“I had a dream last night that I was cleaning up,” I told my partner yesterday. I live a truly thrilling life when housecleaning shows up in my dreams, do I not? “And as I moved some things in the bedroom, I uncovered a pile of wrapped birthday presents. For me.”
“You were dreaming about birthday presents?” she asked. (You’ll notice she said nothing about my dream of housecleaning.)
“What are you – ten?” Her eyes twinkled, eyebrows furled with mock incredulity. Sometimes… yes. Yes, I am.
My daughter thought it was cute. “You like birthday presents?” she asked me, jumping down from her breakfast stool and scurrying over to give me a hug.
“I love birthday presents.”
“Me, too,” she said. “I made you a card.”
“It’s really pretty.”
For the last few years, I’ve celebrated my birthday over dinner with friends – usually at a restaurant, where I can hear only the people sitting next to me. It’s delicious and it’s joyful and the drama queen inside me basks in all the attention, but this year, I decided on a different kind of celebration.
I decided on a day free from plans, free from responsibility, a day on my own – at home, outside, driving, walking or not – a day of coffee, croissants and chocolate cake, a day of writing, reading new books I bought last week specifically for my special day, and then ice cream with my little girl, dinner at home with family, waffles Saturday morning and a trip to the cottage.
My partner was bewildered by this choice, and so (I think) were most of my friends. They worried I wouldn’t have the day I wanted if I didn’t have anything planned. Or maybe they didn’t quite believe I’d ducked out of having a party.
Don’t get me wrong. I love a good party, the energy and fun, the excitement, wine, champagne, sweet treats and occasional dancing. And of course I love the presents. I do, and I’m not ashamed. I love it all – but I wanted something different this year.
I was single for a long, long time before I met Kelly, before I fell in love (at first sight) over lava cake, moved in, became an instant stepmom and eventually settled into our suburban home now four blocks from Chicago’s west side. I went out five nights out of seven – usually to meetings, but out nonetheless – and stayed up until midnight most of the time. But I also had days and days and days to myself. I pulled the blinds, laid on the floor listening to music, took walks and long drives north into Lake Forest with all its beautiful homes and trees. I spent hours on the phone. I watched TV, and read whole books in one day.
These days, I read books in snippets – fifteen minutes on the train to work (on the days I’m not driving or surfing Facebook for my daily bits of news) and five minutes at night before dropping off to sleep at the end of a full and active day. It takes me a month now to finish one book, most of the time.
So this year’s birthday was different. I needed me more than I needed them. I needed to be. I needed to be free from the tethers of time.
I had ideas – coffee at Marion Street Cheese Market next to the roaring fire, a hot lavender bath at home, laundry for our trip to the cottage, moving pictures from phone to computer, adding links to my blog, writing, reading, connecting with old friends – but I had no plans.
The best part? The whole day long, I wasn’t sorry for one moment. It was delicious. Happy Birthday to Me!
May your birthday, when it comes, be the perfect day for you. And may your dreams, as you dream them, come true.