Today is my birthday. And it’s just…different.

Everyone had or will have a birthday this year, and I’m sure we can all complain about the same thing. Our kids got parades…with fire trucks, and police cars. What do adults get? A gift card? A video call from mom? While considerate and appreciated, I think a long, strong, rib-crushing hug from mom would be so, so much better.

A lot has happened this year. Having a birthday in the fourth quarter, almost always aligning with the autumnal solstice, enables me an opportunity for reflection upon the year as a whole. And boy has this year been a B.

I thought it started out great when I really spread my wings and showcased my talents with a client at the beginning of the year. We pulled off a huge, multi-day event, they praised my work, and I felt good. But then my son (11 months at the time) got sick and had to go to the ER, our daycare provider broke her back and had to close, we had to urgently find new care for him. And we did. And then we celebrated his first birthday, and it was all OK again.

Then the pandemic. That fateful Friday the 13th at the office, I was writing “COVID language” for my clients with butterflies in the pit of my stomach – the same ones I get before a big event, or a thunderstorm, or a snow storm. The former journalist in me gets excited when big things happen, but my anxiety grows when I don’t know what that is.

So we were all home. And that’s where we stayed. We ordered groceries online. We watched big cats and crazy characters on Netflix. Clients were cancelling work. My hours were cut. My husband was furloughed. Bills started piling up. Then the shower drain leaked through to the first floor. Then the mower died.

In the grand scheme of life, you think: “oh, well, at least you still have a roof over your head, and you have your health.”

Or so you thought.

I have been having significant pain in my lower back and body since the birth of my son. For the sake of space and time, I’ll save you the gory details, but suffice it to say, I went for treatment multiple times with different diagnoses, and multiple scans and physical therapy treatments, until I finally got the MRI with the meat and potatoes. I have a very large lipoma growing inside of my spinal column, spanning the length of my lumbar spine.

Now that sounds pretty bad. And it is. It’s hard to move some days. But others aren’t so bad. I got the news in the summer. And then the pandemic kept going…it seems as though every time there was a development with the pandemic, I would get more awful news. All the king’s horsemen and all the king’s men can’t agree on how to put me back together.

So then comes my birthday, and the usual rowdy karaoke night with friends, or a bonfire at the house, just isn’t happening. “Staying connected” via social media and virtual phone calls isn’t cutting it for me anymore. I miss people. I miss talking to someone other than my husband (no offense, honey) with more than my fast typing fingers.

So how does one’s lift spirits? How are we all expected to remain sane through all of this? Some coping ideas…

– Check on your neighbors. Do it safely. Sometimes people just want a phone call, despite all the memes about introverts who would rather text.

– Make sure to get out of bed every day EARLY, and enjoy the sunlight while we still have it.

– Try not to take a nap 0 do something relaxing or meditative instead.

– Don’t lose sight of your hobbies; start a new one. Remember the thoughts that make you happy, (like Tinkerbell says!) and dwell on those until you’re smiling to yourself.

And if it’s all still too much, talk to someone. There’s no harm; there’s no shame. There are a bunch of apps now that offer virtual conversations (I see all the ads on Facebook), and, in a pinch, there is always the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255.

Now let’s just take a quick personal assessment.

– While I’ve had my fair share of blows one after another, I have a beautiful son who makes me smile even when he’s slapping me in the face.

– I have a dedicated husband who has been pulling more than his weight (literally, and figuratively) the entire time.

– I do still have a job, even though it’s not full time.

– We do still have our house – albeit in various states of renovation and repairs.

– And we’ve been able to have small, quick, socially distanced visits with family.

But I cannot wait for that rib-crushing hug from my mom.