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Birthday Kisses

Chapter 39

Birthdays have always been a big deal to me. In my family, “traditional” holidays have been celebrated for as long as I can remember, & it didn’t matter if it was on my Mom’s side or my Dad’s side, either way you can best believe you were going to eat good, laugh good, love good & have a great time.

But YOUR birthday is the one day a year where it’s not about anybody else but you. If you don’t know by now, I have a song in my head for every occasion and as I reflect on my birthdays past, there are two songs that come to mind on completely opposite ends of the musical spectrum. The first song is “It’s My Party” I can cry if I want to & the other song is “Bipolar Virgo” by Moneybagg Yo. I know, I know, you’re probably thinking “how in the world are these two songs connected?” but I’m about to tell you.

I’m an 80s baby & if you’re an 80s baby then you’re probably like me and had a lot of house parties growing up. Kids today have birthday parties that are beyond lavish but in the 80s you had a guest list that included any siblings, cousins, Aunts & Uncles that were close to your age, grandparents, parents & a Partridge in a pear tree.

One of my most favorite childhood photos from one of my home birthday parties, is a picture of me, my Mom, my Sweet Auntie Dana, and my Uncle B. I have on a party hat and a pink ruffle dress and I am crying or pouting or I don’t know what the deal was but I was upset. Yet on that same day and in that same pose there’s another picture of me, my Mom, Sweet Auntie Dana and Uncle B and I’m smiling lol. So going back to those songs on any birthday I’m liable to say it’s my party I can cry if I want to (I cried today) and two seconds later be laughing and smiling, not giving a care —in true Virgo fashion.

Let’s put that into context. I’m not actually bipolar, that is a serious mental health disorder that I think is grossly misunderstood, but if you listen to the lyrics in that song then you’ll understand that Virgos often suppress their emotions and suppress their feelings because it seems like whenever we are vulnerable and finally open up to people, they take it for granted. I also think sometimes our presence is so raw and intense, people don’t know how to take us. Pause.

That brings me full circle to 2017.

I had just moved back to Indiana; actually that was 2016 but I digress. I moved back to Indiana on December 26, 2016 but for all intents and purposes we might as well say 2017. I got a job right away but things in Indiana were different, people were different. Looking back I think I was different and I never got a moment to just breathe. So I decided for my 35th birthday, which I coined Chapter 35 and Ticking, (35 and Ticking was a popular movie from a few years prior about dating, relationships and getting older) because I felt away about approaching 40 and still being single (if you don’t know I got divorced in 2009), that I was going to go to Chicago for the weekend. Prior to moving to Atlanta, when I wanted to escape I would go to Chicago because I love city lights & skyline views; those things bring me peace.

A couple of weeks before it was time for me to make my way to Chicago, I met a guy from Chicago and we hit it off immediately. You know one of those things where you just know? Well I thought I knew and if you read my previous post, then you know that I knew for a very long time 🥴 but I digress….

2017 was the first birthday that I spent in Chicago with “Chicago” and then we parted ways because we wanted different things & that’s ok. That doesn’t make him a bad person or me a bad person, we just wanted different things. But then there was 2018. 2018 was different. 2018 the representative had left and the real person had started to emerge. We all show up with a representative & some of us let our guard down faster than others. Some people don’t even know themselves enough to not be their representative ever…

…but in any event 2018 was the start of something different, something real, or so I thought.

A month before turning 36 I was his wedding date to his god sister’s wedding. I met his mother and she kept me company the whole night because he was the MC, his uncle told me during the dip portion of the tootsie roll to “make an honest man out of him” and his god sister said she liked me and all the cousins said she don’t like anybody. A week later he invited me to Minnesota to meet his childhood friends on what I later found out was the annual “couples’ trip”. He’d been the residential bachelor of the crew since his own divorce and so everyone was surprised that he showed up with me. His best-friend pulled me to the side on day two and said he liked us together and for me to “help him”…I wonder now if he meant literally LOL. Now I’ll admit I wasn’t too thrilled about going to Minnesota for my birthday but what I was thrilled about was being in the same state as Lake Minnetonka. If you know anything about me at all, then you know that I love the Purple Prince. So hey, if you want to take me to the middle of nowhere & it has anything to do with Prince, Michael Jackson, Maxwell, or Beeyyyooooncncee, I’m your girl!

We had an amazing time. His friend & his friend’s wife were wonderful hosts and their home was nothing short of beautiful. I mean beautiful. I felt like I was at a resort. And while I didn’t get yellow cake with chocolate icing, they made me a chocolate cake with chocolate icing and everyone welcomed me with open arms. It was an amazing birthday weekend. Cue Luther “So Amazing”.

2018 was great until it wasn’t, but hey life happens, ish happens and before you know it, it’s 2019…

…and by this time I think I was starting to be over it. Of course now he was saying things he’d never said before; so in 2019 there were walks along the promenade and there were deep and vulnerable conversations with tears shed and a greater understanding of why it was 2019 and we were still here. And while in 2019 my birthday was amazing, I first went to Chicago with girlfriends and attended the Vegan Fest. I met Tabitha Brown and then I got the most amazing pictures along the pier at Lake Michigan; I left with my heart full. Chapter 37 began perfectly but if you read my first post then you know how 2019 goes.

So then there was 2020.

In 2020, before the world shut down I was on my Lukewarm Girl Ish. I had run out of patience and said no more. No more birthdays, No More Parties, no more anything. I was “done-done” and it hurt. When you are in a long distance anything with someone, you actually get to know them on a deeper level and a lot of times even quicker than you would if you were in the same state because close proximity can create excuse for the need not to have intimate conversations. Intimacy is more than sex, in case you didn’t know…

Back to 2020.

For the first time since 2017, I realized I’m not spending my birthday with who has now become my best-friend. I know some of you might think how can a person that causes confusion be your “best-friend”, “you must have xyz things wrong with you, if you think that’s OK”…but here’s what I think, people need to stop trying to Tony Robbins, Dr. Phil and Iyanla others. While there is validity to a lot of things that they say, I think you first have to start with being honest with yourself and being empathetic enough to understand what someone else is going through too and how those situations trigger different behavioral responses. A lot of us are not vulnerable with people because we do not trust that our vulnerabilities will be handled with care. So when you get to know someone straight shot, no chaser, no pretense, it’s refreshing. There’s a comfort in knowing that no matter how unorthodox this may seem to others, I know without a shadow of a doubt it’s 100% REAL. As they say, “if it isn’t real, I don’t want it”.

So why did I walk away? Simple. I said I care, I never said I was dumb. There comes a time when people have to take a chance or move out the way. I’m loyal to a fault which has at times had me stay in situations longer than I should but never so long that I forget that at some point you have to choose yourself. No matter how much you love someone, no matter how much you think they love you, if they are not able to meet you where you are and at least give you what you’re giving, then you have to choose yourself. Once the rose colored glasses come off in any situation, you’re able to make more logical decisions with your head and not so much your heart. My mother used to call me a Carebear because I care too much. A person could do me so wrong and if I care about them I would still ride for them. However, at some point everybody gets tired & at some point you you get off the ride.

Hello 2021.

How do you know that a person is not the one? How do you know when a person just really need to get their shit together vs. them playing games? We all have these timelines in our heads about how things should go and how they shouldn’t. How long you should date someone before you do this, how long you should be with someone before you do that, how long you should be engaged before you get married etc. etc. But who said?

A lot of people would say girl I would not have dealt with a person for four years off and on, and nothing come of it, but I’ve dealt with people for less time and wasted more time because they weren’t honest. As long as a person is being honest with you, you have to respect it. At least I do. When a person is honest, you have a choice; you have a choice to stay, you have a choice to leave, and in 2020 I chose to remove myself from the situation. That was my timing. No one else’s. To put that into context, I’ve always said I shouldn’t have gotten divorced on other peoples’ time but due to pride and ego I got divorced before I was truly over the situation. Had I waited until I was really ready, I would’ve saved myself years of back and forth and I probably wouldn’t have had a post divorce baby with my ex.

What’s the point of it all? I can say 100% without a shadow of a doubt that of any man that I have ever been involved with, I knew him most. I knew the good, the bad, and even the ugly. I know how he thinks, I know what he’s going to do before he does it and even though he never liked to have vulnerable conversations, we would talk for hours and hours. He could tell when my energy was off or when I didn’t like the way he said something or what was implied. He understood me even before I ever had to explain thoughts. But the main reason I hung on for so long was that I’d never been with a man and been able to show up as my authentic self. I’m a complex individual and I never have had to be anyone other than Jennifer Leigh with him. Even the “weird” side of me never phased him at all. That was the part of us that I don’t think I could ever put a time limit on. I don’t think that connection would even have been there if we hadn’t spent all that time REALLY getting to know each other.

I think as women, we get into relationships and we think a person is one way but then once we’re in it we find out that they’re not. Fast forward a year or two after broken promises and lies and bs, now you’re divorced with three kids and nothing to show for it but that. So again I ask how long should you get to know someone before you decide to be in a relationship? How many birthdays should you spend with someone before you decide he’s just not that into you? Who is the expert on these timelines? I want to know who said you have to date for three months to be in a relationship, be in a relationship for a year to get engaged, be engaged for a year to get married? Why? Granted I don’t want to be anyone’s “forever girlfriend”, but I’m just saying who said it has to look a certain way to be “real”?

What’s the moral of the story? The moral of the story is with truth and honesty you can get through anything. Without truth and honesty, it’s only a matter of time before any relationship fails. Whether it’s friendships, family, relationships or any other type of ship. Time is the only way to truly get to know someone. Now believe you me, I am in no way shape or form advising anyone to wait any amount of years on any one, but what I am saying is before you jump into things become friends first, so at the end of the day when all else fails there’ll be no beef. Friendship reminds you why you started and it’ll be the friendship that turns respect into loyalty, loyalty into love, and love into Birthday Kisses on your 39th Birthday!

Or so you thought #plottwist.

Woman wearing a crown in front of a lake
I told him “whatever”…and he whatevered!

To be continued…

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