Damn! Juuuuuust missed the cut-off time again...
Everybody likes birthdays, right? Ok, of course not everybody does. A lot of people seem to dread them, and I’ve definitely had a couple of sad-ish birthdays in my day. But by and large I like birthdays and I think most people do in varying degrees.
Some, like my Dad, love making big deals about their special days. He will gladly tell everybody it’s his birthday, and if we go to a restaurant to celebrate he not only doesn’t mind being sung to by the servers (which I think a lot of people find at least somewhat mortifying), he'd probably be a little bummed if we didn't make sure it happened.
Then there are people who keep their birthdays a complete secret…they lie about it even. They either hate getting older or just hate the attention and would like best the chance to let the entire day slip silently by without anybody raising so much as an eyebrow, let alone a glass in celebration.
I fall somewhere in the middle. While I certainly don’t dread birthdays (I actually like my age, don’t mind adding another year at all—not that it’d matter if I did), I also don’t usually draw attention to them either. I don’t ask for the day off work or plan parties in my own honor. And the thought of being sung to in the middle of a restaurant is pretty frightening.
But this year I felt somewhat different about my birthday. I recognize that the past few years I’ve been on a steady path in an effort to deny who I was, or THAT I was. Sometimes I can be kind of down with concept of denying one’s self. As Buddhists would say, the insistence on false recognition of a "self" only leads to desire, which is certain to lead to suffering. I think that’s true to some extent.
But I’m not a Buddhist. And I see that the years I’ve spent denying who I was as I’d always known myself to be have led to suffering anyway. I remember having a conversation with my Aunt on the phone last summer in which I told her I thought that if I got any smaller (figuratively, of course) I would just disappear.
So this year I felt like acknowledging my birthday and allowing room for the idea of simply celebrating me...and just because I managed to live another year. I love celebrating other people’s birthdays. Why not allow myself the same kind of yay?
Today's New Activity: Birthday Party, Mine
So I did have a party for my 25th birthday, but that was only because I happened to graduate from college that same day--and I guess I could say that I was in a similar state of mind in that moment, 8 years ago now. I was contemplative but very very hopeful, proud of my accomplishment and absolutely sure that a beautiful life lie ahead of me. Maybe you sort of have to be in that state of mind to throw yourself a party.
A couple of weeks ago I invited some friends to join me at The Saddlerack, a club I was first introduced to by my friends Denise and Christine just a few months back. I knew it was kind of a gamble to choose that location since it's a good drive from where most of my friends live, plus there's a pretty steep cover charge, but there's a lot about the club I really liked, so I went for it.
The thing is, the weeks leading up to tonight were kind of stressful at times. I would think about it and start worrying--what if nobody comes? What if people come and nobody has fun? And in past few days and even today itself a few people did let me know they wouldn't be able to make it, even though they'd originally said they could. They had legitimate reasons, but I started to feel all kinds of self-conscious, wondering if there'd be anybody left to celebrate with. By early yesterday morning I was almost, quite literally, in a cold sweat worrying about this shindig. And I was very close to calling the whole thing off.
But there's was a part of me that new that was exactly the wrong thing to do at this point in my life. It was exactly like the recent version of me--whom I didn't like much at all--to wanna shrink away and send out a loud (albeit unspoken) apology for just, I don't know, the simple act of having an expectation, a concept with so very many facets and incarnations.
I talked myself down off the wimpy ledge with this obvious thought: it will be wonderful and it will be fun, whoever decides to show up.
And, of course, it was.
I have never danced so much on my birthday (which is technically a few days from now) or been so completely sure that I was exactly where I was supposed to be at a given moment in time. Or maybe, to be more clear, I have had that feeling before--but it was a spontaneous feeling, not one sprung from a sense of relief, as this one was. I had a truly wonderful time and was grateful for the show of love. And I resolve to never stress over a happy event like this again.
And for the record, I think there should be a mechanical bull at ALL birthdays from now until the end of time, even though I'm way too scared of being paralyzed to venture onto one myself :)