Today, I am 48 years old. And today hurts. Not because I’m 48, but rather because I am now officially older than my late husband. Added to that pain is the sorrow of marking my first birthday without my Mum, who passed away last month.
In previous years, I have spent my birthday spoiling myself. Often, that would be a solo weekend away or maybe a luxury feast at home. But this year, I didn’t get around to planning anything because I extended my holiday home when Mum got sick, and I didn’t really have the heart to sit around and feast the day away today, given I am still trying to come to terms with my mother’s unexpected death.
But I couldn’t let the day pass without marking it in some form or another. So, I began the day with a lovely sunrise run and ended it with a peaceful sunset hike into the Pentland Hills. And in between the two activities, I worked. (And had a brief visit with a friend in between meetings who stopped by to bring me a card, a bottle of prosecco, and two birthday cakes. Yum!)
I left my cottage a little after 4.30 in the afternoon with a plan to be at the Allermuir Summit before 5.30 – just in time to watch the sunset whilst reflecting on my birthday and the year ahead. And, of course, I anticipated that the walk would include moments of tears, especially when I reached the summit. And, indeed, I did shed a few frustrated “self-pity” tears when I first set out. (They dried up after a few minutes.)
The first (and last) mile+ of the 6-mile hike is in between my cottage and the carpark that most people start the climb from. Not long after the carpark, I came across another solo walker who’d stopped to take a few photos. As I passed by, he engaged me in casual chit-chat about the weather.
It transpired that it was his first time in the hills, and he wasn’t sure where to go for the best views. So, he asked if he could walk along with me for a bit. I asked him what brought him to the hills today and he explained that he travelled from Glasgow “on a whim” to mark his 65th birthday.
I explained that it was also my birthday, and we spent the next 90 minutes chatting about all sorts of things. When we finally got to the Allermuir Summit (he was a bit slower than my intended pace) the sun had already set. And whilst I didn’t get to watch the sunset from the summit as I’d planned, I did get to make the climb as the sun set over the hills, stopping along the way to enjoy the changing colours in the sky. And I got to see the views from the summit in the fading light.
It was dark by the time we got back to the carpark (but I had come prepared with a torch, just in case!) where I parted ways with the wayward traveller and my “birthday friend”. I then enjoyed the last mile+ of my journey in silence, reflecting on the day and my chance encounter with a fellow birthday celebrant.
This isn’t the first (or even the second, third, fourth…) time I’ve been joined by random strangers on a walk. And whilst I do enjoy my solo adventures, I’m pleased that the universe sent me such an engaging birthday companion for today’s adventure. The chance encounter helped to counter the melancholy I had expected over my birthday.
I hope that my adventure partner found the day’s unexpected company to be as positive and happy as I found it to be. And I hope that he has a year ahead that’s filled with even more positive and happy things.
As for me, 2022 has been a pretty crummy year (overall) and I expect that things will be pretty crummy for much of the year. (Mourning and grief have a way of making things crummy.) But I am also hopeful that there will be an untold number of joys this year. And I have faith that, in a year’s time, I will reflect on 48 with more than enough love and laughter to overshadow any sorrow and tears.