Tuesday, June 21, 2016

In Which I Birthday (mostly) Alone

I have a history of bad luck on decade birthdays, at least if you consider one bad "decade" birthday "a history of bad luck", which I do, and you would, too, if you were on a business trip when you turned 30 and your husband forgot ("I didn't forget, I just didn't say anything about it!" << THESE WORDS ARE A BAD IDEA) and your boss casually informed you that he was basically strong-armed into hiring you against his will.

The upside is, my thirties only improved from such a bleak start.

With my 40th birthday looming and a weird glitch on the calendar, whereby Cory and the kids would have overnight plans and those "plans" included camping along with several of my closest local friends, it all felt doomed.

I mean, I can camp. I can sit in a lawn chair and watch kids swim and while away two entire days with smoke in my hair and marshmallows in my teeth. I've done it before and I'll do it again. It's just somewhat of a departure from how I would ordinarily define "celebration" or "milestone-honoring".

So I made a few plans, and they fell apart. Then I made new ones, but they wobbled. And all the while, my kids were gearing up for their favorite weekend of the entire year, my family lives out-of-state, and I was terrified of two things: 1) Cory feeling any level of guilt over not being around and 2) a surprise "party" of any kind, including the one where the waiters lurch upon you with a sombrero and the whole restaurant sings to you in Spanglish.

Disclosure: I sort of wanted to just roll with it all and be alone for the day, but I was afraid my butt would end up getting bit by a rogue self-esteem/estrogen/introspective/lame-brain bug (it's a thing) and I'd end up crying into Howard's fur on the dingy sofa before the sun had even set.

In the end, Sarah saved the day. (You remember Sarah. She's the one who told me the first day we met that we would be friends then ended up being my roommate through college, my neighbor in early real-adulthood, my no-nonsense, truth-telling friend-to-the-end through the death and resurrection of my marriage, the one who got married on my farm, and the bearer of the entire anthology of 25 years of my crushes, celebrity and otherwise. That Sarah.)

We would spend the morning together, and after that, I'd be on my own. Every time I thought about it, the line from Trampled by Turtles would pop into my head, "You come into the world, alone. And you go out of the world, alone. But in between, it's you and me, oh." I'll be honest, it weirded me out. At first it always seemed to make sense and I do love the song, but a beat later, it seemed like a bad omen of some kind. It made me jittery that maybe I was accidentally predicting my own death, on my 40th birthday.

I kept singing along anyway, because that's what a 40 year old does. She sings along. She doesn't care. She tries to tamp down the neurosis just a touch and reminds herself about God and sovereignty and the fact that TBT songs are pretty powerful, especially live, but yeesh, sister, they're not that powerful.

I woke up on my birthday and thought, "Yep. Today's the day I'm going to put on that weird 80's dress that I bought from the thrift store and never worn. This is it, players. I'm going to present my freshly-40-year-old self to the world as a twenty-something woman circa 1984. Try to stop me. Make me care."

I also woke up feeling like I wanted to go back to sleep a little, because the house had NEVER been quieter. So I did. Then I Voxed Sarah claiming 40th-birthday immunity and showed up 30 minutes late.

Our morning was so stellar. She baked me muffins and I ate two, over conversation with her and her hubs about old-people problems. We thrifted. We early-lunched. (Black and Bleu Salad with Balsamic, if you care.) I subjected her to a task I would only ask of my closest friends: "I'm going to stand here in the alley and can you take like twelve pictures of me in my 80's dress for Instagram?"

{bag by fashionABLE}

Oy, my people deserve so many crowns and sashes and bouquets.

I drove home on a strange, 40th-birthday-or-is-it-really-today? high and then I did the following: *Tried on the two swimsuits I got at the thrift-store for a total of $3. (Make me care. Make me think it's gross or unsanitary. I dare you!)
*Changed into ratty cut-offs
*Washed the dishes and vacuumed the living room (can't relax until this is done)
*Took pics of my thrift-store finds (including some plates because I am clearly afflicted)
*Listened to a podcast about minimalism at the exact same time I pondered where to store more plates
*Bought a can of tangerine San Pellegrino
*Drove to my happy place
*Discovered there was a private wedding about to take place
*Turned around to leave
*Remembered I'm 40 now and I won't be bossed around by a wedding on my birthday
*Turned back around
*Found a remote, secluded spot
*Spread out my blanket
*Read this book (which is slaying me dead, by the way)
*Drank my "healthy pop" (make me care)
*Stared up at the leaves and sky
*Voxed Meg
*Fended off a constant parade of daddy long-legs spiders
*Drove to one of the local taco trucks
*Scarfed down one carnitas and one asada with salsa verde
*Went to a movie. Alone. On a Saturday night/my 40th birthday (in case you'd forgotten)
*SOBBED MY FACE OFF, as in literally, I almost puked and/or choked (and I'd read the book, so I already knew how it ended...)
*Thanked Jesus and the Dental Gods that Sam Claflin didn't "fix" his teeth
*Composed myself
*Drove home
*Ate the tart Sarah had made me (with a whole vanilla bean!)
*Read in bed until my eyes couldn't take another word
*Fell blisfully asleep, a happy, grown-up introvert

Here's what I can tell you from this side. A birthday is just a day, but it also deserves to be honored, and not in the way your friends did, or the way people on TV do, or even in the way you originally thought you might like. Turning 40 might be the perfect time to peel back one more later, and peer inside. What moves you? What settles you? What do you crave? How introverted are you? Make it happen. Own it. If you can't appreciate your quirks, who will?

My life, as it turns out, is not over. So I can't speak to the whole "going out of the world alone" thing. But I can say that moving into my 40's is a pretty fulfilling new start, and heading into its wild blue with myself as my friend felt more than worthy and just the right kind of celebratory.

The world is calling my name. I can hear it.
And I know I'll sing along, but I might change the key because while I get that most women are sopranos, I'm an alto on a good day, and a high tenor before my morning tea and after midnight. I'll sing it in my own way.

Sue me. I'm 40.

*amazon links used


  1. You rock 40! And you rock being honest! Birthdays do always play out Hollywood style but I think that now is the time to block the calendar ten years from now for an entire week of celebration!

  2. bit by a rogue self-esteem/estrogen/introspective/lame-brain bug (it's a thing) - this sort of happened to me on my recent 37th birthday which I do fully realize isn't the same as 40 but still! my longest oldest friend bailed on our morning plans (a fluke thing but still), my mom forgot my birthday! and wouldn't go to the farm sale in town with me and my family didn't know quite what to do for me. anyway - happy 40th! you looked so cute in your 20 something 80's dress and it totally suits you!

  3. I live within 2 miles of your happy place - and I go there every chance I get. HJ and I got married there (in a thrifted dress - (me, not HJ) and I would have considered it the very best omen if a random lady in a perfect thrifted 80's dress would have been reading quietly in a corner on a quilt and getting emotion-murdered by a book. I'm so glad you were born. I'm so glad you shared your special day here with us!

  4. Happy Birthday precious friend! You make 40 look absolutely adorable!!!

  5. The big secret is that the forties are absolutely fabulous!

  6. welcome to the best decade yet! we'll share it for a mere three months and then i'll jump ahead to the next one so that when you arrive at that milestone, i can report in about it.

  7. I'm just a couple years behind you, so this is much appreciated (and your dress is adorable);-)

  8. The introvert in me was basically BEAMING as I read this! I'm 23 and sadly already a grandma in my ways - early to bed (unless I'm catching up on the bachelorette or have a good read), and I like to spend my friday nights getting an early dinner with friends and then ... going home...and going to bed. LOVE that you own who you are and don't apologize for it! xoxo

  9. Oh my gosh!! Is it weird how much I love you!! Could you be my neighbor or best friend? Happy Birthday Shannan! xoxo kaye

  10. Shannan, I have to tell you Happy Birthday! I too turned 40 this year. It was in January and I had a severe case of shellfish poisoning. Not one of my sisters, and I have four of them, gave me a gift or celebrated the day with me. And it was all good! It was like it didn't even matter anymore. It was more about celebrating me alone and just as I pleased. I too write and follow your blog because what you say about life resonates with me. I teach school so am too busy most of the year, but I will one day finish that book I have started...You have given me hope! Blessings

  11. Happy Birthday! My introverted self loved reading every word 👊🏻 xoxo, Angie Pants

  12. Happy birthday! A great birthday, and a great read! :)

  13. Happy Birthday Shannan!!! Guess what... I am totally going to have a Birthday- day just like this! I will turn 46 (I think) in Aug. We are newly empty nesters, so of course I will share a little of my day with the handsome hubs, but then I am off to make my own special day!! Who knows, if I find a vintage 80s dress I may post on ig and tag you. LOL As for taco trucks- they are pure deliciousness! Although, I stopped at one the other day- quickly nixed it off my list, no heat, for pete's sake this is California!
    Thank you for always providing something wonderful to read!

  14. Happy birthday Shannan!! Listening to a podcast on minimalist and try to figure out where to put your new plates!! Omgosh that is so me!! Had me laughing out loud! Thank you. Love your post

  15. Happy birthday Shannan!! Listening to a podcast on minimalist and try to figure out where to put your new plates!! Omgosh that is so me!! Had me laughing out loud! Thank you. Love your post

  16. I'm just a couple years behind you, so this is much appreciated (and your dress is adorable);-)

  17. This made me laugh so hard. You are awesome, and I dig that dress. Happy birthday!

  18. Happy happy birthday!! Your day sounds fantastic. Yes yes YES to celebrating the way you want- not the way it has always been done or the way we do for 5 year olds!

  19. This is amazing. Please never stop sharing yourself with us. Thanks for making me laugh and also speaking awesome truth about loving ourselves, no matter the age. :)

  20. That sounds like perfection, except maybe the Daddy Long Legs.

  21. That sounds like perfection, except maybe the Daddy Long Legs.

  22. Belated birthday kudos to you. And would you want to hear that turning 40 was a breeze but 50 hit me like a ton - no, TWO tons - of brinks? Now I sit at age 67 thinking, "70 is tomorrow!" And I'm thinking, "Turning 50 was a BREEZE!" I probably should re-read every Anne Lamott book I have on my shelves. I'm going to need it.

  23. Sarah, what a gal!!!! I noticed you both wore matching blue outfits, and you ended the post with the blue quilt she gave you at her bridal shower. And the tart was amazing. When I turned forty I decided to learn to crochet because my grandma did and said you had to learn to crochet in life so when you got old it would keep the arthritis away. No birthday ever mattered until I turned 60.....that was the hard one. But at least I can crochet!!!

  24. Happy (belated) birthday! Today is Day 1 of my week of vacation - mostly alone. Husband and step-son are off having fun. I plan to spend it with God, catching up on some of my favorite authors (which is why I'm here), and doing things that make my heart smile. I've never had a tangerine San Pelligrino. Hmm, think I might need to track that puppy down!