Yesterday, was my birthday. And what an epically great birthday it was.
[wait for it]....
I schlepped home late Wednesday night in the ominous thunder snow for hours only to find an empty house with no electricity, no heat and nary a crumb or morsel to eat in sight waiting for me. Assuming correctly, that no positive change in conditions would likely come about any time soon, I left my own personal icebox of a home and made my way to my parent's always and infinitely more stocked abode. While they too were without heat, internet, tv or modern lighting, they did have a feast of food from a dinner party they'd went ahead and thrown anyway, despite the storm, traditionally equipped with fueled fireplaces and endless candelight.
We sat amidst the bedazzling flickers and flames and counted down the minutes till midnight, my 28th birthday. I kept saying aloud: "I'm 27, I'm 27, I'm 27. 27. 27. tweeeeeenty-seven!" I wanted to say it as many more times as I could, before it would no longer be true.
Have you ever heard the old superstition or saying that the day of your birthday, e.g. March 6th or July 10th or in my case January 27th, that whatever number day it is, 6, 10, or 27 that the year you are the same age number as your birthday day number is supposed to be your "Golden Year"? Meaning - your best year ever- ever heard that before? Which to me seems like a cruel joke if it were true for anyone born on July 1st or 2nd or 3rd. Then again being a baby or young child totally taken care of and oblivious to life's more complicated pains does sound pretty magnanimous to me now being a seasoned adult. So maybe Year 1 really could be your best year ever. Regardless, I had heard this old wives tale when I was a little girl. And in my less rationale childlike mind, I imagined that when I was 27 years old, that my 27th year of life would in fact be...the best ever. I often imagined that when I was 27 I would already be married to the man of my dreams, a successful attorney, living in a beautiful house and leading an enviable perfect sort of life.
In reality, as it turned out, being 27 was the worst year of my entire life. Instead of a handsome husband and an even handsomer life, I lost my job, my health, my savings, my birth family (for the second time) and with it -all of my sense of self-worth. I moved back to DC and back in with my parents and spent every day looking for work that didn't exist, being depressingly depressed and not to mention sick, bitter, angry and above all else hopelessly unhappy.
I couldn't stand to see anyone else in love or succeeding or contented. I stopped calling friends because I had nothing pleasant to say. I avoided children and babies and dogs. I once disembarked my metro bus one morning because a school fieldtrip got on and I couldn't stand to see the joy and excitement in those adorable (but at the time annoying) little faces. Instead I walked a mile and a half in the pouring rain. That kind of loathsome existence, was my 27th year.
You know how dogs and other animals can smell actual cancer? Well it makes me wonder if people can smell or sense emotional cancer. Because I was oozing with it. I projected all my misery onto every person and every thing and rejected all signs of life, which only sent me spiralling me ever deeper into my black hole of nothingness.
Then something changed. I almost died. Or at the very least - Really and truly thought I was going to die. And in that moment, I experienced for the only time in my entire life, actual terror. I looked up at my mother from my bed, grasped her hand tight, literally holding on for dear life and I said: "I don't want to die. I want to live." "That's good," she said. "So live."
And as you might have guessed, I did in fact, live. And then something changed again. Everything.
Everything I felt about myself and the world and the people in it. I wanted to live. I wanted to grow old. What a privilege. I didn't hate my love handles anymore or the laugh lines in my forehead or my chronic singledom. I rejoiced in happy couples and giggling chubby babies, petted every dog I walked past and smiled at ever person. I said "Good morning" to every bus driver and gave compliments to random strangers on the street. "Love your hat. Love that scarf. Where'd you get your hair cut cus its fab!" My psychological cancer had been cured and instead of permeating pain and misery into the world I beamed with unabashed gaiety. I was joyous. I was exhilarated. Everything was fresh and new and a total cliche of a gift. I was gleeful and grateful. Animated and amused. Humorous and happy and helpful and honest. I rejoiced and reveled and wondered in awe - I was alive and I wanted to live. And so... I began to live.
Give to the world and it will give back to you. So simple, so true.
With my new found optimism and satisfaction, I began to be noticed at work for my efforts. I made new friends and read more books. I drank less (okay, a little less) and exercised more. I took long walks admiring trees and called my grandmother more often and helped my parents around the house. When New Years Eve rolled around, I couldn't wait for a new year, new start. To put year 27 behind me and change everything for the better. 1/1/11. The perfect day to wipe the slate clean and begin again.
I wonder if that's how I really ended up with a new year, new man. I went to Mr. Unicorn's New Year's Eve house party without a single care in the world but instead with three bottles of champagne in my purse. I didn't care that I wasn't coupled up like most of the holiday revelers there. I was a lawyer, a daughter, a sister, a friend. I was young, I was pretty, I was employed, I had bubbly in my bag. Life was great. Let's celebrate.
Is that what Mr. U saw in me? A bright, happy, cheerful person full of hope and joy and possibility? Because, if that's true, can anyone out there tell me they wouldn't want to be around that or me? No wonder he was so enamored. No wonder he called me up and asked me out and no wonder he kept calling and taking me out. I was easy going and low maintenance and impressed and satisfied by everything. And with or without him, I'd continue on being the same way.
After a couple of dates I told Mr. U how hard year 27 had been for me. I told him how sick and I told him how unhappy I'd been. He said I should put 27 behind me. Like it had never happened. "This year is your year!" he said. "Forget 27. On with 28!"
But then I thought about it for a moment and I said: "Maybe I don't wanna forget it. After all, I met (or re-met) you when I was 27. I moved back to DC (a place I truly love) at 27. I chose to live at 27. I learned to live at 27. I became a better person at 27. Maybe, just maybe, after all the misery and all the failings, 27 was my best year ever. Not because it was easy (it wasn't) or successful (definitely not), but because I came out of all the blackness and muck and hardship, scraping my fingernails against the obstacles, pulling myself up and out and ending ultimately on the top. Different. Changed. Better. Happier. More Alive. And I can't thank year 27 enough for teaching me how much I have to be thankful for and how to live a full and fulfilling life.
When the last minute of January 26th, 2011 ticked down, I held up a glass of champagne alongside my parents. "I'm 27, 27, 27, 27..." And then counted down the seconds..."10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1..."
"Happy Birthday!" we all three said together and clinked our glasses. "I love you," my mother said to me. "I love you too," I said back. "Good night honey," my father said to me, leaning down to kiss me on the cheek. My parents swished back the contents of their flutes and climbed the stairs and went to sleep. I remained downstairs, surrounded by candlelight, a little longer.
I whispered in the darkness to myself: "I'm 28. I'm 28. I'm 28." And then raised my flute and waved it in the air around me slowly like I was toasting an audience. "Thank you, thank you, thank you," I whispered again. To no one. To everyone. To the universe.
And so began, my twenty-eighth birthday. The first day of my 28th year. And it was Legend.... [wait for it]...................................................................................................................................