I’ve never been a stranger to loneliness; my body is used to retreating, holding itself accountable, in a constant state of waiting and wondering and who will leave next. I have desperately tried to thwart this mindset, yet it always creeps back. Birthdays were always the worst culprits; coffee ring stains on empty guest book pages. Waiting, wondering, were the few here actually here for me. Were they too busy laughing at my silent living room, or even worse, not even sparing a second thought? My family in tatters, the rest of them carried on the island breeze, hearing only their beautiful whispers through the holes of a landline. The date in February, odd in number but gratefully in sequence to give my compulsive brain some ease, came and went with none of the celebration it once had when we were too young to know what could really hurt us.
It was a gift and a curse – I hate the spotlight, really. Anything in front of crowds makes me uneasy, anything where I’m the center of attention gives me anxiety. I’ve made a home in my hobbit hole and I enjoy it here, thank you very much. So, I took solace in planning and seeing the joy in others. My husband’s birthday is the day after mine and I began looking forward to my birthday again because it became a shared time, like the week of Christmas, where the focus wasn’t on me. There’s expense to this – to the small chipping away of your light. It was my fault and no one else’s. It was my husband, in fact, who brought it to my attention. When he asked what I wanted to do for my birthday this year, I had told him “It didn’t matter.” He looked at me, rightfully so, like what I had said was preposterous.
“Why wouldn’t it matter?”
“It’s just a day”, I told myself. In the grand scheme of things, it’s only a day.
I joked to myself “I could blame COVID for no one coming to celebrate, but it’d be a lie.”
“May as well make it a great day for the people I love. I don’t need/deserve the attention.”
You’re in this alone.
Ah, there it is.
The ever-present monster. It hibernates, breathing deeply and soundly, feeding off silent and passive cuts to your mind until you feel smaller than it is. It breaks you apart in a masterful way and you’re not sure how you’re really together; maybe with invisible threads loose at frayed seams, the appendages still yours even if they’re worn and wrinkled and twisted every which way. They’re yours. They’re mine.
They’re mine. Yes.
I began to look around me, at the rare few who have stuck around, who would be around if they could, if COVID or finances or too much distance weren’t factors. They each have a little piece of thread, or glue, or staple in their gracious hands, waiting, wondering, what do you need. I’m trying to be better at reminding myself of this, of reminding myself my body matters, my mind matters, I matter.
I mattered when I came on a Sunday evening, albeit early (always punctual).
I mattered when I was brought to the main land for better opportunities.
I mattered when I was chosen over a toxic relationship.
I mattered when graduated college.
I mattered when I found love.
I mattered when love found me in the form of my own child (I made this thing, how nuts).
I think it’s worth celebrating, every little bit of it, not just everyday, but the day meant for me, just for me.
The monster is at bay now, a restful slumber. You don’t have to be alone to feel lonely, especially when your mind is a cavern of hurtful thoughts and wandering dreams. But even a patchwork warrior can last a long war knowing they can fight, that they aren’t alone in the battle; waiting, wondering, what if I can win this.