This is one of those posts I read back to myself at the end and almost deleted. I didn’t, because that’s not how I want to do things, but it comes out as more pessimistic and certainly more whiny than I actually feel.
My family jokes about my birthday season. I’m not exactly sure how this joke started, but it’s been around more than ten years. I’m sure I made a joke or a comment about having a birthday season as an excuse to indulge in something or other as a teenager, and the joke somehow stuck. I probably even thought it was funny the first couple of years. Somewhere along the line it took on a life of its own, and I think many people actually think I celebrate some kind of a birthday season.
At this point, I dread talking to anyone in my family this time of year, whether it’s about my birthday or not. Sometimes I say it first, “Yes, it’s my birthday season!” just to avoid hearing another person say it, which makes me physically cringe. I know they mean well, or are just making conversation, but it’s like nails on a chalkboard, because I’m actually very sensitive about my birthday.
I don’t know that it’s anyone’s fault. I’m sure I could spend thousands of dollars and hours on a couch to hear that it is someone’s fault, and that probably wouldn’t be wrong either, but I prefer to not go too far down that road today.
I’ve never been that comfortable being at the center of the attention. It’s a lot of pressure, and it’s especially a lot of pressure for someone who doesn’t always feel extremely confident. At the same time, I do feel like that one day should be special, so my expectations are high, but there is no way to successfully meet them, and I know that’s not fair to anyone. If it’s a quiet, low-key day, I tend to feel like I did something wrong, or I’m being anti-social, or nobody cares that it’s my birthday. If it’s a busy day filled with visits and activities, I tend to feel awkward about it being my birthday and end up feeling overwhelmed. There is no winning for anyone.
I can remember my dad being the same way. There was no way to make him happy on his birthday. He always ranted and raved that he didn’t want a big fuss, and he hated surprises, but always seemed disappointed that there was no fuss made, and when there was a fuss made, he used it as an excuse to throw a tantrum. I don’t want to be that way. I want to just enjoy the day, like it’s a normal, special day.
The first three birthdays of my twenties were fairly unremarkable. Twenty was getting ready for my last year of college and trying to figure out whether I really wanted to go to law school. Twenty-one was everything one might expect. Twenty-two was a night out with friends after breaking up with one of the not-so-great guys I dated back then. Between twenty-three and twenty-nine every birthday involved a pregnancy, a new baby, a bar exam, a major move, or some other major life change.
This year I think we will probably go to a party to celebrate the birthday of one of my brothers-in-law, who turns 40. If I could have the right attitude about it, it could be a great thing. I love the beach, and I like most of the people who plan to attend. It could be a fun thing to do, a social activity, the kids would love it, and it would allow me to avoid too much unwanted attention. But I don’t have the right attitude. That’s the truth. I feel sort of blech about the entire birthday experience, and I don’t feel like dealing with the inevitable bull**** that would be involved with spending the day with a large group of in-laws. For someone who wants to slap them all and scream, “Shut up and be nice!” I don’t have a lot of tolerance for their nonsense at the moment. Of course, if we don’t go, I will feel guilty, that day and many others, because I know everyone wants us to be there.
I am so thankful to be able to spend my birthday with all of my favorite people. I get to spend time with all four of my children, my husband, and my mom, and we don’t have to worry about anyone going to work or going to school. That’s what I need to focus on. Thirty is a new chapter of my life. A new beginning.
The weather will probably be beautiful. I’m going to spend the next five days trying to eat well, to sleep an adequate amount, and to stretch. I’m not sure that will be enough to chase away the ghosts of birthdays past, but it can’t hurt.