I remember when I was a kid I used to love when my birthday rolled around. Loved it! Loved the special attention, the parties and of course the presents! I was a typical kid and I loved everything about it. Then there’s the milestone birthdays like the sweet 16, turning 21, all of which I have such fond memories of. I even welcomed my 30th birthday with open arms and will always remember the surprise party in my honor.
Then, for many of us, something happens as we get older. We begin not looking forward to birthdays, we start to ignore them, put our hands up and say “no thank you.” For some of us, it’s a sign that we’re aging, or perhaps a reminder that time is slipping by and we haven’t done “all those things” that we’ve meant to do. We’ve all had the phrase “by the time I’m the age of ____ I want to be_____” and fill in the blanks with the dreams and expectations of where we think our lives are going to be by a certain age.
This didn’t start to happen for me until after I turned 40. Up until my 40th birthday, I welcomed my special day with open arms and enjoyed every minute of it. My 40’s have been very challenging for me in many ways so I started not looking forward to my birthday. I would joke around saying “oh, I’m holding out for the big 50th party” when really I wanted to just crawl under a rock on my birthday these past few years.
Maybe I was taking inventory of where my life was and wasn’t liking the results. I had gone through a lot of changes starting with my 40th birthday weekend where yes, I have the pictures of the trip to Vegas with my besties, but that was also the same weekend my ex-husband was moving out for the 2nd and final time. I’ve fallen victim to the notion of comparing myself to where I thought I was “supposed to be” in my 40’s and that started playing tricks with my head and as a result I really started hating my birthday. Even my 43rd birthday when my then boyfriend and now my amazing, sweet, adorable husband surprised me with a wonderful evening with everything a girl could want, yet when I look back at those pictures I immediately think “that was the year I lost my job and was unemployed.”
I let all of this get deep into my thoughts and take over, and as a result, I wanted to pull the covers over my head.
Truth be told, I wanted to pull the covers over my head on most days, but then on my birthday, it hit hard. The comparing, the loathing, the reminder right between my eyeballs that I’m in my mid 40’s and I was starting over with several aspects of my life. I let it rule and I let it ruin the day that I used to love. My Birthday.
I turned 46 last week. I expected to not want to get out of bed. I expected to plaster on a smile and just get through the day. But after I woke up and kids and Hubby left for school and work and I was alone with my thoughts, I noticed that I didn’t feel disgusted by the thought of my birthday. I felt elated and happy, frankly I felt down right giddy.
I took time time to reflect on where I have been this past year and it wasn’t exactly a happy trip down memory lane. The past year was tough on me and my family with continued stress about not working and then a cancer diagnosis last summer. 45 was a tough one. One that may have required an extra heavy blanket to throw over my head to try and forget.
I don’t know if its because I’ve worked really hard to get strong and recover from my surgery and radiation, or it’s just the fact that with a cancer diagnosis comes the mere thought that there may not be a 47th birthday. That my trips around the sun may now have a time limit to them that is a lot closer than I once thought. We all just assume that our birthdays just come and go year after year and we have the luxury to choose to not respect the day. We take it for granted. We put the hand up if we’re not happy with the number or where we are in our lives compared to where we think we should be. I have stopped taking it for granted.
It was these thoughts that snapped me out of the loathing of the birthday. I turned 46 and I was so darn happy and grateful to have that day arrive. I made a commitment to myself to return to how I used to feel about my birthday when I was a kid. If you have the pleasure of being around kids when it’s their birthday, or watching your own kids on their birthday, they truly view it as a magical day. My kids start counting down months beforehand with such excitement and I’ve decided that’s exactly how I’m approaching my birthday from now on. With anticipation and excitement and gratitude.
While I don’t envision myself planning a sleepover birthday party like my tween daughters requested, (although if I asked a handful of my friends, I bet they would love it!) I will take time for myself to honor my year – good or bad – and look forward to the future.
As adults, we are the only ones who truly know what we need and want on our birthdays. Therefore, I’ve instituted what I now call “My Birthday Ritual” – and if you’ve been treating your birthday poorly like I have, I invite you to try this with me. My birthday is now my day to take time for myself to honor, indulge, contemplate, celebrate and reflect. It’s my day to celebrate in grand style in exactly the way I need to. A time for new beginnings and personal closure as I start day 1 of another glorious trip around the sun.