It’s my birthday–or will be by the time you read this. I’m turning forty-six, which is amazing to me on many levels. One, I never thought I’d make it to thirty, and I passed that a long time ago. Two, time really does go faster the older you get*, and I swear I was thirty-five not more than a year ago. Funnily enough, I don’t feel like I’m in my twenties or younger, but I’ve always felt as if I were an old soul in a young body when I was that age. I related better to older people. I always have, and I probably always will. I should amend and say that I relate best to people with old souls, which sounds pretentious, but I think you know what I mean.
I’ve written before that I hated my birthday for decades because I hated being reminded that I was alive. For years, I was convinced that I should be dead, so every birthday was just a slap in the face. In addition, it reminded me how I’ve contributed nothing to the world at large, so I hated it with every fiber of my being. I wouldn’t tell anyone when my birthday was, and I refused to celebrate it. In a Let’s Play that I recently watched, one guy asked another when his birthday was, and he answered, ‘Summer’. They (the first guy and the third guy of the trio) had to prod him to get an actual date, and when he finally said it, they were like, “Who answers that way?” I immediately thought, “I do!” Or at least I did. If anyone asked when my birthday was, I’d never answer. For online sites that required a birthday, I’d put in a false one. I still do, but now it’s because I think it’s silly to ask for someone’s birthday online.
Side note: You know how on Facebook they notify your friends when your birthday is up? One day in January, I woke up to a wall of well-wishers, and I was like, “What the hell?” before remembering that I’d given a false date for my birthday. I also switched my birthday notification to private because I felt kinda weird being wished a happy birthday when it wasn’t my birthday. This year, on that same date, FB wished me a happy birthday, and I had forgotten I’d given a fake date and was wondering why. When I remembered, I giggled because it was just so damn amusing to me.
I used to dread the build-up to my birthday, ruminating on what a waste of space I was. It didn’t help that my mother was way into my birthday, and it used to distress her that I hated it so much. Interjection: I do know that I was the unreasonable one in the equation, but it felt like a burden at the time. In addition, I was a loser as a kid. I didn’t have many friends, and I got picked on a lot. Birthdays underscored this situation because I had a hard time finding girls I felt comfortable inviting to a party. I didn’t want a party in the first place because even at that age, I preferred one-on-one interactions, but the thought that I had to find six or seven girls to ask to a party was gut-churning for me.
I don’t have the words to tell you how much I loathed my birthday. It sounds like a stupid thing to hate, but it’s all the emotion tied up in it. This lasted through my twenties and my early thirties. It never had to do with getting older–I don’t have a problem saying how old I am. Anyway, sometime around my mid-thirties, I stop caring as much. Not coincidentally, it was around the same time that my depression started lifting a bit. I still didn’t care for my birthday, and I still used it as cudgel to hit myself on the head with because I’d done nothing with my life, but I didn’t hate it in the same way. It was still alien to me that some** people really loved their birthdays and made a big fuss of them, but I’m used to not feeling the same way about things as most people do. A side reason I didn’t like my birthday and still don’t is because I don’t like having the focus on me. It makes me intensely uncomfortable unless I’m on stage.
So, from my mid-thirties until a few years ago, I tolerated having a birthday. I didn’t tell anyone when it was, but I also didn’t obfuscate if anyone asked. It still made me slightly blue, but I dealt with it as best I could. I was relieved when it was done, however, which hasn’t changed. Now, I’m mostly neutral to the fact that I have a birthday. I still think about how much I haven’t done in my life, but that’s a normal condition for me, anyway. I still have no desire to celebrate it, which is still a bone of contention between my mother and me, but a minor one. I remember she used to get teary-eyed when we discussed my birthday because she considers it one of the greatest days of her life,*** whereas I considered it one of the worst of mine. Now, I just nod and smile when she waxes poetic about how great my birth was. I will say it was better that my brother’s as she was in labor with him for nearly a full day. My father likes to tell the story of how he was in lobby of the hospital, waiting for me to be born. A half an hour after they arrived, he heard a baby crying, and he thought, “Oh, someone’s had a baby.” The nurse came up to him and said it was his, and he was shocked and surprised.
I was in a hurry to be born, and I’ve regretted it ever since. I’ve seen pictures of me as a very small child, and I have a hard time reconciling the grinning, dimpled, happy child with the morose, grim-faced, depressed woman I’ve become. Same with pictures of me as an older teen/early-to-mid twenties young woman. I was anorexic/bulimic at the time, and I look so emaciated. I was hot, though. I can’t deny that. It’s a weird thing for me, and I don’t know if I’m the only one, but I feel disassociated from earlier versions of myself. I’ve managed to find compassion for the younger versions of me, but it’s more the compassion I feel for others, rather than anything I can feel for myself. I still have a hard time being kind to myself, but at least I’m not constantly tearing myself down, either. I consider that a big step. Recently, I sunk into a mini-depression, and it astonished me how both awful it felt and how foreign it felt. I had forgotten this was like I used to feel all the time and worse, and that’s when I fully realized that I was out of my major depression.
I attribute it to eight years of taiji. The benefits are varied and take time to realize. It’s not a cure-all, and it wasn’t immediately evident to me, but I truly believe that I would still be mired in the muck if I hadn’t started studying taiji. It’s something I’ve only seen after years of studying–the benefits, I mean. I am much more able to tolerate crowds and to navigate through them more easily. I still run into things and fall, but I’m able to relax upon impact so as to minimize the damage. I maintain that I was able to escape from any serious injury from my car accident because once I realized I was going to be hit, I relaxed instead of tensing up. I’m still depressed, but it’s much less than it was before, and my mood swings aren’t as violent.
I know it doesn’t sound uplifting to say that this year, I’m completely neutral to my birthday, but it is for someone such as I who has detested it for so long. I’m not bracing myself for the influx of negative feelings I normally get as my birthday approaches. I’m sure I will still be reflective and think of all the wasted years, but I will be surprised if it lasts a week as it used to do. I’m actually going to celebrate this year by having Ian make me pancakes because I LOVE pancakes, and I’m going to buy one of the three games I talked about in a prior post that are intriguing to me. I don’t ever buy myself anything for my birthday, so this is a positive step in my acknowledging that my birthday isn’t a thing to dread and detest. I may even buy myself cake! Wait. I did buy myself a slice of cake last year, so that’s affirmation that my birthday is less problematic for me every year. I expect by the time I’m ninety, I’ll be wearing a tiara and shaking dat ass in celebration of reaching that milestone. I have a long road ahead of me, but at least I’m not fighting myself along the way as much any longer.
*You know what I mean. I don’t mean literally, obviously.
**The vast majority.
***My mother is an unreliable narrator, though. She has a tendency to put a gloss over negative events, so I have to temper whatever positivity she says to near the truth of the matter.