It was my birthday yesterday and for the first year in a long while I actually had a very good day.
See my birthdays (and I don't say this to envoke mass sympathy) are usually pretty shit. It's partly that whole "Christmas birthday" thing. It's a cliche, but as anyone else with a mid-to-late December birthday can tell you- years of "joint birthday and Christmas presents", birthday gifts wrapped in Christmas paper, a lack of anyone to celebrate with because they're all visiting relatives/Christmas shopping/at their work's Christmas do/snowed in or just partied out, can take their toll. Also there's the fact that at this time of year there's almost as many viruses flying around as there are cover versions of "All I want for Christmas", inevitably meaning that several years have seen me or my friend's capable of nothing more celebratory than proposing a toast with a mug of Beechams Hot Berry Fruits.
The eve before this birthday I spent some time reflecting on birthdays of years gone by. I had a good run in my early 20's when I somehow managed to use the festive season to my advantage, thus celebrating the passing of years with nights of drinking and dancing but since 2009 things have gone considerably downhill. That year my Dad died 2 days before my birthday leaving me in no mood to even acknowledge it's existence. 2010 I went to a carvery with my family and truth be told had a nice day but as I'd just had a twin miscarriage a week before I was to a certain extent feeling pretty shitty. 2011 was possibly the worst, I had mastitis and spent the day in bed wondering if I'd be forever 27 as I felt for sure my days were numbered. I did eventually surface at 4pm giving me just enough time to wrap a few christmas presents for other people before returning to bed. Then last year I went to the Trafford Centre so my boys could buy me some Dr Martens. That's no great hardship although given as it was The Trafford Centre 3 days before Christmas we were basically risking life and limb in doing so, and didn't stop any longer than absolutely necessary. We stopped off at Krispy Kreme and Starbucks drive-thru on the way home and sat in the car shovelling doughnuts in our mouths whilst Chris was on the phone to our letting agents trying to get them to fix our boiler. Oh, didn't I mention we didn't have any heating or hot water at all for 3 weeks encompassing my birthday, christmas and new year?!?
So I didn't have high hopes for this year. What with me being full of a cold, approaching another CIDP relapse, and with lots of sad and difficult things happening to people I love, I figured it would be best to just lay low and not get my hopes up. But then I realised that just as in life, there is little point complaining about how shitty things are without also intending to do something to change it, so it follows that it must also be true that I can't sit and whinge about my naff birthdays if I never make the effort to improve them myself.
And it worked! My Mum and sister and brother came to visit, which was lovely in itself and as an added bonus they looked after the boys' for a few hours whilst me and Chris escaped to Richmond Tea Rooms for afternoon tea. It's rare we get to spend any time just the two of us (this was our 3rd child free excursion in 4 years!) and it was great.
Sure I had to keep surruptitiously blowing my nose, and thanks to the CIDP I was so tired when we got home I wasn't sure I'd ever make it off the sofa again, sure between our chatter about fun stuff Chris and I also touched on sad or difficult topics but hey that's life. Birthdays, like every other part of life, are perhaps not supposed to be perfect. By waiting for that perfect birthday, or perfect christmas, perfect partner or perfect job, maybe we're not only setting ourselves up to fail but also failing to see the beauty in what is already right in front of us.
All I know is that I am feeling very thankful for everything I have at 29.
Not just the messages, cards and presents. Not just the delicious little cakes and glasses of fizz (although certainly I'm thankful for those too) but also my beautiful boys, who admittedly were so grumpy when I returned from my birthday tea that they refused to even pose for a photograph together, but who without fail make me smile every single day.
Chris, who always does his absolute best to make my birthday special, battling against all the forces at work previously mentioned, in an attempt to make me feel special too.
My Mum, who in addition to the small matter of actually giving birth to me, never ever wraps my birthday presents in Christmas paper.
All our family and friends who think of us most days of the year not just the 'important' ones.
And this ridiculous body, that despite it's (mainy) failings, most notably- attacking itself on a regular basis leaving me paralysed to various degrees, has nonetheless allowed me another year in this crazy, harsh, exciting, complicated and wonderful world.