Monday, 5 November 2012

What To Expect When You're...Not Expecting Anything

Day 88
277 Days Remaining

I have discovered the perfect way to avoid disappointment.  Shall I share it with you?

The secret is not to have expectations.  This, of course, is easier said than done; we all will automatically have expectations, but the decision to change your expectations will make things a lot easier to deal with.

Yesterday was my 38th birthday.

I can not remember any birthday in recent memory when I have not been disappointed in some way by how the day turned out.  When I was married, I always had stress because my husband was just not a very social person and did not enjoy spending time with my family, so I always felt pulled in seven different directions during the birthday "festivities", feeling like I had to entertain him and play mediator between him and my parents as well as enjoy time with my family.  Every year since our marriage ended, there has been a man in the picture - first Crumbs, then Stringer for a couple of years, and then HB for the last two - who I dragged along to my birthday celebration, or who I had hoped would come along and didn't.  This dating hiatus has been freeing in so many ways, but the very fact that there was no boyfriend (real, wished for, or quasi-pseudo-semi) to join me and my family as we enjoyed our time together was a huge burden off my shoulders.  Realizing this surprised me in a way, because I remember quite clearly every year feeling so proud to have this man or that man in my life, wanting to share him with my family.

The reality is that having each of those men in my life meant that I was more likely to get let down.

Crumbs came along to my birthday celebration, and got along with everyone well, but I was nervous having him there because it was still so recent that my marriage had broken up.  Stringer and my family were comfortable enough together, but the intensity of our relationship meant that we always had a big fight right before we were planning on heading out, so the underlying current of the evening was always stressful.  HB made my 36th birthday amazing, making a reservation at the Hotel Grand Pacific for my entire family and arranging for an incredible spread of food for all of us, but the are-we-aren't-we on-again, off-again nature of our relationship had me feeling unsettled, despite how much he snuggled with me during dinner and waxed poetic about how wonderful I was and how much he loved me.  The fact that my entire family also knew what was happening between us made me feel like no matter how real our feelings were for each other, the display of affection appeared fake.

The Mark at the Hotel Grand Pacific

Last year, I wanted HB to join me and my family for the birthday fondue my sister was hosting, but he had to work, so I was disappointed.  As well, he texted me quite often during the time I spent with my family, so I worried they felt interrupted.  I was not let down when it came to presents - HB presented me with tickets to see Hedley, one of our favorite bands - but over the past seven years, I've always had some kind of expectation that the man in my life would use my birthday as an excuse to make some grand gesture to show his love for me.  Of course it has never happened.

This year, I had no expectations, because I have no man!  I never would have realized how much stress that would take off my shoulders, but I enjoyed this birthday more than any other birthday I can remember.  Part of me wondered if HB would remember the date and call or text from Vancouver, but I didn't really expect it (he is absolutely terrible with dates; I used to have to remind him about Mother's Day or his mom's birthday.  She was lucky I was around...wonder what he's going to do from now on?), and I wasn't let down when he didn't. 

I had such a great day, starting with the fact that my kids were here with me for the weekend and I got to begin my day with my loving 10-year-old wishing me a Happy Birthday and giving me a handmade Activity Book to work through as part of my birthday present.  We went to church, where a couple of ladies gave me a basket filled with little goodies as well as things that they couldn't possibly have known I needed - Post-It notes for school; chocolate; a Tim Hortons gift card, a mug with the word "Joy" written on it; a tea towel; various flavors of tea; lip balm (mine just ran out); vanilla-scented body lotion; even a Page-A-Day calendar for Busy Women.  That was the biggest surprise, since I have a current Busy Women Page-A-Day and just that morning had been looking at it and idly thinking that it would soon be time to get another one.  The most ironic part was that they hadn't even know it was my birthday, and had been thinking about me and wanting to bless me.  They did an amazing job.

My lovely gift basket from the church ladies
The afternoon brought a tea celebration at my sister's, where we had tea with chocolate cupcakes (with whipped cream...yum!) and I opened presents that were exactly what I wanted - a stethoscope for school, more coffee gift cards, and from my sister, a set of martini glasses and a cocktail shaker, along with a bottle each of vanilla vodka and créme de cacao.  I was so excited to get that from her, because for the past three birthdays I have been hinting to HB (and, now that I think about, to Stringer before him!) that I wanted to be able to make my own signature chocolate martinis at home, and every birthday had hoped that I would finally get the fixings for it.  Well, my sister came through for me, and the very fact that I hadn't expected it made it even better.  Who needs a man when you've got a sister?  (And I have two of them, so I'm doubly blessed.)  My dad and I burst into spontaneous song ("Is this the little girl I carried...Is this the little boy at play? I don't remember growing older...when did they?") from Fiddler on the Roof; my kids played happily with their small cousins; my daughter made me cupcakes; and my new roommate gave me a gift of Murchie's hot chocolate even though we have only known each other for a few days.  In the evening, I made us each a chocolate martini and enjoyed it in my pajamas.  It was a perfect day.

I can't really say that not having a man in my life or that being on a dating hiatus are the reasons that I had such a great birthday, but what I can say is that even if I do have a boyfriend for my 39th birthday, my thought process has already been changing so much that I will not be looking forward to my birthday as a way to cement the relationship that we have.  I'd like to think that when I am in a relationship again, it will be natural and real enough that we won't need expectations; we'll just be happy to be together. And in the meantime, I am extremely happy to be myself, to be on the road that I'm on, and to be - ahem - thirty-eight years young.

Wishing you all days that are as happy as mine was yesterday,


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