It’s my birthday and I’m sitting in Barnes & Noble alone. I’m okay with this. Books, bookstores, libraries, they’re my safe place. It’s not unique for a survivor of childhood abuse to find refuge within a book’s covers. Whether it’s hiding in the back of my closet praying for a door to Narnia or huddled under my covers with a flashlight and Nancy Drew, the worlds I’ve found in books have given me hope, their characters have inspired me with bravery and gumption and the idea that someday I could be like them and forge my own path.
That, to me, is the power of literature, particularly children’s literature.
It’s no surprise that I became an author, with the hope that someday I could create a world that would serve another child as the worlds of Anne of Green Gables, Alanna of Tortall, and Narnia.
When I sold my first book my grandfather asked me when I was going to start writing for adults and become a ‘real’ author. At the time it upset me but now I just shake my head and laugh. To me, there is no higher calling than writing for children and teens. Because I know exactly what those books can mean in their lives. I know, better than anyone. Without them I don’t know how I’d have made it through my childhood. I’ve heard the same thing from other bibliophiles and survivors, so I know I’m not alone.
If there’s one lesson that my life has been trying to teach me, Ms. Type-A Control Freak Planner, it’s that it doesn’t go as planned. On today of all days the universe decided to make sure I got the point.
Just me, myself and coffee.
My boyfriend had promised to spend the whole day with me. Breakfast at a greasy spoon, hang out at his place (I have the key but haven’t seen it yet, cuz life), go out to dinner. Through a combination of circumstances we haven’t seen much of each other lately. He broke his foot two weeks ago and was stuck up in Worcester because he drives a stick and couldn’t drive with a broken foot. I had to travel for court. His job sucks and he works hours that are opposite mine. I’d made it quite, quite clear that I didn’t need stuff for my birthday - I needed time.
Yesterday afternoon he texted me, so work wants me to go to California. Tomorrow. I texted back - my birthday? Him - yeah, I’m trying to get out of it.
They’d meant to send him for some training stuff earlier in the month but when he broke his foot it was canceled. Now they wanted him to make up that time. And there’s a clause in his contract that states he has to fly out to wherever they want to send him as long as they give twenty-four hours notice*.
When he texted me this morning I knew before I even checked the text that once again, we wouldn’t be able to spend a good, solid uninterrupted block of time together. And I had a choice. Get angry? Or resigned and sad? Or accept with peace and grace that this is a part of being with him and I can deal?
I chose option three. After I went for a run he showed up and we grabbed breakfast at a place that was supposed to have actual food but only had pastries because the yelp reviews sucked. Our dates always end up being a comedy of errors - ask me about the time we had reservations for tapas and when we showed up the restaurant had fire trucks sitting outside and the kitchen wouldn’t be open again for two hours - and this was no exception. Then we hung out at my place until he had to hop back in his car to drive to the airport.
He gets back on Wednesday a few hours before I fly out for Thanksgiving with C and we won’t be in the same city again until next Sunday. He promised to pick me up at the airport that night (putting you on notice, dude) so we could see each other before another busy work week. He did get me a pretty awesome birthday present of the - OMG, really? - but I’ll wait to write about it until it happens. Because with our luck…
So I’m alone on my birthday. It’s not the first time, and it’s better than being with someone who resents your presence. Or who didn’t get a baby-sitter and planned everything last minute. And, again, I had a choice. Mope around the house or take myself shopping with permission to buy what I want? Roll with it, like life seems determined to teach me?
I headed to Barnes & Noble. Two books by Brene Brown and a crochet cacti kit. A latte from Starbucks and a cranberry bliss bar. I'm wearing one of my favorite tops. Tomorrow I have plans with a friend to attend a classical concert where another friend is performing (these two friends, here). I’ll go to yoga in the morning. Other friends have texted or sent coffee cards and otherwise reminded me that I've somehow been so lucky as to attract into my life an amazing group of people. They are so cool and honest and real about their lives, down in the arena fighting for what they believe in, that some days I wonder why they're friends with me.
Today I’m surrounded by a different sort of ‘friends.’ While they might not be able to give me a hug or hold me they offer their own comfort. They have vinyl on sale this weekend which seems fate given what I wanted but haven't had time to research and buy for my birthday (a record player). It's a quiet day but it's mine, which, really, is what a birthday should be.
*I can’t talk a lot about what he does, for privacy and safety reasons so you’re going to have to take my word for it that it’s a necessary thing.