The Birthday Blues

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with my birthday. I love birthdays for other people but mine is always fraught with trepidation, and anxiety. I think that the introvert in me baulks at all of it.

I’m indecisive when I need to be most decisive, and have eyes on me waiting for my decisions. I find the pressure to do something that I really like is too immense. Then, the pressure of that can make me tip so that I become almost obsessive with getting what I want.

At the same time, I’m trying to keep my expectations really low because I know that it doesn’t always work out that way. Years of not getting the presents I want, not having people turn up, etc have taught me that.

It’s different for everyone, but I’ll tell you my experience with my birthday and perhaps you’ll recognise some of the traits. Then, we’ll get into some of the general aspects of birthday blues.

Attention
I love it and I hate it. Pretty much, I want it when I want it and not when I don’t. I’m super spontaneous and will do something crazy for attention if I feel I want it or need it, but if I’m forced to do something that I don’t want to do, I’ll be in my shell quicker than you can blink.

When our birthday is known by other people, the spotlight is on us whether we want it or not. That can bring their expectations of what they think we should do. Sometimes, we just want the day to go by without a big fandango, or any fandango at all. I use that word for fancy stuff, flippant kinda fun of the biggish variety- fanfair, basically.

Getting the balance right is tricky.

I see birthdays as the one day of the year that we can be celebrated for being US, and all the things that make us who we are. The attention should be on us- but in the way we want it, not as per other people’s choices.

I’ve been guilty of pushing other people into celebrating when they didn’t want to, and it wasn’t fair to them. I’m evolving and realise that it wasn’t right of me, no matter how well intentioned it was. I was worried that they’d regret letting the day go by with such lack of acknowledgement. Most of us don’t celebrate our birthdays more than a week or so after the actual date, so we have a small window of time in which to celebrate. One particular friend was disorganised in general, and would usually rely on me to help with things at the last minute, and I was trying to manage my part of that, by setting in place some birthday date parameters.

Plus, from my perspective, I’ll keep myself available for my friends, within a reasonable range of their birthday. That can’t last indefinitely, as then it’s overlapping with other people’s birthday windows, you know? By me being motivating them to celebrate, I was ensuring that if they wanted me there, I could be there. But, looking back, I know I was pushy and overbearing, and these days, I’m doing my best to give everyone the space and room they need to make the decision for themselves.

My birthday
My birthday comes too soon after Christmas for me to really settle in and plan anything good.
Having a February birthday is probably different in the northern hemisphere. But down here in the southern part of the world, January is the height of summer and people are away, living their lives. Despite having mobile phones and social media, it can be near impossible to get everyone to reply in a timely manner, and get something planned properly. And that’s IF they all know each other. My friends are from various parts of my life, and with respect to cats, it’s like herding them. I have the same convo over and over, and that’s when I’m just trying to gauge interest and availability in advance.

I’ve even had my birthday dinner on the other side of town, where my family is, because it seemed as though they weren’t willing to come to me. It’s happened several times, where I’ve had to make all my birthday plans around them. I still feel shit about that, and wish I hadn’t done it. But I know better now, so I do better, and don’t bother trying to incorporate them at all, unless they contact me and want to be involved.

Then, as my birthday falls the day after Valentine’s Day, it’s overshadowed, every fucking time. Those same people above are keeping that time free for spending with their husband/partner/imaginary boyfriend who they haven’t even met yet. Trying to organise a party is almost impossible. It doesn’t matter whether my birthday falls midweek or on the weekend, if I’m trying to sort a party on the weekend before or after, I get the inevitable, “I’m going away for Valentine’s Day” and I feel abandoned. I’ve actually ditched a friend for this, because she followed that statement with, “it’s only once a year,” to which I replied, “so is my birthday!!!” She barely even knew the guy, by the way.

It’s my one chance to get to do what I want to do, and yet, in the past, I’ve barely been able to get any of the things I wanted to do, because no one liked those ideas. They couldn’t put their own likes aside for a couple of hours- for me. That has put a weird spin on my birthday, where I thought it was for me and the way I wanted to celebrate, but so far, it’s been a matter of battling people to get on board with my ideas. Don’t think it hasn’t had me questioning my friendships, and some have defo fallen by the wayside in the birthday aftermath.

It means that even when I push to do something for my ‘big day’, I can’t always get what I want. And by ‘can’t always’ I mean rarely do because everyone is off doing their own thing and not being there to celebrate me, even when I want them to.

Covid birthday
Last year, I spent my birthday alone. Melbourne had gone into a snap 5 day lockdown the day before, and I was okay with that. I’d made no plans yet, and so I didn’t have to cancel anything. The questions about w

My birthday 2021. Look how excited I was to have that gelati!!

hat I was doing were fewer, and easier to answer. I was going to stay home, as per the restrictions. But I didn’t do that. It was a gorgeously sunny day, so I took myself on a little adventure. We were limited to a 5km radius of our homes, and so I went and bought some KFC, and took it to a park I’d discovered in a previously free time during the year.

I sat at a picnic bench, and ate my KFC alone, basking in the glorious sunshine of a beautiful February day in a lovely green park with a lake and wildlife. I felt joy and happiness, despite being alone. And, to my absolute delight, an ice cream van had arrived when I had, so I even got gelati for dessert. I couldn’t have been happier!

I’d bought some of my fave foods and I spent the rest of the day at home, feasting on my yummies and taking phone calls from my loved ones.

Looking back, I realise that the best part was having NO PRESSURE on me to entertain, make plans, tell everyone and not leave anyone out, be in three places at once and all that.  I didn’t have to work around other people’s work hours, children, preferences. It was easy peasy, and frankly, one of my more enjoyable birthdays, even though I missed some of my birthday traditions that I actually do love. (I love to go to the beach or the pool on my birthday, but they were beyond the limits, or closed.)

This year’s birthday
My bestie was a legend. She’d been listening to me when I told her how I felt about my birthday. Then, when the time came, she wanted to make sure my birthday was special. The day before, we went and got pedicures. Then, on my birthday, she took the day off so we could go to go to the beach, but it wasn’t hot enough. Instead, we went to the movies and did a little shopping afterwards.

Wellbeing and Lifestyle
We Single women can have multiple areas impacted by the events and circumstances we experience. Your birthday and how you feel about it, and how it pans out, can have an impact on your overall wellbeing, mentally and physically and your relationships. Being overly celebrated, under celebrated and the pressure surrounding your birthday in general, can make you feel shit about yourself. As I said above, not being able to get my friends to do what I wanted, or be there for my birthday (as I was for them on theirs, by the way) made me feel unloved and made me question the friendship itself.

Take notice of how you feel and react around the time of your birthday, and going with it. This year, I have a friend who I met since my last birthday. I made it clear to her ahead of time that I go a little whacky around my birthday. It helped her to deal with my strange moods and ups and downs in such a ‘happy’ time. And, it turns out, she has some of the same feeling about her birthday, so that is yet another thing we have in common. As always, communication can help, and mean that new friendships, like ours, don’t go down the gurgler when your birthday blues come around.

Recovery
The year is long, and though your birthday is only one day, it can take over weeks of your life depending on how you feel about it. It’s a week since my birthday, and I’m feeling better. But, I also chose to use my birthday blues to my benefit. I decided to step out of my comfort zone and send one of my offers to a woman I know who might be willing to share it with her audience. She said yes! I was sent a referral for a podcast guest spot, and I followed it up. That one’s pending but looking good.

I refused to let my birthday blues get the better of me. Sure, I might’ve cried a lot and had a few arguments, but I don’t want anything lasting that’s not positive for me. I’m in charge of my life, and even my birthday blues. I just had to look at them with perspective and get a grip on myself. You can do that too, if you plan ahead.

Signature of Marie-Louise, dating coach at Life Stylin'

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