Trigger warning: This is 110% a First World Problem. Read on at your own risk.
As a birthday present, my mother gave me what we call Frivolous Dollars — money that must be spent on oneself in an indulgent way, rather than saved — and insisted that I earmark the cash for massage and ice cream. She did so because she knows that I have a tendency, when given money, to stash it away immediately. Even when I was a kid, that was my impulse; the top drawer of my dresser became the family bank. Everyone knew they could rely on me to lend out the cash I had laid away there, which I did, faithfully, until it was gone.
I feel incredibly grateful that I have a mother who can remember & recognize birthdays, even for adult children who live several states away. When I was little, she used to sneak into my room in the middle of the night and decorate with streamers, signs, and balloons, so that when I woke up on July 19th it would be to a world transformed. (Mike Dang will totally do that for his kids, btw.) And she also knows that I, like most people, generally prefer experiences over things. So: perfect A+ present, mom! I feel loved & understood. Thanks!
She found a deal online for a place in Manhattan that is offering a discounted bundle of massages. Three for $149 instead of the usual price of $300! Amazing. Even when I do treat myself to a massage — like, say, after going through childbirth — I only do one, and the therapist is usually like, “Wow, your back is like a wall!” and I say, “Ha ha, yeah, I know!” and though the massage feels great there isn’t much/any lasting effect. But three massages? That might actually make some kind of dent in my Shoulder Wall of Constant Stress & Pain.
On the other hand, I haven’t ever been to that particular spa. The place I have gone, and know I enjoy, is around the corner from me in Brooklyn. That means it gets points for proximity and familiarity. With the frivolous dollars, I could afford one, maybe two massages there. So what would you do? Three at the unknown, further away place, or one, maybe two at the place you already know closer to home?
The first to wish me a happy birthday was my Optometrist. Love the clipart from the ’90s.
And then the insurance company where I get my renters insurance. The next day they asked me if I wanted life insurance, which, come on.
On Thursday, I bought my best friend sushi, a treat she only rarely allows herself. On Friday, I took two of my aunts to see Boyhood, the Richard Linklater movie filmed over 12 years, which is a revelation. Better and truer than Tree of Life, and it actually made me want to spend time in Texas. On Saturday, I sent my little brother and his girlfriend to see a show at the Kennedy Center as a happy birthday! / farewell to DC, since Judah is off, with his new car, to start a job in Las Vegas. And on Sunday, I bought dinner for my husband’s godmother and her daughter, who were visiting from North Carolina.
I feel great. Better than great: I feel rich.
Sometimes being generous doesn’t work that way for me. I can buy a friend a book, or dinner, or a present, just because, or make a donation to a worthy cause, and feel sort of bereft afterwards — or at least stressed out about how much discretionary spending I should allow myself. Not regretful, just tense and sad, and then usually guilty for feeling tense and sad.
Other times, tinkling bells play lightly in the distance, meaning magic has happened. Maybe my weekend of giving worked in part because I recently had a birthday in honor of which so many people were generous to me, and it felt good to pay that generosity forward? In any event, I spent more than I anticipated — #MyLastHundredBucks, easy — although I haven’t counted up exactly how much, and I don’t care; it made me actively happy to do it. I do wish I understood the alchemy a little better, because getting to act from a place of abundance rather than scarcity, getting to feel rich by giving money away, especially to people you love, is kind of the best feeling ever.
Thursday is a great day to do that 1 thing you don’t want to do but also don’t want to continue thinking about doing.
Hahahahha which of the ten thousand things on my To Do list shall be my One Thing today? Cooking and laundry are so mundane. Writing the speech for my old and good friend’s wedding is so ambitious. OK I will do a One Thing in two parts: for my mom’s birthday tomorrow, I will finish arranging her present, and for my fella’s birthday, which was also this week, I will finish arranging our celebratory trip to Coney Island tomorrow Saturday.
What’s your one thing?
For my birthday last year, I was in Vilnius, Lithuania, studying both Fiction and Non-Fiction, and recovering from the shock of quitting my job to take a year off to write full-time. Turning 31 kind of got lost in the shuffle.
Turning 30 was a bigger deal, I guess, but my brother got married across the country right around then and also I was third-trimester pregnant and distracted by the octopus inside of me thrashing around looking for the door. There was some kind of party, maybe? I definitely remember writing “XXX” on the invitation, because that’s too good an opportunity to pass up. Don’t remember much else.
What I’m saying is, I haven’t had time to think about birthdays in a while, to really reflect about what being in my 30s means. I’m here without a plan! What should I have done by now? What should I do next? Help!