When we celebrate a birthday as a child, we’re forced into this unrealistic fog of how birthdays should be. We have parties, open presents wrapped in sparkly paper, and everyone adorns you with love and kindness. As the years pass us by, these moments become few and far between, and birthdays become less about what we want. The ugly truth is, no matter how mature and logical we are, our souls still yearn for that shiny wrapping paper and sugary birthday cake.
My mother was the kind of person who would send you a card for Halloween. The same goes for Easter. Hell, my mom would sometimes send me a card just to say “I love you”. I would laugh and think “that lady is so over the top sometimes”, but the last few years have been empty without those silly moments. And my birthday…well…it just feels like another day without her.
I have to admit, I spent most of my 33rd birthday feeling sorry for myself. We all do it, and I’m mature enough to admit when I’m being an idiot. And I was an idiot on Thursday. Of course, I’m allowed to feel sad and lonely, because I actually felt sad and lonely, but I feel like I should have been able to snap out of my pity party. I just couldn’t muster up the strength. I wanted to be hugged. I wanted affection. I wanted to hear my mom’s cheery voice saying “Happy Birthday, baby”. I wanted to open the mailbox and see a cheesy card from her. But it was just a normal day. Nothing special. And I desperately wanted to feel special. Birthdays are mind fucks.
The holidays are frustrating for me now. For the last 3 years, I’ve taken on the role of “mama” and tried to organize some sort of normalcy since she left us. I make sure we have a tree. I break out mom’s Christmas decorations. I work hard to have a “Christmas morning moment” so we can watch Nathan open his gifts. Since money has been scarce, we opt out of buying each other presents and focus on the only kid in the house. He’s the other reason why I make such a fuss about keeping our traditions alive. He still needs that, and honestly I think I do too. It’s how I remember her, and I don’t ever want that to go away.
Bike racing is a mind fuck, too. One weekend you feel like Queen of the Mountain, and other weekends leave you feeling soulless and naked in front of a room full of people. It’s quite a journey, really. I find myself feeling very bipolar this season. Crying because I suck. Crying because I raced like a champ. Crying because I wanted to push harder, but I had nothing left to push. And I know I cry a lot, but there’s something about racing bikes that brings out every emotion I’ve ever had. It lights a fire in my soul. It’s the one place I can focus all of my energy, and the only place that allows me to feel the way I wanna feel.
A chick new to ‘cross racing asked me if she would ever feel like she was something other than a shit show. I gave her the best advice I knew to give…
“It’s your first year. ‘Cross racing can be a soul-crushing experience if you let it. Sometimes you will be proud of yourself, and sometimes you will be ready to sell your bike. You can’t set your expectations too high. You have to be easy on yourself, and give credit when it’s due. You have to realize that toting that start line is a celebration in itself, because not everyone can race ‘cross. Be patient. Work hard. Understand that you are not anyone else but yourself. Work on YOUR race. Do the best YOU can. Focus more on getting strong and less on beating (insert name here). You’re gonna be fine. Next year you won’t even recognize yourself, and it will continue to get better from there if you’re willing to put in the hard work.”
Then I though, “Oh shit. I need to listen to myself more”.