I have been in a funk and giving myself a pity party for the last several weeks. First I realized my magical year was ending as my 58th birthday rolled around a couple weeks ago. Born in 1957 my 57th year was to be magical or golden according to contemporary mythology I chose to embrace. This past year has been eventful, but magical is stretching it a bit. Then I realized I celebrated the wrong year. Damn.
I should have known this as my 49th birthday forever stands out in my memory as the day I was escorted from a U.S. Armed Services Senate Committee hearing because I called Donald Rumsfeld a liar and Ted Stevens who was chairing the session said “Get that woman out of here.” After being escorted out the door to the sidewalk I spoke with a Vietnamese delegation of business men who were on a tour of Capitol Hill.
A culmination of pro-peace activism that began 38 years earlier when my brother was horrifically wounded in Vietnam juxtaposed with finding a trade group of the same country against whom my brother fought was a coupling that made me realize that individual soldiers really are just fodder for corporate interests. Awareness of all sorts descended upon me during that 50th year when I fully came into my own.
That day in D.C. began my 50th year that would find me caring for my mother in the last month of her life in her home 2000 miles away from my home and family a year later on my 59th birthday. Somehow my family did not send a card not even a call. It was not the best of times, but it was a learning time, and there was much healing between my mother and me. The experience of that year taught me something that should have been obvious before it became real to me. The first year ends with the celebration of the 1st birthday or 1st wedding anniversary. The 50th year ends with the 50th birthday, the 57th year ends with the 57th birthday.
So I missed my magical year, thinking the 58th year was the 57th year. My magical year was not this past year, but the year before. Now I have to go through my blogs and journals and photos and find out how my 57th year, May 2013 to May 2014, really was.
This was a real downer of a realization after a less than eventful Mother’s Day opened the week leading up to my birthday. And I had all these event descriptions and photos picked out for a summary post about the year.
Something began to dawn on me when my daughter called to wish me a Happy Mother’s Day, bless her, and she asked if her dad had announced his usual insensitive Mother’s Day comment, repeated every year, “You are not my mother, so I didn’t get you anything.” Twenty-five years of being told this gets very old. I told her he did indeed say this again. We both just groaned and shook our heads.
My husband does not do presents well. Unless someone applies constant reminders or pressure, he “forgets.” I know after talking to many, many spouses of scientists and academic researchers that this tendency to forget about the importance of real world events is a character trait of many ridiculously bright people. I am not sure it is so much that this type of person cannot remember such things, but they have been taught by our culture that they do not need to bother with such mundane world occurrences.
So weekend one, Mothers Day, less than stellar. Weekend two, birthday, less than marvelous. Then Memorial Day, weekend three and this is the first Memorial Day for me since my brother passed away last November. He was a casualty of the Vietnam War although it took 45 years for him to succumb to the physical injuries and psychic wounds he suffered in Hue and Khe Sanh. My parents are gone. Three of my four brothers are deceased.
Let me tell you that all this really sucks. I have spent most of my adult life dealing with depression. I have it under control, so I no longer bottom out and become mired in black pits of despair. But lethargy and lack of focus can and will descend when I do not actively countermand the early stage of a downward spiral. I have gotten much better at reframing when something triggers recursive negative thinking.
I have even accepted that sometimes I need to incorporate the negative realizations into my worldview so that next time I experience them I do not spend so much energy fighting them and pushing them back down into the subconscious. Acknowledge and go on.
These past three weeks of realization have not been fun, but they were probably part of an experience that needed to be lived through. I have come to trust myself when it comes to almost unconsciously doing what I need to do. I wish I could count on someone to do things for me when they need to be done, but all I have is me. And I do have me. I am strong, resilient, intelligent, and caring.
I suspect we all need to learn to support ourselves more than we do, to be our own best friends, because we do walk through this life as an individual. In my case I am an individual who is 58, in her 59th year, headed toward my 59th birthday next May.