“Come celebrate with me that everyday something has tried to kill me and has failed.” — Lucille Clifton
August is my birthday! My birthdays have been bittersweet. There have been years when I have welcomed another year and another trip around the sun. Then there have been years where I felt nothing at all. These last few years have been up and down. When I turned 30, I thought a transformation would come. I had a plan, and this was the year I was going to make it happen. My 20s had been overshadowed by bad romances, grief, and job loss, meaning my head was barely above water.
When my 30s hit, it met the beginning of a new chapter, but instead, my body had other plans, and before my 30th birthday, I had entered what would be two years of health issues. This year, my health issues are finally under control, I’m working a job I don’t hate, and after a lot of practice, I figured out what makes me smile.
Self-care has become more prominent in recent years for obvious reasons; you have probably read tons of articles with the best tips and tricks for taking care of yourself in stressful moments. Once the pandemic hit, it changed everything about daily life around the world, and while most people gained a severe case of cabin fever, it had lasting effects. I see it the same as those who struggle with the physical signs of long-range COVID symptoms. Although they have overcome the diseases, they still are working with the side effects and lasting symptoms of the conditions.
Our minds are struggling in the same way. Trying to make sense of what normal is now and adjust to what some people call the “new normal.” I don’t know about you, but I am sick of hearing the word normal. Everyone was so happy to get back to normal, whatever their sense of the word is but for me, there never was indeed a normal, and I am sorry. Still, some things came out of the pandemic that benefited my mental health. A new, less stressful job was one of them. For others, their ‘normal’ was completely flipped upside down and became a nightmare, so the word ordinary only brings them grief at the thought of how wonderful their lives used to be.
Over time I have gradually returned to normal activities, my flight anxiety is at an all-time high still, so I don’t fly as much as I used to before the pandemic. However, finding ways to take care of myself has been essential to managing my anxiety, so this month, in celebration of my birthday and celebrating that every day I have struggled and triumphed through my fear by finding ways to take care of myself. It took me a while not to feel terrible when I needed time to myself, and I tried not to give reasons for canceling plans. Besides, I could not attend, but I also learned to say yes to outings because that is what I needed.
This year for my birthday, I plan on doing all the things that make me happy and all the things that make me smile. I hope that as I am sharing, you will find one or two things that make you smile or begin a journey to finding out what does make you smile and going out and doing it.