It feels incredibly narcissistic to write about my birthday. Turning 40 in a first-world country where I never go without a meal or face the off-cuts of war. It’s a hell of a thing to complain about when the world as a whole is in a never-ending vile, chaotic mess splattered with the suffered blood of thousands upon thousands because of horrors much greater than anything I have ever experienced in my life so far on this planet.
But the thing is, I turned 40 a couple of weeks ago, and in my little world, it’s kind of a big deal. When I ask myself why it’s a big deal, the obvious answer is “duh.” My tits are saggy. I have no boyfriend, and certainly no husband, my ass is about an inch lower than it was ten years ago, my knees hurt, and OH YEAH, I have no assets except for a nine-year-old car with over 200,000 miles on it. I’m (almost literally) drowning in debts that I can’t pay. I live with my ex-husband as a boarder, renting a room. A room. I have a room. Like some teenager.
The one shining light is my daughter whom, because of my financial misfortune, I get to be with every day of the week, every week of the month, and every month of the year because her father and I no longer have separate homes.
In the past two years, I’ve been evicted, lost most of my possessions to a public storage auction, had to go on food stamps and Medicaid. I’ve been unable to get employment sufficient to pay my many debts. I’ve sunk, man. I’ve sunk deep.
The fact is, I don’t know the status of virtually anything in my life except for the things that are right in front of my eyes in 3D. (You know what I mean, don’t pretend you don’t.) The glass wall is hazy and it’s frustrating as hell the way everyone can be so obtuse. I’ve spent the past two years in a desert of the mind, isolated and/or aloof with all but my daughter. I went off the internet, watched a lot of documentaries, read some books, avoided the news, binged on TV shows, did my job as a freelance editor diligently. I ran from friends, from family, from any semblance of life outside my own. I just couldn’t look anyone in the eyes. The nature of the disaster (formerly known as my life) I was experiencing was so palpably accessible in my face, in my eyes, in my voice. I didn’t want anyone to see, because of my pride. Because I was afraid to let anyone understand how far down in the depths I was. I didn’t want pity, and I didn’t want anyone to tell me it was going to be okay because I was so convinced that it wouldn’t, and I didn’t want to hear lies. I was ashamed, unable to recognize myself. So I locked myself away from the world not knowing if I would ever come out again.
Mostly, I sank to a depth of pain I’ve never experienced before. And it was in the pain that something extraordinary happened.
While I was spending hours at a time weeping…. While I was feeling so angry that I wanted to (and sometimes did) scream…. While I was crying so hard that I couldn’t stop…. While I was dripping hot wax on my thighs to try and feel something other than emotional pain…. While I was sitting in the dry shower stall with the lights off trembling and moaning…. While I was feeling so numb at times that a car accident happening right in front of me didn’t faze me one bit…. While I was lying awake at night wondering if I would go to jail for running from my debts…. While I was brow-beating myself for not being able to write because in order to survive the stress, I’d turned off the same part of my brain that creates…. While I was swearing that I was completely done with humans forever because nothing ever works out and everything always ends…. While getting out of bed in the morning felt more difficult than lifting an eighteen wheeler….
…while all of that was happening … I was grieving old expectations of the world, and indeed, of myself. I was letting go of the longing for the future and facing the now head-on because I had no other choice, no matter how ugly it was. I was facing my choices and the reality of my world. While all of that was happening, I was changing. I was growing, becoming stronger. The reason I know that is because at some point–I can’t exactly pinpoint the moment–the crying waned, the numbness dissipated, the anger melted. I started to feel better despite my many problems. I started to feel hopeful again. So here I am, writing this. Trying something, anything that feels right and good, to get my life back.
Regardless of whether or not I know what’s next, whether or not I have solid new things to look forward to, I know that now is really all that matters. It’s the place from which you build the future, and it (DUH!) can’t be overlooked even for a second. After all, it was the longing for an uncertain future of which I had ridiculously high, doomed-to-fail expectations, that got me to the point where I was forced to grieve it to begin with. (Try and compute that one. I have.)
And jeez, why would I push time to go faster, or for the future to come on more quickly, when that means that my daughter, the most important entity in my life, would grow up and go off to college, or whatever she chooses, more quickly? I wouldn’t. Furthermore, I don’t have the power to speed up time anyway. And it’s in that realization, in understanding the limitations of your power over the events of your life and of time, that you find the freedom to embrace the moments as they come.