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Pack Creek Ranch, San Juan County, Utah.
The last week in January in 2018
Snow in the mountains, but mild weather returns with clear skies.
When’s your birthday?
What’s likely to happen on that day?
Are you looking forward to it?
Those three questions will usually start a lively social conversation – or else bring a lively conversation to an awkward end.
Birthdays are often tricky, dodgy, complex life events – a mine-field of complicated feelings and mixed expectations.
Because a friend is all bent out of shape over her upcoming birthday, I’ve given
the subject some thought.. . . . .
HOPPY BIRD HAY – Ten Thoughts and a Caveat for a Friend
“I hate my birthday! Just HATE it.”
That’s the anguished outburst of a lady friend, whose day of birth is in January.
She’s middle-aged, so you might think she’s upset by becoming one year older.
But, no, that’s not her problem.
For one thing, she’s annoyed at having been born in January in the first place.
Her birthday comes right after the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, so neither her family nor friends have ever recovered enough to do much to celebrate her.
Moreover, it’s always winter – cold and rainy and dark and gloomy on her birthday. No trips to the beach or amusement park or zoo. – nothing but feeble indoor parties – often with sick people – because mid-January is also a time of flu and colds and random childhood diseases.
Then there’s the other thing this year. Divorce. There is an accumulation of family conflict over the recent dissolution of her marriage. She’s always been the official calendar keeper and reliable mommy organizer of family birthdays, including her own. But this year is different because the happy family is dispersed. Now who is going to make happy happen?
So, in response, she’s building a tender trap for herself.
Here’s her thinking:
If she reminds people of her upcoming birthday, they will have to do something,
but not because they remembered or really want to celebrate her.
If she doesn’t remind anybody, then there will be no gifts or celebration, proving that nobody really loves her.
If she does nothing, “They” won’t do anything for her this year.
She laments – “My birthday is a curse! It will be the worst day of my life.”
Rationally she knows this is the thinking of a paranoid dingbat.
She’s not trusting her past experience or her rational mind or her family.
She’s slopping around in the muck of self-pity, meanwhile building the trap into which she will fall, guaranteeing a bad day.
So – What to do?
Me, I try to be helpful.
I tell her that I understand. Her situation is horrible beyond bearing, and she might as well go jump off a bridge.
Or . . .
She could consider some other possibilities for someone in her dire state.
1. Well . . . . You might be wrong – very wrong – what if your crummy friends and family intend to SURPRISE You? And do. Party! Then you’ll really feel like a dingbat. You’ll have an emotional meltdown.
But you won’t know until the very last moment if this will or will not happen, and either way you’ll end up an emotional wreck. Wait-and-see is a bad bet.
Go for better odds this time. Be pro-active.
2. You could reframe your birthday thinking. Take charge. Own it.
Granted that it’s usefully necessary for legal purposes to have a reference date of birth, beyond that, you’re free of real obligation.
There are no laws on the books about when or where or how to celebrate your being born. There’s nothing in the Bible on the subject. No Owner’s Manual.
Which means that If you are a grown-up, then you may manage your birthday as you damned well please.
Yes, you can.
3. For example, pick another day to annually celebrate your existence. Pick the day you were conceived. Count back nine months. If you entered the world in January, that means you were conceived in May. Lovely month for celebrations. The moment you became only you. If you want specific details of conception, ask your Mom. She was there.
4. If you celebrate your day of conception, then you don’t have to worry about upsetting your mother on your usual birthday. Celebrate your Mom instead.
After all, she did all the hard work for 9 months and then pushed you into Life and the World. She’s the one who deserves the attention. You just showed up, took a breath, and screamed. Throw your Mom a party on the anniversary of your birth. Give your Mom credit due. And give your Mom presents. Stay loose and light-hearted about gifts. Give her a quart of milk-chocolate body paint and a brush. Don’t explain. Smile enigmatically. Let her figure it out.
5. In that same spirit, you could honor your friends and family on the anniversary of your birth. Throw a party for them. Give them presents of appreciation for the part they play in your world. The Queen of England does this. Why not you? Think royally. If you leave money in your will for a party after you die, you won’t get to be there. Don’t do that. Party now. Be there now, alive and well.
6. Or – you could start a practice of spending your birthday alone. Doing something only you most like to do. Honor yourself – give yourself a present or take a day away. It’s not illegal or immoral. You may permit yourself the pleasure.
In fact, you could give yourself a quart can of dark chocolate body paint.
Then you could figure it out.
7. Here’s the deal. If you judge your birthday by what you want and expect to get, you will always be disappointed. On the other hand, if you judge your birthday by what you give away, there will always be enough.
8. I know a young woman who celebrated her 21st birthday by making 21 fine sandwiches. She put them in a gift box with 21 apples and 21 bottles of water. She took the box to a homeless tent camp and said, Happy Birthday, and went about the rest of her life.
Think about doing something like that.
9. Here comes the glitch.
What will “they” think if you reframe your birthday along these lines?
Better question – what will you think of you if you don’t?
You’ll never get better advice about birthdays than you’ve just read.
It’s your birthday.
10. As to the matter of what “they” think, you might be interested in knowing that when I’ve run these ideas by other people, every last one of them has said, “I wish I had the nerve to do that.”
In other words, “They” may get it.
Be relieved. Be inspired. And think well of you.
Don’t wait until your birthday to see what happens – that’s too late.
Decide now – plan ahead – make it happen.
If your plan works out, you’re onto something good.
If not, the opportunity will come around again next year and you can do better.
What have you got to lose?