Ever since I was little, I had a bit of a tantrum on my birthday. It probably stems from the narcissistic personality disorder qualities I live with causing me to suffer greatly from never feeling loved enough so that when my birthday observances come around, I am often left feeling depleted instead of filled. The need for such love an armour against allowing such love, when proffered, to make its way in. Then there is also the guilt and shame associated with wanting to feel that love, to feel special – that need engendering a sense of self-loathing for not being comfortable with myself which I have experienced since a very early age.
I’m working on it being different this time.
I remember many of my birthdays. On my fifth birthday we played a racing game. All of the children left their shoes at the far end of a long lawn. We raced from the opposite end, put our shoes on, and ran back to the starting point. I finished last. I sobbed. Not because I was last, but out of indignation – it was my birthday, and as the birthday girl, I should have won! Being only five years old, I got over it quickly -- like as soon as the birthday cake was served.
On my 18th birthday, my best friend threw a surprise party for me, but literally no one showed up -- I think because while she planned everything, she forgot to tell people about it. She and I ate the entire 1/4 sheet birthday cake that was shaped like a jar of Skippy peanut butter.
My 21st birthday was spent in Florence. I ate a giant gianduia wafer in the garret room of the pensione where I was staying, dressed only in my underwear, before going out to the Borghese gardens to see a performance of the ABT where I wondered if the famous male dancer was for real or stuffed socks in his crotch. My 30th birthday was particularly lovely as that was when I discovered I was pregnant with my first daughter. My 40th was lovely too as we had just moved into our first house after living in a tiny apartment – four of us plus the cats in a place with only one bathroom and no closets.
My parents always made a big deal of my birthday. My birthday was important to me too, until the past decade or so when the passing of time marked by my birthday became particularly painful. As I entered middle age, each birthday marked another year when I became farther from my youth, my potential, my beauty, my sadness compounded by the temporal reminder of what I have not done which somehow overshadows what I have done.
Now my birthday is a time of mourning. The months, weeks, days leading up to my birthday filled with grief as I cry for what has passed, for the lack of appreciation I have always had for myself, and for certain choices made that took me in predictable directions, but yet somehow landed me in unexpected places -- like the job I have held for the past 11 years that turned into the career I never in a million years would have imagined or chosen for myself, and which consumed so, so much time of my life, although did provide stability for my family.