Last Saturday started much like any other. Son #3 needed to arrive at the high school by 7 am to catch a bus for a cross-country meet. Sadly, we wouldn’t see him run, as we had committed to watching #2 son’s high school football game in Idaho, just across the state line.
So, at 6:15 I woke #3 and his friend, who had spent the night, tried (unsuccessfully) to interest them in breakfast, packed a bag of protein bars, water and cheese snacks, and delivered them to the school with 30 seconds to spare.
Then, it was back home to wake my daughter and get her to a mother-daughter charity-league meeting by 8 am. There, I ate a bagel, drank a cup of decaf and communed with friends. At the meeting’s conclusion, I passed my girl off to her aunt and cousins, who would take her for the day.
My husband met me in the dog park with “son” #4 (the Golden-doodle), so we could exercise him before heading for Idaho.
Next, it was off to the airport for our noon flight to Spokane (my husband wisely suggested we fly instead of drive; because he travels for work, we have plenty of frequent-flier miles). Lunch was a bag of trail mix purchased in the airport gift shop.
We battled traffic en route to the field (some 40 miles away), arriving just in time for the game’s start. It was a beautiful, sunny day; the team played well, but lost. Our son played well, but not as much as we had hoped. We communed with the many parents who had made the trip the prior evening, ate soft-serve ice cream and popcorn for a second lunch, and at the game’s conclusion, rushed back to the airport for our 6:30 flight home – the last one out of Spokane that evening.
Back in Seattle, we collected our daughter, checked in with #3 son, played with the dog and settled in for the evening. I gave my husband “permission” to watch the Huskies game he had taped (the team played poorly, and lost); my daughter and I rented a movie (I missed most of it; very uncharacteristically, I spent most of the time on the phone). Dinner was… hmmmmm… I think I grabbed a yogurt at about 9 pm.
Did I mention it was my birthday?
Many years ago, I would have felt very crabby about spending my birthday in such a fashion. I always had high expectations for a fantastic day, but never knew how to let others know what I wanted or anticipated. Perhaps this was because I came at the tail end of a large family, or maybe because I lacked the skills and confidence to assert my wishes; at any rate, I almost always ended my special day feeling underappreciated and disappointed.
As a mom, it was worse. I soon learned that “special days” are a myth; our duties and pressures don’t cease on Mother’s Day and birthdays, despite the best efforts of spouses and kids. So, I often felt cranky about having to chauffeur, cook, clean up, cajole and cheerlead on those “vacation days.”
Over the past few years, Carol (my friend and blogging partner) and I have worked to practice what we preach. We spend our work time discussing and writing about how women need to give themselves permission for breaks; to take care of their own mental and physical needs, so they can remain happy and healthy enough to help others.
So, a while back, we started treating each other to an annual birthday lunch (her big day comes four days after mine) in a waterfront neighborhood about 30 minutes from our homes. We would dress up, drive towards the Puget Sound, walk along the beach, soak in the sunshine and clean, salty air (Septembers in Seattle are spectacular) and then stop for a long lunch.
The change of scenery and routine always made us feel that we had taken a mini vacation.
This year, we instead rented a two-person kayak near the University. We enjoyed a picture-perfect Seattle day, paddling in calm waters under sunny skies. Those few hours served to re-energize both of us, and our personal happiness cups were filled.
I didn’t stop there, though. Knowing that Saturday would be somewhat occupied, I booked a spa visit for Friday afternoon. In all honesty, I’m a low-maintenance gal; my friends say I should spend more time on my hair, makeup, nails and skin. I do prioritize time for work outs every day, but otherwise take a very “au naturel” approach to my appearance. So, the spa trip was definitely an unusual treat.
At a lodge northeast of my home, I soaked in an outdoor hot tub while sipping herbal tea, and then underwent an “exfoliating body wrap” and an “anti-aging facial.” I felt pampered, relaxed and rejuvenated. And so, between the spa and the kayak, time with friends and time to reflect, I had taken care of me.
Others would treat me later on. My husband and kids booked a brunch for the day after my birthday, and a good friend and her daughter invited my daughter and me to dinner Sunday night. Other friends scheduled a birthday lunch for later in the week.
So, while my actual birth date wasn’t all that special, I still felt happy and well-cared for (and my skin felt fabulous). Because of that, I was able to enjoy what the day brought, instead of focusing on what was missing. And, back at home, many wonderful surprises awaited: flowers, gifts, cards, emails, texts and phone messages, and a Facebook page filled with lovely notes from good friends from throughout the years.
Yes, it was just another day, but it was a wonderful one.
– Linda Williams Rorem, 10 Sept. 2012
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