How To Make A Lousy Milestone Birthday Better?
December 2, 2013 8:11 AM   Subscribe

I have a milestone birthday coming up soon and my situation is pretty rough, any suggestions to make an unpleasant situation a little more palatable?

Turning 40 at the end of the month. I'm currently going through a divorce and a few days after my birthday is the one-year anniversary of the soon-to-be-ex walking out. Money's tight right now because of the divorce, so any trips or getaways are out. Nearly all of my friends are married. Any suggestions on getting through what is otherwise shaping up to be a generally miserable, pathetic, and lonely day?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (21 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Think of it as the beginning of You 2.0 -- Smarter, Stronger, Better. Go for a run (or a walk), ask your local library for a recommendation on a good book, start a Seinfeld Productivity Calendar on something you've always wanted to do.
posted by Etrigan at 8:21 AM on December 2, 2013 [4 favorites]

Spend the day volunteering at an animal shelter or maybe a homeless shelter. You will do something good for someone else who might be having a more miserable, lonely day than you.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:22 AM on December 2, 2013 [7 favorites]

Man, I hear you - I was in a similar state on my own 40th.

What helped, though, was just deciding that this milestone wasn't a milestone for me - you know, "big deal, so it's a round number. That doesn't mean it's more significant." That took away a lot of my self-imposed pressure to Do Something Significant On This Birthday. And then when that pressure was off, I could roll with whatever happened (as it turned out, my then-roommate's new film festival launched that day, so he gave me a free ticket to the "opening night gala" as my gift and I got to get dressed up and see movies and have free wine, and that was just about perfect).

You know? Just decide that 40 isn't a milestone. Pick another year as your own personal milestone (I've recently decided to go big on my "9" birthdays - 19, 29, 39, 49, etc.), and go easy on yourself.

Good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:23 AM on December 2, 2013 [14 favorites]

My married friends took single me out for my 40th. Don't count them out. Make sure they know it's your 40th birthday and that you would love to spend part of the day with them. You may need to get the plans rolling, but that's no big deal.

I agree about trying to take some of the hugeness out of it. You'll only be one day older than the day before (it's what I tell myself every birthday). As a fellow between-Christmas-and New-Years birthday person, I know how much the timing sucks especially with everything else you've got going on, but maybe do something totally out of the ordinary that you've always wanted to try to spice the day up.

And Happy Birthday :-)
posted by cecic at 8:38 AM on December 2, 2013

For a lot of people, myself included, our 40s turned out to be a rockin' decade of our lives. Screw being 30-something...too many rookie mistakes, too much whingeing over lost youth, too many relationships with treacherous people.

Since it sounds like you are in a mournful state of mind, why not dig deep into that feeling rather than fight it? For my big 4-0, I had a private wake mourning/celebrating my misspent youth. Full-scale wallowing in despond. It was delicious and re-invigorating.

It's perfectly OK to mark significant passages in your life without laughter and noisemakers and back-slapping bonhomie. Go dark and deep, maybe? Mourn your losses?

(But prepare to ROCK your 40s. Just you wait and see...)
posted by nacho fries at 8:47 AM on December 2, 2013 [9 favorites]

I like the idea of making it a milestone of a "new you." I think you should treat yourself really well that day (making a point to cut yourself off of any negative thinking, when you catch yourself say NOPE, not today. I can think whatever I want tomorrow, but today, it's not how I'm going to spend today). And maybe pick one thing to do that you've been meaning to get into or do more of. Spend the day working on that hobby you say you like, but never do. Or if you've been meaning to eat healthier or learn to cook, make yourself a delicious meal. Go to that class/seminar you're interested in because you want to meet more people. You get the idea.

Your mantra should be looking forward to the new person you're working toward and actively trying to get there. Treat yourself well. You deserve it!
posted by hannahelastic at 8:53 AM on December 2, 2013

Do something just for yourself like Etrigan says. What about some sort of workshop? Are there any hobbies or skills you have wanted to learn but haven't gotten around to? Maybe check out the continuing or adult education catalog at your local community college. The ones near me usually have fun ones that are affordable. Cooking or painting or financial management or similar.

I like workshops because they are usually just one day and I can learn something new and do something constructive without committing to a whole semester. It would get you out of the house and out of your routine and maybe meeting new people in a non-"singles" situation.

And ditto on EmpressCalipygos' suggestion on skipping the decade birthdays. That's just a Hallmark card milestone. Give yourself a break this year. Go geeky and celebrate your prime number birthday next year! (insert dumb "you're in your prime" joke here)

Happy low-key, taking care of yourself Birthday.
posted by Beti at 8:54 AM on December 2, 2013

As a Douglas Adams fan, I decided that 42 is going to be my milestone birthday this decade. You're totally allowed to not make a big deal of it this year.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:58 AM on December 2, 2013 [6 favorites]

I like what nacho fries said about just wallowing if that's what you feel like. I just had my "first birthday after the breakup" last week and realized the reason it was freaking me out is because I thought I should be happy. But, you know, I wasn't. So I just gave myself permission to be sad and to try to remember that by next year's birthday I really am going to feel much better.

If you decide to go this route, still make an effort to be with your friends. Even if you just go to a movie and don't talk much, it's so much better to be in the company of someone who loves you. Hell, I went to a fast food joint with my bff and we talked for 2 hours. That cost about 6 bucks.
posted by dawkins_7 at 9:02 AM on December 2, 2013

As a Douglas Adams fan, I decided that 42 is going to be my milestone birthday this decade. You're totally allowed to not make a big deal of it this year.

I did this too - things were sort of a trainwreck for me at 30 and I didn't even plan my birthday - friends planned it for me because they didn't want me to miss it (which was nice actually).

Still, in my mind I made 32 the milestone birthday once the smoke had cleared. In my mind I still consider 32 when I ended my 20s. Does it matter?

I know you said trips are out, but can you do a spa hour or two? You can call an hour massage an "extremely short vacation," if done well at a really luxe place (look for Groupon-type deals since price is an issue).
posted by sweetkid at 9:44 AM on December 2, 2013

My 40th was a shitshow for similar reasons. Pending divorce, living in a crappy apartment, poor. I don't think I did a damn thing that day. In fact, I probably worked my customer service job that evening. I am definitely in a better place now and don't think about it much (43, coming up on 44). I am just grateful my life looks better at this point.

I know it's not much in the way of advice, but there's some perspective for you.
posted by O9scar at 9:55 AM on December 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

I like the ideas of doing a solo birthday and doing something to make it meaningful that way, but I know that would never work for me...I would just end up more depressed. So, think about what you feel like you need - is it some solitude/volunteering/doing your own thing? (If so, lots of great suggestions above!)

Or is it being in a social environment with friends - in that case, please just let your friends know this is a big deal to you! I'm not married, but am in a serious relationship and for sure that means some relationships with single friends have changed -- however, there is no question that I would drop whatever and show up if a friend said "Hey, I have a big birthday coming up, I'm feeling down, and I need you to be there!" You could do just same-gender friends if you don't want it to feel couple-y (a girls night or boys night). If planning a big thing seems overwhelming, just pick a bar that doesn't get too crazy busy and have everyone meet you there.
posted by rainbowbrite at 10:00 AM on December 2, 2013

Take yourself on a day-long date. Pick a few of the following activities or similar ones, and plan out a whole day where you treat yourself to enjoyable things all day long:

Visit a museum or art gallery (if you're not into the traditional ones do some Googling to see if there are any offbeat ones nearby)

Get a massage, a facial or a mani/pedi (human contact + pampering)

Do a little sprucing up: haircut, new outfit, cosmetics counter makeover

Shopping trip to treat yourself to something you enjoy, scaled up or down to suit your budget for the day: new art supplies, a book you know you'll enjoy, a special knitting yarn, fine chocolate, a really good cigar, whatever floats your boat

A nice lunch, either in a quiet place where you can read a good book while you eat, or a bustling place for people-watching. Or pack a nice sack lunch before you leave the house in the morning and have a little picnic on a park bench or under a tree.

Sit somewhere and sketch your surroundings. City street, park, woods, museum, mall

The key being to pick enough stuff to fill the day: library for a stack of books and a good movie, sack lunch in the park, wander around an art gallery for a bit, head to a comfy coffee shop to nurse a decadent coffee treat for a couple hours while you sit and read, pick up your favorite takeout for supper, watch your movie, cap off the evening with a bubble bath and glass of wine, read til you fall asleep

Adjust plan as your time, interests and budget allow.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 10:12 AM on December 2, 2013

Research whether any local businesses offer free food, services, or other things for your birthday. I know a few people who restaurant-hop for their birthdays; it might be fun for at least part of the day, especially if you're feeling financially pinched.
posted by jaguar at 2:19 PM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ugh. I cry when I think of my 40th birthday. My husband had been treating me worse and worse with each passing year. I reminded him of my birthday and how important it was to me the month before, and the day before, as well as marking it in the calendar, just like our (fourth?, fifth?) couple's counsellor told us to (practicing clear communication). Aaaaaaand, he forgot. Completely. And got REALLY mad at me for reminding him.

You probably feel pretty alone right now, but sometimes it can be even lonelier in a relationship. Think of it as having space in your life for new things that will become important to you.
posted by saucysault at 6:29 PM on December 2, 2013

What I would want to do is blow some money and hire cleaners and an interior decorator to spruce up my joint. New surroundings would be refreshing and having it all done at once, and done by someone else would be neat as my surroundings have always sort of grown organically and embedded pieces of relationships. Throw it all out and start again!
posted by WeekendJen at 6:58 PM on December 2, 2013

Make it a get inspired day. Read about stories of people who did amazing things in their 40's and beyond.
posted by htid at 7:21 PM on December 2, 2013

Buy yourself a sturdy little house plant. Remind yourself you're lucky to be alive and have half a life left ahead of you. Forgive yourself your mistakes, mourn your losses, write up a hundred things you're still interested in doing on this planet, then go find a friend to share two drinks, one for the past and one for the future.
posted by ead at 10:58 PM on December 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

For what it's worth, I spent my most recent birthday curled up in the couch in a terrible depression. Couldn't even manage birthday cake: I ate four bites of a pancake and drank an Ensure. I decided I was just going to cancel my birthday and celebrate it later.

So that's an option. But I like the idea of treating it as a fresh start. Day One of a new life. Clean out your house, wash your car, take care of some tasks you've been meaning to do. Rearrange your furniture. If you are still sleeping in the marital bed and can afford it, get a new comforter in a different color--that can make such a difference.

Even if you can't take a trip, there is probably a pretty spot within driving distance you can go for a walk, or a cute little town to poke around for a few hours and have a cup of coffee, or maybe a museum...
posted by elizeh at 6:52 AM on December 3, 2013

Yeah, 40 is an annoying number. What is it, 5 times 2 times 2 times 2? Not much appealing about that. Now, 41 is prime - that's always nice. Hold out for next year's party.
posted by salvia at 10:59 PM on December 3, 2013

Take a "trip" to visit the place where you live now. Go see the tourist things, or find a park or place in nature you haven't seen before. Go on a walking tour of a neighborhood with historic buildings. Go to the zoo and the museum. Go to places you haven't been before. If you usually drive, taking public transit will help with that feeling of being in a new place.

Agree on deciding it isn't a milestone. If it has to be because there's a zero at the end, let the milestone be when the year is over instead of when it begins.
posted by yohko at 12:35 AM on December 4, 2013

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