Last year, on my birthday, I wrote this – and I think that even though I didn’t know it at the time, that moment very clearly marked the end of one thing, and the beginning of another.
This year, my birthday was – for lack of a better word – weird. It was my weekend with the kids, and a three-day weekend at that, so I came up with all sorts of grand plans. These, alas, ended up getting sidelined by a monster head cold, but on Saturday night I rallied, having planned a whole hibachi dinner-bowling fiesta for myself, the kids, Francesca, and my neighbor Margo and her daughters. And then, at 6PM, Francesca took one look at me getting ready to head out, all sniffles and patheticness, and suggested we take it down a notch.
Here’s the part that got weird: By 6pm, I didn’t actually want to go to the hibachi-bowling thing; I was sick and exhausted and half-asleep already. So when Francesca suggested we just do a low-key dinner somewhere nearby I immediately agreed…and then, just as immediately, started crying. Like, heaving.
I was furious. At Francesca, at myself, at nothing and everything. Except being furious didn’t make sense. And when I tried to explain why I was crying to a very confused assembly of friends and children, I couldn’t. The best I could do was choke out something about it being my birthday and wanting the kids to have a fun night because I’m not the fun parent and I don’t understand how I got here when a year ago I was married and I have no one to make a birthday cake for meeeeee.
Etc etc self pity tiny violins.
Mostly, I think the whole year just went and caught up to me, right there in my living room with a wad of tissues clutched in my hand and only one shoe on.
Once I’d started crying, though, it turned out that I actually couldn’t stop, and I was still leaking from the face when our whole group arrived at the nearby sushi place we’d decided on. So there I was, sitting in a restaurant, crying at the table, incapable of either making myself stop or putting a finger on what, exactly, was upsetting me so much.
“I’m just…alone.” I said finally, hoping that even if that wasn’t exactly why I was crying, at least it might give my behavior the patina of logic. But even as I said this – I’m alone – it was like I stepped out of my body, and saw myself. There I was: Sitting at a table in a beautiful restaurant, my children next to me, looking across the table at two women who’d stopped their own lives to be with me, and who were – at that very moment – right there. For me. Tears and all.
If I just take a step back and get over myself for a minute, the simple truth is that what I’ve discovered over the last year is nothing short of my people – a whole village of women, children, and men to whom I am not married (imagine!) who I love, and who love me back. I don’t have A Partner (singular) in my life. I have many. And increasingly – more and more every single day – I’m realizing that that not being half of a couple isn’t just “OK”…it might be completely besides the point.
Because having come to the end of a hell of a fucking year, here’s a surprise twist I didn’t see coming: I’m single. Technically speaking, “alone.” But I’m not sure I’ve ever felt less lonely in my life.