Monday, June 19, 2023

The Messiness of Real Life

June 16: Tide pool. Fort Sewell, Marblehead, MA.

The response to my last post was surprising, complicated, and overwhelmingly good and bad. While there are only two comments on the post, I received a number of messages (signed and anonymous) via my blog and Facebook. I don't understand how my personal feelings and thoughts could cause such a reaction, but here we are. These messages ranged from the typical toxic positivity "advice" of "count your blessings" and "things will get better," to the awful accusations that I'm somehow "living a lie" and I'm a "spoiled brat who has everything" so what gives me the right to complain. Apparently, I "should" be happy and grateful because I have my Prince Charming, a house, and my health. One commenter told me to "shut up and stop whining."

Mystic Fantasy Dahlia. Ropes Mansion Garden. Salem, MA.

I've been blogging on and off for the last 23 years. One thing I have always strove to do is be as authentic and honest about myself, my life, and my feelings as possible. I never tried to build a fake online personality. What you see is what you get: good, bad, beautiful, ugly, messy, weird, and wondrous. This is intentional. I want my little space on the internet to be a reprieve from the overly polished and highly curated accounts of "influencers." Besides, I really don't know how to be anyone or anything else. This blog and my social media accounts were never and won't ever be places to "consume" a persona. They're primarily here for me to dump my brain and to share my life and interests. If they happen to help me connect with people or help folks know that they aren't alone, fantastic! That's a bonus. 

Black Locust Tree in Bloom. Ropes Mansion Garden. Salem, MA.

Yes, I have an awful lot to be grateful for and yes, I’m still someone who is optimistic and hopeful. I try to focus on the small pleasures and moments of happiness. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t have moments of deep, profound sadness, frustration, disappointment, or anger. Counting my blessings or being grateful does not and should not negate those feelings! Anyone who tells you “to be grateful” when you’re expressing your pain either believes their own toxic positivity boloney or doesn’t really care about you. They are avoiding intense emotions at all costs, including yours. Yes, I have Ed, but to put all of my happiness into a "Prince Charming" dream is dangerous, stupid, and, frankly speaking, anti-feminist. Yes, I have a house ... that I bought with my share of the sale of my parents' house when my Mom died. Honestly, I would rather be in an apartment if I could spend a few more years with her. As for my health ... you have no idea what's going on in a person's body. 

People are messy. Life is messy. Reality is messy. Stop telling people to “be happy.” Happiness is only a fleeting emotion. It’s not sustainable. Being in the moment and at peace, being okay (ish), being somewhat content are much more sustainable states of being. Happiness is an unhealthy goal that causes people to believe that there's a way to "fix" normal, painful emotions and bumps in the road. Suffering and pain is a part of life. People hurt and that's ok. Stop shaming people because they are sad, or in pain, or frustrated, or disappointed. Stop pushing toxic positivity and the happiness lie. Let people feel what they feel. Let them work through their emotions. Just be there and hold space for them. Love them. Be their friend. Don't "fix" them because you're uncomfortable. Stop expecting everyone to wear a lackluster mask of forced happiness.

Joseph's Coat Heirloom Climbing Rose. Roses Mansion Garden. Salem, MA

I’ve made a promise to myself on my birthday that I will not participate in the pseudo-science, watered down Buddhist, self-help ladened toxic positivity crap. I refuse to be one of those over 50 bloggers, “influencers," self-appointed spokeswomen pushing overly saccharine bullshit about getting older (50 is the new 20! Sexy at 50!). I’ve always tried to be as authentic as possible on my blog and social media accounts. I’m not stopping now.

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Birthday Eve: Expectations and Inevitable Disappointment


Last Year's Birthday Cake

For my entire life my birthday has been a source of disappointment and frustration. Don't get me wrong. I love my birthday. I have always considered it to be a personal New Year's Day, a reset, and a milestone. It's a time when I get to reflect on my goals and my dreams, and congratulate myself for how far I've come. After all, maturing isn't easy and getting older is a pretty emotional affair, especially when you hit your 50s.

I know that there will be presents and cake tomorrow. Ed will desperately try to make my birthday special. He'll sing to me in the morning. There might be fresh bagels. We'll definitely go to lunch or dinner ... and we'll do ... something. I know he'll ask me what I want to do. 

What the hell do I want to do? I dunno. Not cry would be nice. For the past 9 years, I've cried on my birthday. Why? Mom isn't here to share the day with me. She won't be calling me in the morning to sing "Happy Birthday," adding funny lyrics and giggling. I would always wish her a "Congratulations, Mrs. Zawadzki! It's a beautiful baby girl!" My birthday is just another reminder that she's not here.

It's also a horrific reminder that, besides Ed, I pretty much have no one in my life. Well, no family at least. The empty mailbox is a reminder of this. EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR. Usually I get one or two cards. Not this year. Nothing. Zero. Zip. Sure, there will be Facebook birthday wishes, as there is every year. I do appreciate those. But no matter how much I send folks cards and well-wishes, there's never a reciprocation. I stopped sending cards. Shrug. I used to buy friends and family cards and gifts, and throw parties for them. I would sing on the phone and leave silly messages. I very rarely got the same in return. My birthday always seems to be a burden or afterthought to folks.

I spent my entire life sharing my birthday with Father's Day, my ex-husband (whose birthday was yesterday), and assorted family members. The day was never really my own. Growing up I only had two birthday parties. TWO. One when I was a little kid and my Sweet 16. That's it. I guess I should be grateful I got that. As an adult, I would organize and throw my own parties. Not many people would come because, SURPRISE, it's Father's Day weekend. I also spent my entire childhood not getting to celebrate my birthday at school. No cupcakes from home or classroom games because I'm a summer baby. We don't get class parties. We're the forgotten ones. I spent my entire childhood resenting this. As a teenager I was usually taking finals or Regents exams on my birthday. ALWAYS. 

So here I am, sounding like an ungrateful wretch on the eve of my 51st birthday and dreading tomorrow. I'm dreading the question, "what do you want to do today?" I'm dreading not hearing my Mom's voice. I'm dreading the empty mailbox. There's no party planned because I didn't plan it. At least I won't have to share my birthday with Father's Day or someone else's birthday. My Pop is dead. Ed's Pop is dead. And there's no one left to share a birthday with. 

I know I sound horrible and grumbly, but I'm anxious and upset and dreading tomorrow. At 51 years old, I'm dreading my birthday. Sigh ... I wish we were camping or somewhere else. 

So yeah, Happy Birthday to me.