All of my childhood friends, as well as acquaintances from high school that have connected with me on social media I can assume for only a possible opportunity to one day sell me their shitty MLM products, are turning 40 this year. The spectacle has been something to behold, and by that I mean that they are all handling it much better than I am: having parties, going out to fancy steak dinners, concerts, plays… getting shirts that say “Forty and Fabulous.” Next month, I will join them in turning 40 myself, though there will be no fanfare, no parties, no dinners out or special events. No novelty t-shirts (those aren’t really my thing anyway). As has always been the case, if I don’t do it myself, nothing is done; and this year, I just don’t have it in me.
When I turned 39, I threw myself a backyard party. Still in the throws of a raging pandemic here in California, we had my mom over, but I – as I said – did all the things, for the most part, because if I didn’t they would not have been done. I’m used to it; I still remember throwing my own big party when I turned 30, and that year I even baked my own cake. I won’t go that far anymore, but now I don’t even have it in me to figure out who to order from, or what to do that day. My kids keep asking, I guess I should be grateful for that; but even the thought of coming up with an idea is too much. And to have to get dressed and put on makeup that day to celebrate? Forget it.
Maybe I’m depressed; my doctor seems to think that I’ve just had an exceptionally shitty year. He would not be wrong.
When I look at photos from my 39th birthday, I don’t even recognize the person in the picture. That’s how much I’ve been through this last year, and it shows. Largely alone in this endeavor, if I were to make only a partial list of all the bullshit I’ve endured since vowing that 39 would be an epic slide to 40: my daughter’s guinea pig died; I went into anaphylaxis from ingredients in the COVID 19 vaccine; I was ghosted by a moms group, for reasons I still don’t understand (it was mostly because I ran for city council); I celebrated Mother’s Day by myself while my family (including the kids) forgot completely about it – and me; I had to bow out of an art show I planned to participate in because of the rise of the Delta variant and the fact that I remained not fully vaccinated on account of that life threatening allergy (and my elderly father lives with us, so I didn’t want to – like – accidentally kill him); I was told that homeschooling my kids was a complete and utter failure because my daughter chose to wait a year to go to college (something I thought, on the contrary, was a mature choice given the challenges the pandemic continued to present); I lost all access via hackers to all of the social media I worked for over a decade to build out for this blog (still trying to rebuild that, and Facebook/Meta continues to be of no help); my oldest dog was diagnosed with a heart murmur, and she’s progressively gotten worse; my oldest daughter caught antibiotic-resistant strep throat, ruining her last Halloween before turning 18; my younger daughter fractured her ankle, and later developed a bilateral knee injury that no one seems to be able to figure out; I – with no income but my husband’s – absorbed virtually all of my elderly father’s financial responsibilities, as well as his unmitigated stress and ingratitude for everything we do for him; I celebrated another anniversary alone, and was threatened with divorce about a month later; I made the holidays plus a 5th, 14th, 18th, 41st, and 79th birthday magical, in spite of how exhausted I was; my son and I were attacked, and the police never filed a police report; we were given notice that our landlord was selling the home we had lived in for years, forcing us to move during an unprecedented housing crisis in California; we moved – majorly downsizing from an already overcrowded situation – around 30 minutes away from our entire lives – community, school district, friends, everything; my younger daughter has been given virtually no choices on what to do about high school next year because of our living situation; my son lost his playroom, with all his school and toy stuff being relegated to the garage; immediately upon moving in (as in, starting the first day) a crazy neighbor started harassing us; within a week, the realities of the daily commute back to our lives hit home; within a month, a number of undisclosed issues with the home came to the surface, for what now amounts to 46% of our income in rent; our former landlord abused our security deposit, returning virtually none it; and, in the final blow, I was rejected from a doctoral program I worked three years to get into, on the grounds that the interview revealed I am a bit too busy with kids at this stage of life (“we encourage you to re-apply when your children are older”).
That is only a partial list.
So the issue with my 40th birthday, just weeks away at this point, is that I am both hesitant to celebrate it and tempt the dealer of fate even further; and, frankly too exhausted to even think about it.
And that’s the thing. So much of my life this last year has been about figuring out solutions – to everything. I have to be the one to find answers; they are never given to me, and the people that should be participating rarely – if ever – are either. So when people ask what I want for my birthday, at this point my answer is only that I want answers. I want to know how I got here. I want to know where to go next. I want to know how to manage all of these things and feel better. I want to know when I can expect some real and serious support as a mother, and validation as a woman – both from my own household unit, and my community at large. I want answers to fix the problem of us living so far away from our entire lives, our communities. I want to know when we can move back, and how we’re going to do it and I want to know how to even go about crafting my own future, when so many of my plans – personal and professional – have been foiled.
I’m tired of people just saying that it’ll take time, or that God has a plan. Those are niceties meant to provide no answers, and I don’t buy it. Moreover, Forty and Fabulous t shirts, or steak dinners, will not offer me the birthday I want.
I keep looking at external things I can do to feel better about this, myself, and I only come up empty-handed. I started doing a ridiculously complicated skincare routine, in hopes I would look less tired and sad. It hasn’t helped. I considered going to get my hair done, instead of continuing to dye it (I mean fry it) with Madison Reed, but I was so overwhelmed with the move and finding someplace close enough that I wouldn’t need to leave my son at home with babysitters for hours and hours, that I had my daughter just do it and now I look like the cross between a mushroom and someone who stuck their finger in a socket. I tried going to bed earlier and getting more sleep, my son just ended up staying up until odd hours of the night making noise, and our neighbor came over and complained. I tried having more fun in the moment with the kids, that time the complaint from next door came with a letter from the landlord about how my son’s giggling was annoying people.
Forty and Fabulous? More like Forty and Fucked.
So that’s where things stand right now. I turn 40 next month. I’m not dealing with it, or life in general, well. I still think I’m a little depressed; but what I believe my doctor is right about is that nothing will change the situation but the situation, itself, changing (if that makes sense). How? Not sure. Maybe I’ll figure that out by 41.