My son turned 5 today. We had a great day celebrating his birthday – well, we generally did, although I’m in a bit of a crappy place. Ugh. I tried to hang in there for the sake of his birthday and Father’s Day. I did a reasonably good job of it, if I do say so myself, but any time I had more than a minute to think, the crappy stuff crept in. So I just kept going. Kept moving, kept plugging ahead, kept my focus on today as a celebration of my son and my husband. I’m under no illusion that I’ve fought off the enemy, but I’ll have to work out a more strategic approach tomorrow. I’m too tired at the moment.
But back to my son…
Over the course of the past year, I’ve joked that I couldn’t wait until he turned 5 and he would be done with all of the difficult, annoying 4 year old behaviors. As if on the morning of his birthday today, all of the challenging 4 year old behaviors would disappear. No more whining, no more screaming “FINE!” and stomping to his room, no more waiting until the very last minute to use the bathroom. Poof! Gone. And in their place? Wonderful, endearing 5 year old behaviors.
Naturally, this isn’t how it works, as evidenced by the plentiful whining today. But it got me thinking. What if I could wake up on the morning of my next birthday, and have all of my depression/anxiety/mental garbage disappear? Poof! Gone. And in their place?
Ahh…that’s the question. What would I want in their place? How would I want things to be different?
I’d invite a new friend and her family over for dinner. I wouldn’t care that the floors desperately need to be mopped, and I wouldn’t spend two days obsessing over the perfect food to cook. (Actually, I wouldn’t obsess much over that – Mediterranean orzo salad is the obvious choice for this time of year! I’d feature it on the Mental Health Blog Cook-A-Long.)
I’d stand up for myself. With my parents and my sisters, primarily, to defend my independence and growing sense of self.
I’d take tennis lessons. I’d buy one of those cute little tennis skirts and wouldn’t care that my thighs really don’t look that great in them. I’d play matches with people I don’t know, and even if I stunk at tennis as much as I expect, I’d have fun. Legitimate fun.
I’d open up a fabulous bottle of Cabernet and we’d get reacquainted. I might then decide that I don’t need to resume my previous relationship with Cabernet – but the brief reunion would be lovely and I wouldn’t feel guilty about its effects on my mental health.
I’d text the woman down the street who is grounded and genuine but I’m always afraid to bother her when she probably has so many more important things to do. She has five children, after all, and a foreign exchange student as well. But I wouldn’t worry about those things. I’d assume that she wants to have lunch with me too.
I’d tell the committee in my head to pack up their bags and head home. Their services are no longer required.
I’d have more fun with my kids. I wouldn’t feel my chest constrict any time they ask to “have time together” because I wouldn’t feel my usual pangs of guilt over not doing enough with them, followed by pangs of guilt over feeling guilty that I’m not doing enough with them, or just plain panic that I need time to myself before I explode like a grenade.
I’d really soak up my husband’s love, without putting it through 74 different analyses and filters and all the other stuff that makes me miss his obvious love for me sometimes.
I’d feel joy in every day life. No one would have to tell me “I think that’s what other people call Joy.” I’d know it instinctively. I wouldn’t overthink it, but I also wouldn’t take it for granted either.
I’d volunteer or do something to give support to those who find mental health to be a challenge. I’d be a source of encouragement and wisdom. And I’d actually have wisdom! Lots and lots of wisdom.
What about you? If you could wake up on your next birthday without the crap that weighs you down today, what would you do? How would you want your life to be different?