Going through a divorce is rarely easy. I consider mine to be one of the easier ones and it is still incredibly challenging. There’s always latent anger, hurt, disappointment, frustration and anxiety associated with the process and, when kids are involved, it is exponentially more difficult. However, there are also wonderful little gifts that show up along the way if you choose to notice them. Being an eternal optimist, I continually force myself to find the silver linings in my life, even when my days may be dark and wearisome.

Last weekend was my birthday. It was the first time I would be celebrating as a single woman since 1991. Birthdays, in general, have been a challenge for me throughout my life, as I have shared in other blog posts. This year, I was particularly trepidatious because I had no sense of how I might feel or react. It was unclear, even right up until the day, if the burdens of divorce and the angst that often lays in low clouds over my head, would overshadow my special day. Birthdays with my ex often left me disappointed and sad so I was hopeful that not having him around and not having any expectations of him would resolve some of that. But, I worried about loneliness and isolation and, ultimately, feeling depressed and abandoned. In attempt to stave this off, I used my newfound skills of asking for help and alerted my close friends that I was anxious about my mood surrounding my birthday and wanted to plan something fun to brighten the day. Of course, living in the time of COVID, this was not a simple ask and required consideration. My friends lovingly suggested an intimate outdoor dinner and cocktails with just a few friends with whom we had been social distancing over the past few months. My kids also wanted to do something for and with me so I suggested we have dinner the night before my birthday. My younger son, a blossoming pastry chef, used this occasion to whip up a special dessert. Then, out of the blue, I was asked on a brunch date for Sunday. It was, on paper, a perfect plan for a lovely weekend. And, I announced to all who asked that I was going into the weekend with high hopes and an optimistic outlook.

That’s usually when things go south for me. Traditionally, wishing for the best but expecting the worst is my approach for my birthday and the times I was hopeful for a positive outcome, I was usually disappointed. This year, I put my faith in my friends and kids to deliver. The night before my birthday, my kids and I had a simple but sublime pizza dinner with a delicious dessert, fully prepared by my younger son. Outside of having to cut a pineapple for him, he worked furiously in the kitchen to create a delicious masterpiece, filled with loving kindness. Sitting at the dining table with my two boys, I felt tremendously grateful for these miraculous creatures who were decidedly thriving despite the circumstances they faced. Between the stresses of quarantine, missing their friends and schools, the monotony of their daily lives due to no summer jobs and limited socializing, working through a divorce and a new family structure, and watching the ups and downs of their mom throughout the process, their resilience and upbeat attitudes inspire me.

The day of my birthday it rained. Despite having a summer birthday, I cannot recall when, in the last many years, that it actually rained on my day. I was fearing disappointment because my evening with friends would have to be canceled if the weather did not improve. Staving off the typical fear of disappointment, I resolved that I would take the opportunity to enjoy a second dinner with my kids again and that would suffice for this year. And it would have. It would have been just lovely. Alas, my intrepid friends were not about to let me celebrate alone and Mother Nature complied. A vibrant rainbow stretched across the sky above my home and my older son called me out to observe the magnificence. Friends arrived, sushi was eaten, wine was drank, candles were blown out and my first birthday flying solo was in the books. My heart was full and I still had another lovely adventure the next day. It proved to be one of the most perfect birthdays I have had in as far back as I can recall.

The icing on the proverbial cake, as is generally the case with me, was the lovely cards and notes I received. My love language is words of affirmation and I treasure notes of all kinds. Whether they be text messages, hand-written greetings (my favorite, for sure) or even a sweet note on social media, I value the time another person commits to carefully choosing words to express their feelings. It always touches me so deeply, particularly when the words are coming from my children. And, on this birthday, my first birthday alone, my children showered me with deeply moving and heartfelt words that elicited a wide range of emotions and left my heart literally exploding with pride and contentment. They so carefully articulated sentence after sentence that reassured me that they understood how difficult the challenge was for me to make the choice to end their parents’ marriage and how committed I have been to making them feel safe and secure. They offered me a glimpse into their perspective of the role I play in our family and I was immeasurably grateful for the opportunity to observe the world through their eyes, if only for a moment in time.

My Sunday date was lovely and romantic and the absolute perfect ending to a most superb birthday weekend. It was not lost on me the synchronicity of all of these events. My fears about another birthday leaving me feeling lonely and sad were, ironically, eclipsed by my ability to receive all the love offered to me. The year where I expected to struggle the most was the one where I felt most contented, appreciated, admired and celebrated. Being alone in the midst of a pandemic seemed like the perfect recipe for disaster for me and, instead, turned out to be the time I felt least isolated and most loved.

Go figure.

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