My 42nd birthday was this week.
My brain and emotions always get twisted around during this time of year, because I am simultaneously excited and happy about celebrating my birthday while also feeling depressed and lonely.
A lot of people over the years have told me that birthdays as an adult don’t matter. That they have stopped caring about their birthdays and it’s just another day to them. Half the time it appears as though they don’t even register what the date is until I wish them a happy birthday – or that they’d be happier if no one said anything to them about their birthday at all.
Each person has reasons for how they want to (or don’t want to) spend their birthday, and it’s not my place to question them as to what those reasons are. But I do sometimes wonder whether this dismissiveness is truly how they feel, or if it’s a coping mechanism for them in order to avoid the same feelings of depression/loneliness that I get about my own birthday.
“If I don’t care, I can’t be hurt.”
Why do I hurt myself, year after year, by continuing to put so much emotional energy into one single day? Why not just say, “it’s just another day.”
For me, it’s simple. My birthday is a day to celebrate that I am here. That I exist. That I matter.
If I stop caring about this, how much more will I stop caring about until I start believing I don’t matter at all? And if I stop caring, I will never reach the point where caring will stop hurting.
So I care. I can’t not care. I love myself too much to allow myself to stop caring.
But it hurts. Because, while I KNOW that I matter to people outside of myself, the voice inside my head that sends lie after lie into my soul gets particularly loud this time of year.
It tells me, “you’re alone. You’re always going to be alone. No one *really* cares. You have never had anyone *really* care before, so what makes you think anyone will ever care?” And every lie comes with “proof” that is designed to hurt me the most.
Around my birthday is when it is the hardest to stop hearing it. To stop listening to it. To stop believing it. But as I’ve gotten older it’s getting just a little bit weaker. It’s still hard to ignore, but now it sits there in the back of my mind only trying to shove its way into the forefront of my thoughts. And I choose to fight. I choose to care, and to celebrate.
I have really enjoyed getting older. I like who I am becoming as I age. I like that I understand myself better. I like that I am more confident.
I like that something I have learned over the years is that I don’t need someone else in my life in order to be happy. The lies try to convince me otherwise, but I am right. As long as I matter to myself, I am good.
I still have another couple of days of celebrating my birthday week. I’m going to take advantage of a beautiful weekend and not being sick with covid. And I’m going to buy myself something pretty.