My birthday was a week ago, firmly entrenching me in my late 30s, and while I am constantly battling a low-grade panic at how very, very quickly life seems to be passing by, the upside is that I am finally figuring out how to live on my own terms.
A year ago I had a colleague happily report to me that she would spend her birthday away from everyone else, with a great book, a hammock, and nature all around her. For some reason, this idea of retreat-as-celebration had never occurred to me.
As with most things, society dictates a very extroverted portrait of a perfect birthday: success as determined by sheer number of well wishes, gifts, exclamations, and attendees of some grand fete. If I were to judge my birthday by this framework, and I certainly have in the past, I would be unsettled and sad.
However, with this lovely counterpoint modeled by my friend last year, I have embraced my solitude instead of warring against my self. So, this year, I retreated. Yesterday I semi-spontaneously drove to Eureka Springs, about 90 minutes from home. I enjoyed interesting podcasts en route as well as the beautiful hills of the Ozarks; windows down on a gorgeous day. I checked into a local bed and breakfast which was within walking distance of downtown. I walked and stopped wherever I desired: the library, gourmet food and kitchen shops, home decor stores, and finally a small cafe for dinner. Then I wound my way back to my room, drew a bath and read a book. This morning I ate my breakfast, chatted amiably with the innkeeper and other guests, and then quickly bid adieu in order to make it to work by 12:30.
It was delightful in all the right ways: it felt rather illicit, as no one save my husband knew where I was (and even he was informed rather last minute), and fulfilled that fantasy we all have from time to time to just…drive…away. The luxury wasn’t in the amenities of the lodging, but in simply and purely following the prompts of my own heart.