Yesterday was my 38th birthday. I was supposed to celebrate after school with my husband, who had arranged for my parents to keep the kids a little longer than usual so we could go out to dinner, walk on the beach and just hang out. We did not do that. Earlier in the week I had discovered an unusual amount of activity on our bank account over the last six weeks, and upon careful analysis realized the huge amounts of money my husband has been spending eating out, entertaining friends, and basically just frittering it away. My husband works on commission only and things have been slow for him, so we’ve been trying to get by on just my salary. Which is hard to do when someone keeps spending money frivolously.
I did not want to talk about this with my husband on the phone or even on my birthday…but my level of anxiety was so great that I was unable to keep myself from mentioning it – and then from there the conversation slowly spiraled downward. It was not good. He is not speaking to me at all at the moment, did not want to see me at all yesterday and was out of the house until after I went to bed. I am fairly certain this is the beginning of the end of our marriage.
But here’s the thing: Yesterday was a good birthday for me. I was able to spend about 2 hours alone (alone! By myself!) in my classroom with nothing to do but think about how I want to proceed over the next few weeks, and the peace and quiet was cathartic. It reminded me of a time 14 years ago when I also spent my birthday alone. I was 24 and living in San Francisco. We got a group together to go out to some of the bars in the Marina. At one point, while at one bar on Polk Street, I wanted to go down the street briefly to Johnny Love’s to see if my buddy Aaron was tending bar. My friends didn’t want to go, but one friend, Christine, went with me. While at JL’s we joked around and had a few more beers, and by the time Christine had to leave to go home, the rest of my group had disappeared from the first bar. Instead of being angry about it, I decided to have fun. I went from bar to bar, making new friends, drinking beer, and occasionally making a phone call (from a pay phone! To leave messages on an answering machine!) to see where my friends were. I stopped at Bepple’s for some pie, and listened to an amazing jazz band from Stanford. I finally met up with my friends again, but the experience left me transformed. I realized how much fun it was to be by myself. I didn’t need the safety of a group of people to enjoy myself, I was truly independent for the very first time in my adult life and it was exhilarating. I have never forgotten that night, or that feeling.
Yesterday brought that night back to me in an unexpected way. I no longer live alone, I have two young kids, a full time job, a marriage that is on the rocks – I would never have imagined at 24 that I would be here at 38. But here I am, and I feel the same way. Exhilarated by the road unfolding before me, and not at all afraid to be alone.
I am scared, though. My husband can be an angry person, and while he’s not violent, he’s also not very nice. This could be a rough few weeks for me emotionally and possibly financially. But over the fear I am feeling optimistic and excited and grateful. I am so lucky to have two amazing kids, and lucky that my marriage has unfolded in a way that has allowed me to be very comfortable parenting two kids alone. I have a great job with 29 amazing 5th graders who humble me and inspire me and allow me to forget my problems for 6 hours every day. I have the love and support of my parents, who are waiting in the wings to do anything they can to help me. I have good friends IRL who call me every day to check in on me, and internet friends who read this blog or know me from others who have reached out to support me across many miles, without ever having spoken to me in person, or seen me face-to-face.
I’m just so, so lucky.