in complete shock I had made it this far. The surprise and wonder quickly evaporated, leaving the stickiness of weltschmertz behind. What had I been doing this whole time, peddling my little legs as fast as they could go, and not getting anywhere like a hamster on a wheel?
I need to either up my game plan for birthdays, or cut my expectations by two-thirds.
Usually I spend birthdays reflecting on my previous year, a little bit like New Year’s Day, just the 2.0 version for this Gemini. This year I haven’t thought so much about my own journey around the sun, but more about the mothership’s, who carries all 7.8 billion of us like a cosmic sherpa. The thought leaves me overwhelmed and fraught. This morning, I woke to helicopters and police sirens in the dark, then stepped out to witness a city, shattered. I will experience a mandated curfew this evening for the first time in my life.
How did we end up here? (Rhetorical…)
If I think about it too long, it makes my head hurt, and yanks at my heart.
I am grateful my family and friends are alive and well today, and every day this holds true. I’m grateful for Russ. He makes my life a lot better, and more fun, and sweeter with cake. For this birthday, that’s enough.
Below are photos taken today, June 1, 2020, in Washington DC.
**These last two photos show this man’s shelter, and what’s left of it now: Nothing.