It's no big deal, I am out of the cold and sitting in a surprisingly comfortable armchair in the lobby, knowing my partner will be home in the next half hour or so. We went for dumplings and then he wanted to stop by Whole Foods; presumably to hunt for something vegan and chocolate-y to surprise me with tomorrow.
Alright, so...I'm going to give it to you straight: it has been a rough couple of weeks. Rougher than expected. Rougher than planned. Rougher than planned for - which, in some philosophical circles, is considered the very root of most if not all human suffering: the gulf between our expectations and our realities.
Not rough in a I-or-someone-close-to-me-is-dying-of-a-terminal-illness kind of rough, not rough in a I-don't-have-a-boyfriend-who-is-currently-probably-buying-me-birthday-chocolate-at-Whole-Foods rough, not I-don't-live-in-a-building (period) rough, let alone a a building with surprisingly comfortable armchairs in the lobby. Not I-don't-look-like-a-person-who-you-will-graciously-let-into-the-building-simply-because-she-tosses-her-hair-and-pretends-to-purposely-rummage-through-her-handbag-as-if-to-say-"I'm-just-a-moment-away-from-finding-these-keys!" rough.
So, yes, I assure you, my privilege is checked in all the right places.
That being said, this is not the softest, flowiest, sunshine & rainbowiest fortnight of my life. You know that adage about bad things coming in threes? What is fascinating about the human experience (or is it perhaps just mine?) is that timing is everything. You can take the same series of unfortunate events and spread them out over the course of, say, a year and that's just called being a person and living a life, but if you take those same events and throw them all into, say, my November, you've got complete and utter chaos.
[Editor's note: my partner has since returned from Whole Foods bearing, inexplicably, both sets of our keys and endearingly, Ben & Jerry's Non-Dairy PB & Cookies. It's hard to keep feeling sorry for myself when he has just said, "I'm going go listen to a podcast and wash dishes so you can finish writing."]
But let's leave all that behind for a moment. All that except for the part about the gulf between expectations and realities, and let's talk about my birthday. It's tomorrow!
Let me tell you a bit about where and who I thought I would be my t*ahem*ty-*cough-cough*th birthday:
By now, I would be growing a little bored of my starring role in an brilliant, critically-acclaimed award-winning edgy ensemble sadcom. I'd be wielding my wealth and influence to nurture bold, new works by underrepresented voices.
I would have founded a chain of creative, international luxury spa & holistic treatment centers that partnered with local indigenous healers and, if I do say so myself, boasted an aggressively innovative scholarship model offering free services to impoverished women in local communities. Like Robin Hood but all above board with steam rooms and orchids.
Back in the United States, my non-profit would be launching its first scalable training on a revolutionary integrated homelessness rehabilitation approach, honed by our widely successful experimental residential program; which could only be described to outsiders as loosely resembling at once a shelter, detox facility, vocational education center, ashram and arts camp.
I would be rising before dawn each day to meditate, and taking aerial silks classes and learning Swahili 'for fun'. I'd be meeting friends for brunch at my Ayurvedic cafe/bookstore/performance space and then carving time out of my busy schedule to go for long, contemplative walks in the forest.
I could go on, but it's exhausting...even for my imagination, which tires more easily with each passing year.
Five years ago, my first birthday after moving to New York, I decided to dive deep into my first lonely solo birthday in years. Maybe ever. After a massage, lunch for one, and an afternoon at the Russian baths, I went home and held a funeral for The Woman I Hoped To Be By Now. I was the only attendee. I wrote a beautiful eulogy. I read it aloud and cried through it. I danced naked in my bedroom to India Arie's "Private Party". It felt incredibly healing and empowering at the time.
What I realize now is that I did not, in fact, bury The Woman I Hoped To Be By Then that day. Instead, I quietly gave her a five-year extension and told her not to tell anyone. I took all her grandiose dreams and shushed them into dark corners, stopped talking about them (except as 'jokes' or 'bits' or 'crazy ideas for a movie') and tried to pretend I didn't know who they belonged to.
It didn't work.
Because five years later, it appears they have come flying out my fingertips.
And so tonight, I dare to lay to rest, not The Woman I Hoped To Be By T*ahem*ty-*cough-cough*, but All I Hoped To Have Achieved By Now. There really are some legendary ideas there, burning now on the funeral pyre, and it pains me to let them go in this way.
And yet I know my freedom depends on it.
And so, if you'll raise your virtual glass...(my birthday party is happening online this year, and you're at it!) I'd like to propose a toast:
To everyone we've never been, to everything we've never done, to every place we weren't brave enough or strong enough to go. To every day and way we weren't lucky and every day and way we didn't see we were. To the trail of failures behind us, to the lessons beneath us, to all the missteps on all the mountains in front of us...
This is T*ahem*ty-*cough-cough*. And today I toast the first day of the rest of my life.
Thanks for coming! Make sure to grab a petit four and a gift bag on your way out!