The mid-May’s in Montreal, where I lived from age three to 10, were largely warmer and sunnier – practically summertime weather.
When we moved out west, my birthdays in Calgary became…gray.
My birthday coincides with Canada’s May-long weekend (Victoria Day). People are usually away camping and the weather at this time of year is usually overcast. Full sun and warmth are a rarity.
In my twenties, we’d sometime end up at a bar. While my friends got loaded, you can be sure I was longing for some sun and that “perfect” birthday (which doesn’t exist by the way; or does, depending on your ability to overlook imperfections).
On my 21st birthday, out of the people I had invited to my place for drinks, one showed up. Although I was grateful (or was I?) for the one friend that did, the others had not bothered telling me they weren’t coming.
I started second guessing myself: maybe I hadn’t made it clear that it was my 21st birthday? People had said they had a lot going on and that they weren’t sure they would even be in town.
It WAS a possibility that I had miscommunicated the date, or that I low-key downplayed that it was my birthday. It’s possible. It’s all so blurry now because, in the grand scheme of things, it is so irrelevant to how far I’ve come from that time in my life.
From that moment on, I remember deciding that my birthday was not going to be a “big deal”.
I grew out of the fantasy of having the “cool” big birthday bash, being surrounded by a TON of people.
I think we all grow out of that eventually. I became OK with less.
I started understanding that less is actually more. I became grateful for a birthday spent at home with family, a grocery store-bought chocolate cake, a walk in the park.
But I think it would be denial to say our birthdays are not the least bit important to us.
Everyone likes to be remembered, thought of, and cared for; even the nonchalant among us like to have at least one other person remember our birthday.
We would be of great disservice to ourselves by pretending that the day we were born is “just another day”.
It became “just another day” when we started blocking out memories of being let down by ourselves (expectations) and others; people forgetting our birthdays, people not showing up or being alone on our birthdays (and seeing “alone” as a bad omen).
And so, we put walls up and pretend that it’s “just another day” (Am I far off?).
The day of our birth, we came out of a womb; we took our first breaths; we cried for the first time; we saw light for the first time!
We should not diminish our stepping into this existence as insignificant; when we do, we end up believing in nothing – not even ourselves. We are all so unimportant (we are just dust!) but important all at once. We each have purpose; we wouldn’t be here if we were insignificant, now would we? It’s OK to give yourself SOME credit!
Writing this, I am surprised to find some pain is still lodged in my bones. It’s like a wound that never got sewn up properly. I think we all carry wounds from our youth: that feeling of rejection or not being “good enough” creeps up on us at odd times:
“Really? I’m not over that?”.
The feeling goes away quickly but it still shocks me how much our bodies can remember – even with time behind us.
I do not remember most of my birthdays 21 and onward. The ones that are memorable were spontaneous. When we drop expectations, we can enjoy whatever comes our way on our birthday and in other aspects of our lives.
We learn and we grow. We learn that the “bigger” the birthday doesn’t mean « the better ».
In adulthood, even if there are birthdays spent alone, there are so many things to be grateful for. Plus, you can celebrate YOU, in your own way, MINUS the terrible company (how great is that?).
Over time, my birthdays became less of a panic-attack. It became a day that could be celebrated with others, or a day that could be celebrated on my own or with family-only.
May-long 2015 was planned loosely, totally uncontrolled and free. I felt like I was happily living in the moment and sharing this imperfect trip with imperfect people. It is sharing El Nido – a sanctuary over looking the lake and the mountains with five other beings – that made the trip so special. Sometimes, when we step out of ourselves, we gain. At El Nido, I gained. It was my birthday but it was a weekend that celebrated not just me – but all of us. And for that, I am blessed.
“El Nido” is the recollecting of a memorable vacation taken with friends in May 2015. It will be written in 3 or 4 parts. This is its preface….Stay tuned for the rest!