I have a deeply passionate love/hate relationship with my birthday. I always hope for the best but end up in tears at some point during the day. Each of the last seven years of my life have started off with something ranging from hurtful disappointing to tragic: the death of my beloved hero, my grandfather; my family forgetting my birthday; my closest friends forgetting my birthday; my then (now ex) boyfriend forgetting my birthday and then blaming me for this; and more of the same year after year after year.
This series of unfortunate events cuts me deeply, laying wide open my deepest fears and longings for anyone willing to take a peep. Something about the day highlights a sense of isolation and disconnectedness I rarely allow myself to acknowledge or feel. A year is spent seeking to care for others by being intentionally present for them, only to be (seemingly) forgotten. Que the woe-is-me-self-pity, which produces a great amount of self-induced frustration and pep-talks. And the cycle begins again.
Last year I tried to rectify my birthday deficiency by getting people together to spend time at a friend’s beach house in Santa Cruz. I wanted quality time with good friends. What I got was waking up to alone while good friends went for a long walk and who upon their return the home promptly left to make it to their next scheduled event on time, no birthday wishes (let alone a card or gift) from a then boyfriend whom I had just helped pack, move (two states) and unpack his life, crying in an airport terminal bathroom stall, and an awful dinner at a faux English pub upon my arrival in southern California.
This year I am set to celebrate my birthday with my family before I leave SoCal for a job that will require me to be out of the area for my birthday. Already tears have spilled, as my mom seeks to make the day special. Something in me will not allow it, as though this will only create a false sense of hope that will dissolve in couple of weeks. So I put up the perfected “I don’t care” defensive wall to tamp down any fledgling hope. After last year’s attempt most of me wants to pretend the entire day does not exist and simply skip it; to skip the day and the pain. I may just get my wish this year. If I am honest, this prospect terrifies me. I am a place I have not been for a long time. I know that where I am and where I will be on my birthday is where I am supposed to be. The terror comes from the fear that another crap birthday (in this instance the negation of it) and the resultant self-pity, could derail me and this summer.
Strangely I do not feel this way about birthdays generally. I’ll bake the cake, plan the party, and show up with bells on for others’ birthdays and birthday celebration. To avoid the potential of hurt, I tell myself not to have any expectations, but inevitably I do. I expect that the people I care about will care enough to remember. I do not need gifts or cards, only a simple word or two.
Someday I will no longer be captive to this love/hate. Someday the tears will not extinguish the candles. Someday I will once again experience joy on a day that has ripped me apart for so long. Someday.
Happy almost birthday to me.
Soldier on. Soldier on. Keep your heart close to the ground.
~The Temper Trap, “Soldier On”
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I love it(!) when things turn out the exact opposite (in a good way) from my low/negative expectations. My family went out to dinner in Laguna Beach to celebrate my birthday before I leave, and I had the best dinner I have ever eaten in Orange County. The tears shed earlier in the day by both my mom and I were well worth the good conversation, delicious dinner, and quality time spent together as a family.
Being proved wrong is (ofttimes) a blessing.
5.30.2010 – Beets. Glare. Lights. (Laguna Beach, CA)*
– The Temper Trap, “Soldier On”;
– Horse Feather, “Belly of June”