Every year around the 7th of July, I start to get panicky. I dodge questions about the 11th. I make a weird joke about free Slurpees at 7-Eleven. But then I subtly tell people it's my birthday. But also that I am already busy with trivial, mundane things like working out, meetings and various other very skippable things. I give people the out they need to skip my birthday.
I think I want people to take the out because
I hate my birthday.
I love celebrating other people's birthdays and making them feel special, but I dislike my birthday (hate is a strong word, so I rescind that kind of language, but am too lazy to re-edit this paragraph) . I hate people asking me what I want for my birthday. Or what we/I are doing for my birthday. I hate the idea of having to plan a party for myself, or make a reservation, or coordinate different groups of friends. But then I hate making one of my friends do it because that makes me uncomfortable. I hate everyone staring at me asking, "Are you having fun?" on repeat. My heart sinks through the bottom of the chair when people start singing at me.
But in the same breath, I also don't want to sit home and ignore my birthday. That would make me feel like a total friendless loser. I don't want other people or myself to ignore my birthday either. I want people to wish me a happy birthday, but not in an obnoxious way. I want it recognized and to feel special, but I hate being put on blast with everyone so hyper focused one me. I want us all to have fun.
Last night I listened to Bon Iver and Googled, "Why do I hate my birthday?" and some of my anxiety subsided. "Birthday blues" is a documented feeling.
A few of the articles suggested thinking about why you hate your birthday.
Which is how we got to this blogpost: to think about my birthday blues. One woman had a miscarriage on her birthday, another's father was sick and/or died on her birthday. That all makes sense as to why they'd have anxiety on their birthday.
My birthday isn't like that. I've had wonderful birthdays. Growing up I always had pool parties, plenty of food and cake and would get to pick which restaurant go for dinner. My parents always bought me gifts and people always showed up to my parties.
I mean, sure, I cry almost every year on my birthday, but it's never over anything serious. The most traumatic situation ever to unravel on my birthday was the year I picked a Mexican restaurant for dinner. There was something weird about the rice (this was decades ago, so I don't really remember what exactly) and then I didn't like the taco (I think I ordered the wrong thing). So I was rather bitter and getting frustrated because IT'S MY BIRTHDAY DAMNIT I SHOULD BE THE HAPPY ONE.
Then Dad gives my sister a few dollars, she shoves them in the guitar of the mariachi band and they circle our table. I can feel my face flushing. The lump in my throat starts to make breathing hard. They're singing at me.
Tears start to flow. The poor band is staring at me as I absolutely lose it. When I said traumatic birthday, I mean it was probably more so for them than it was for me.
As I ponder other reasons I've cried on my birthday, none of them are "real"' I cry a lot of the time out of general stress and anxiety leading up to my birthday. Sometimes I cry because I'm older. Because I'm not successful enough. Because my birthday is over. Because I only ate one slice of cake. Because my expectations were too high and weren't met. Because my expectations were too low and that's what I got. Because I made a flippant -- but offensive -- remark about a present someone picked out for me with care.
Here's a throwback my mom posted in celebration of the day of me sulking / pouting / crying despite it looking like the perfect festive day. I've even got cute pigtail braids and a party hat! And I'm still crying!
The next suggested step in some of these birthday blues articles was to
Communicate how you want people to celebrate your birthday.
JOKES. That seems one too many steps ahead of where I am mentally. I can't communicate how I want people to celebrate my birthday because I'm not sure how I want people to celebrate my birthday.
- Planning a surprise party to avoid ME doing any of the planning sounds great, BUT it would wig me out if it was for anything other than a milestone birthday. Not to mention, it would be challenging for any one friend to figure out who to actually invite since I float between groups.
- Doing nothing, on the other hand, is the other way to avoid planning anything, but back to me feeling like a loser that no one cares about, so that's out of the question.
- So that puts us in the narrow gray zone aka in dangerous territory of me crying for some anxiety-riddled reason.
If I had to try to narrowly focus on what exactly is the secret sauce to cure my birthday anxiety, I think last year was as close to perfect as it could be. I was still very anxious in the lead-up days, but then I group texted a bunch of people invited them all to something I love (free outdoor yoga), and said come to that or don't, and then come to dinner or don't. One of my friends brought a cake and did sing to me (I didn't cry!), and it was nothing special and very special at the same time.
It was casual, but thoughtful. People showed up. I was happy and so truly grateful. People made enough of a deal about me for me to feel loved, but not enough to make me squirm. No one bought me shots or made me unwrap presents in front of people. Lawd do I hate unwrapping presents in front of people.
So why am I posting this this year if I seemed to have figured it out?
Because, clearly I didn't. Yesterday I was WRACKED with anxiety. I have a meeting and volleyball after work. My birthday, especially when I didn't plan a single thing, isn't a good enough reason to skip them both. So then which one should I go to? And then maybe something after? But people already have plans. I don't want to burden people with switching their plans because I'm a shitty planner and told no one about my birthday until this week.
Cue the anxiety spiral again, and Cazey desperately trying to pull me out of it. I think last night we figured out what I'm doing tonight, and I know I'm going to have a good time. I deeply appreciate anyone who reaches out, says something kind, shares well wishes, sends me a gift, calls me, texts me. So why I gotta shed a tear of anxiety as I write this and think about my birthday!?