Hope you all had a fabulous holiday weekend! This week, I encourage you to be kind to yourselves for crying out loud!
It was my birthday yesterday. I was one of those kids that had a “summer birthday” when no one was around to attend my birthday party. And though it was lovely to have an extra day to sleep late, wear a tshirt and shorts, and go out for brunch instead of grabbing a bagel in the company caf, in the week leading up to it, I felt a little bummed that again, no one was going to be around for my birthday. It went a little something like this:
“Hey, do you want to grab dinner Monday night? It’s my birthday. Woot!”
Oh, I would. Totally. But I’m in Montauk at the summer house for Memorial Day. Sometime next week?
Really?! Happy Birthday! Would love to but I’m heading home for the weekend. I’ll call you when I’m getting back.
As a rule, I try not to pout when things don’t go my way. I try to remember that I have an awesome apartment, across the street from a beautiful park, in New York City, where thousands and thousands of people yearn to live every single year. I’m young (-ish…), I have traveled the world, I can eat out whenever I want with whomever I want, stay up late and drink bourbon with the boys, and still get up early and run eight miles.
So I tried not to overthink it. Instead, I booked a facial on Friday, and told myself that, even if no one could spend my birthday with me, that I would make this the best damned birthday that it could be. It was time for me to stop being so hard on myself, stop being so wistful of “if I had more friends” or “if I was better at keeping in touch” or “if I lived back home” I would have had someone to spend the day with.
I needed to be kind. To myself, more than anything.
You see, I usually travel every year for my birthday. I’m really reflective around this time of year, evaluating where I was last year at this time, where I think I’m going, where I wish I wouldn’t have gone, how to make each year increasingly better than the last. I have to admit, since realizing that I’m capable of so much more than a desk and a suit, my life has cracked wide open and each year it seems to get better and better (minus a few minor breakdowns and 2am phone calls to my sister aka my life counselor). Traveling on my birthday weekend gives me a clearer lens, away from bustle of New York City, to do all of this reflecting and evaluating.
But I hadn’t made plans, and, truth be told, I’ve been working like a fiend, stashing away money and plotting for the next move in my life. I’ve been cooking dinner, eating in, watching TV, or writing in coffee shops. I’ve been reading books instead of going to movies, and have a constant dog-ear in Time Out New York’s “Free Events” section. New York is expensive, yo’! And I’ve got bills to pay and places to travel and that all doesn’t come cheap!
I was starting to feel a burn out coming. I hadn’t done laundry in three weeks, and I had worked 14 days in a row (10 at my day job, and two full weekends in a row, leading hikes upstate). And finally, I had had enough.
The facial was the first step. And, man, it was good. As I lay curled on the sun deck of the spa afterwards, reading Outside magazine, I realized that this wasn’t a half bad way to spend my birthday. Instead of having to be somewhere, I could sit and read and just meditate on the changes that I wanted to make and the things I desperately wanted to stay the same.
Either way, I knew I didn’t want to pout. I needed to be kind to my body and my heart, instead of being so hard on myself all the damn time. Instead of not being in Mexico like last year learning to ride waves, I needed to enjoy my life right now as it is. My freshly facialed skin. My strong hikers legs. My super sunny disposition, even when I’m not in a great mood. Not why I haven’t gotten as far in my career as I would have liked or why I can’t decide what to do with the rest of my life or why my nose is so Italian looking.
My sister always tells me to stop wishing it were different. To stop wishing I could just have one more pay increase or one date that really goes well. She says this as she corrals my three year old niece from off of the kitchen table and tries to shove food into my 6-month old niece who doesn’t like to sleep more than 2 hours at a time…even at night. She’s tired (my sister, not my niece apparently), but she knows that if she wished it all away, wished that it were different, then it would be, and my nieces would instead be in school and not so needy for her. And she will look back and take all the exhaustion back if only to have a baby fall asleep against the fleshy part of her neck. And that’s what I need to do. Stop wishing I were older with it figured out, because that means I won’t be able to just book myself a facial, read outside at the park, and write in my journal all day long while I let my dirty, three-week-old laundry fester in my apartment.
And so, this year, for my birthday, I stopped all the would-haves and could-haves and I-should-probablys and just was kind. I got a facial. I bought a latte. I had French toast and French fries for brunch. I had a beer. I had another coffee. I bought an unnecessarily expensive face mask that I love. I listened to four messages in a row from my family singing “Happy Birthday” to me. I cried a little knowing I was that loved.
I strolled to my park, opened a book, and read five pages before closing it and watching the children run around and swing on swings. I napped in my room for 3 hours. I had a bagel for dinner. And then an ice cream cone for dessert. And I never wished that I had more in my life or that it was better or that I had someone to share this with. Because I was kind to myself yesterday, and it reminded me to be kinder to myself everyday. Because I’m a treat. I just forget sometimes.
How are you guys kind to yourselves? What reminds you that, sometimes, all you need is yourself?