I have an odd relationship with my birthday, but it’s not because of aging. I like aging. Aging means I’m still here.
When I was little, my parents used to throw birthday parties for me–thinking that’s what I wanted because that’s what most kids wanted. And while I wanted to feel special and be remembered, as a painfully shy introvert, it was problematic. Mama would dress me up in these frilly fantasias or cute little short sets she bought at the small, Asian boutiques down the block from us. There’d be party hats. Princess cakes. A slip and slide. We had no money for these things, and yet–there they were…like magic.
And every year, I’d end up crying. Every year, I’d get hurt. Either someone would say something shitty to me. Or I’d sprain an ankle. Or a puppy would get run over on our block. It was so bad that I came to believe my birthday was cursed–and so–I asked for it all to stop. Which was probably quite the relief for Mama–who, like daughter, was not one for parties herself.
I don’t remember when it began, but after that point, it was always just me and Mama. Sometimes, we’d spend my birthday at the park. We were lucky to have two gorgeous parks with lakes within walking distance. We’d have picnics. Sometimes, if it was hot–which was usually in mid-August–we’d just stay home. But we always got a giant cake–usually with flowers on it in my favorite colors–sometimes with cats. Favorite ice cream and favorite food. Usually pizza. Sometimes, I’d make enchiladas. And we’d just enjoy each other’s company. And believe it or not, hanging out with Mama was something I enjoyed a lot–even during the wretched pre-teen years.
I think the only year I didn’t spend it with Mama was the year I met my ex-fiancee. I spent it with him and lied about it to Mama–telling her I was going camping with friends. I still regret that. It was the last year we had together before she got sick. But I was 24–young and dumb–doing shit 24 year olds should do. I never thought she’d be gone several months later.
The relationship I have now with my birthday is similar to me and Christmas–only much more difficult, surprisingly. I’ve worked hard to get over my difficulty with Christmas, mostly succeeding. But my birthday is something that’s doubly hard. It’s missing my Mama, but also being forced to confront my propensity towards loneliness. And the difficulties I have with other people–namely, my tendency to feel unloved and dishonored.
My Mama was the only person on this Earth who has ever loved me unconditionally–and whose love I never doubted for one moment. She made me feel special and wanted every day of my life, and losing that has been very hard to deal with–especially given my self-worth issues.
I’ve always struggled with feeling valued and loved by friends and boyfriends. I’ve always felt like I gave everything to others and got very little back. Even with some of my exes, who I knew loved me, simple shit just would be ignored. Like when I had to remind my ex it was Valentine’s Day, and he scrambled to get flowers–knowing he’d fucked up. He didn’t know I knew he never planned on those flowers. Part of it is totally me. I’m really bad at asking for what I need. I’m the girl who downplays disappointment and never expects anything–except I do. I expect to be loved the way I love people. And that rarely has been a thing.
The California years have been especially hard on me during my birthday month. Friends who always remembered to text me, at least–would forget–out of sight, out of mind. I couldn’t just escape to the mountains. So, I’d end up in this worth spiral that was super ugly and this rage would come over me. And I’d want to lash out or withdraw entirely.
It was that sort of thing that led me to seek out validation in not so great ways. And it was that sort of thing that led me to work extra hard on healing my relationship with myself.
This year’s birthday was surprisingly good. I had expected it to be this super emotional day for me, but like all things grief-related–the shit you expect doesn’t always happen. I was especially nervous after the shit earlier in the week with work that left me feeling devastated and hopeless. I take other people’s cruelty to heart too often. But Friday helped me a lot. I ended up feeling grateful that this thing had happened because it gave me crystal clear clarity about the things I had felt wishywashy about. And it allowed me to see people for who they are–and not who I wanted them to be. And it allowed me to realize who has my back and who will show up for me, when I need them. And it helped that Friday was a great day for me because of two interviews–one of which was a bit of a full-circle moment that might lend some healing to the TFA debacle.
I wrote some things and shared them with my friends, this weekend. Mostly gratitude. Reflecting on 40 and what I hope 41 will be. But really grounding myself in my own worth and power. The shit that happened this past week would have really demoralized me and gutted me…for a while. It did do that for a few hours. But, overall, it reinforced that it had nothing to do with me and gave me a really good reality check. Other people’s cruelty and bullshit isn’t always about me. I can choose how I feel about things. And I can choose to take care of me.
That’s exactly what I did this weekend. I stopped expecting other people to love me the way I wanted them to love me. I stopped waiting on people to show up for me. I stopped letting other people’s priorities define mine. And I took care of me. What was important to me about my birthday that I would be sad about if I didn’t receive? A cake, flowers, favorite foods. So, I did that for myself. My needs were covered. And because I did that, I was able to receive the love that was offered. Instead of questioning it or feeling let down. I just let those who cared care. And I paid no mind to those who didn’t bother. It was none of my business.
When I was younger, I used to beat myself up for having expectations of people–so I would convince myself I was wrong to have expectations. It was my way of protecting myself–but really–it made me feel so much worse. Because I made it about me not being important. And me being a burden with all the ways I felt unloved.
I realized this year that no one else’s love matters more than my love for myself. If I can’t show up for me, no one else will. And I can’t control anyone except myself. I focused on loving myself this weekend. And it was easy to do that, for once.
I do still wish I had people to share things with. But that just isn’t where I am right now, and that’s okay. We don’t have to have the lives people think we need to have to still be happy.
When I was a little girl, I was a wee bit dramatic. There’s this story about me getting a shot and immediately telling every human I met for a week that a bad man had hurt me–then putting up my arm where they did it and telling them to LOOK at my owee.
Along the same vein, I was always that kid who was overly proud of anything she created. I would paint something and then overly gush to anyone that would listen, “LOOK at the BLUE!”
Somewhere along the way, I learned to not talk about the things that hurt me. To not grieve those things. To never toot my own horn or be too excited about anything I did. These things were taught to me by society–by everyone–to protect me, but also to control me. To keep me in my lane where I could never be hurt, but where I could also never violate unwritten rules by being exactly myself.
I’ve been unlearning those things for the last 17 years or so, and I think it’s why I feel younger now–at 40 (technically, I’m still 40 till 8:26 am Mountain tomorrow)–than I ever did at 22. I’m the wild woman who colors her hair every shade of pink and purple–or chops it all off into a pixie–with no hesitation.
I had this impulse several hours ago to dye my hair again. And I wanted to do it today. So, earlier today, while I was out getting things to celebrate my life–I picked up a couple boxes of dye. Now, this was maybe a little too brave. My hair was a very bright pink and magenta purple with some rose gold and all the colors in between. I did a little research and learned quickly that I could end up with green hair if I picked the wrong shade. Or my hair could get really damaged and even fall out. Which wouldn’t have been good. But I had faith and bit the bullet. I started at around 10 pm, doing a strand test–which came out perfectly–and then decided to go for it. It took me a really long time because I was super meticulous with covering every strand. I finished around 12:30 am, and with the exception of 2 muted pink strands, it’s exactly the color I wanted–a warm brown–just in time for autumn. You can’t even see the pink unless you’re really looking (as I was).
I then decided–again, impulsively–to go get tacos. I had 24 minutes to get there in drunk SJ traffic hell, but I made it with a few minutes to spare. The lady is my friend who I see once a week–and she immediately commented on my color change. And I excitedly gushed, “I DID IT MYSELF!”
It reminded me of being a little girl–before the world made me small.
Every year of my life, I set an intention for what I hope the next year will be like. This year–that’s the thing I want to embrace–that feeling of being excited and proud. Of owning my extra-ness and being proud as Hell about the choices I’m making.
Today is the last day of Year 40 of my life. It’s gone by in a blink, and most of the things I intended to do were overshadowed by painful, tedious transitions–the culmination of years of patience and work for me. For most of 2019, I’ve been waffling–secondguessing what I wanted, unsure of how to get past the considerable obstacles in my way. Trying my best to just trust that what is mine will know my face. The Universe, however, has its own plans and a dark damn sense of humor. July and especially this week have been reminders of that–forcing me to revisit my whys and feel the spectrum of what this life offers–in all its sharp, spiky glory. For all the years I’ve lived on this Earth where people have called me brave, this year was the year I actually was brave. This year, I chose me–for once–as quickly as I chose others in the past. This year, I spoke the truth and bided my time–which, I learned, takes real courage and is its own burden. And I paid for it. Dearly. This week, I learned to lean into gratitude. But not until I let go of my patterns of rage and unfair. And toxic people and things that no longer serve me. And I embraced the what ifs and kept choosing myself.
For most people, year 40 is the big bad of the ages. The mark of midlife and all the crises that go with that arbitrary whatever. For me, 41 is that. It’s the year that, for me, marked true adulthood. The deadline I set for certain milestones that I may never realize. It’s the year my Mama became my Mama, finally fulfilling a dream she’d always had in her too-short life. It’s a year that, for me, marks endings and beginnings and getting on with everything. It’s a year of owning everything and never accepting what isn’t. And that’s really scary for a woman who never really had a childhood.
So, that’s how I’m going into 41. Aware of my power. Choosing myself. Letting go of the painful bits. Going for all of it. And not wasting any more precious time.
Thank you for listening and being here this far.
Before I get started writing this tonight, I should warn you that I’m not in a good place mentally and I’m not really sure what I’m going to write here–except I’m feeling raw and angry. If you’re easily triggered, this one might be a good one to skip.
But I AM going to share it–even though it’s the last thing I want to do. I want to withhold it to somehow punish everyone–to not allow people to have any bits of satisfaction that they can or do affect me. But, really, that’s just sticking more knives in my own flesh.
So here goes. Hold on.
For the last few years, I’ve been dealing with some pretty shitty work stuff. This summer, it’s intensified. Things I’d seen happen to others are now happening to me, and today–it all came to a head. The thing about it is–it’s completely about retaliation. And while some sanctimonious shit has been happening, I am well aware of the lies and manipulation that people who I once respected and cared about are perpetuating against me. I’ve been working hard to get the fuck out for a little while, but it’s been hard to know what I want–given that I don’t want to continue certain paths and the rest of my life here necessitates certain standards that are more difficult to deal with. I’ve been optimistic about things up until today when I was blindsided, yet again–and this time in a way that was just so obviously meant to disturb my peace. I was in a rage all day, and I was even more enraged because I let that person enrage me. In the moment, of course, there was nothing. I gave nothing. I held myself in check and I was so proud of myself for not erupting like I wanted to. But that kind of rage eventually does damage. And of course, as always, I’m the one absorbing the bombs.
Tonight, as I was driving to grab some dinner–after a day of not really eating at all because I was so angry–I slipped into a dark hole–one I rarely fall into. And I just thought, “I get why people kill themselves.”
I am not a typically depressed person. I’m more anxious. My depression lurks under the surface in places where I can’t feel its presence–and then some trigger will come up and it’ll fucking drop kick me. I know how to let myself feel it, now. I know how to talk myself down. This is one of the blessings of disassociation, I guess.
My life has been a series of avalanche like tragedies. The shit that kills most people. I’ve had so many of them, I sometimes feel like I’m a zombie. That I died over and over again like some warped ass Jesus imposter.
For most people, if even one of these things happen, the goddamn cavalry comes rushing in–ready to cheerlead and prop up. But for me, there is always crickets. Even when I reach out. Even when I say I need things–which is so hard for me to do in those moments.
I have learned that it doesn’t matter how much I hurt. Or need. Or want. I will just always be neglected. I will never be as important as anyone else.
But I can deal with that. I’ve been dealing with that my entire life. I know how to absorb that pain and digest it, bit by bit.
What I can’t abide? What isn’t okay? What sends me off onto that ledge of darkness that is so easy to slip from?
The routine maliciousness. The ordinary complacency. All the little papercuts people inflict that tell me it doesn’t matter if I exist. All the things people do that are deliberate and intended to cause me harm. Like not checking on me when I tell you I’m hurting. Like mean-girling me when I’m just trying to do my job. Like saying one thing and doing the opposite. The small abandonments. They add up. And I guarantee you–if I’m ever one of those people who decides it’s fucking enough–it will be because of that. Not my childhood. Not any death. It will be because you didn’t fucking care enough to try to even pretend to honor me the way I honor you.
Birthday weeks are particularly hard on me, and this one is a particularly significant one for me. I know that I am more sensitive than I SHOULD be.
I sometimes laugh and tell myself I’m still here only because of my rage. But sometimes, I wonder if that will one day morph into a need to make everyone else feel the pain they cause me. If one day that rage that has sustained me as the biggest fuck you will be the ultimate fuck you. And it saddens me that I would be happy about that.
I don’t want to be a vengeful person. But I am so tired of always being beaten up by people when all I ever do is show up for them.
And honestly, I don’t know how to stop being tired like this. I don’t know how to make it better because I’ve been fighting for so long to live. And I’ve concluded that the issue is NOT me. It’s fucking you. You are to blame. And you should suffer. Not me.
I don’t want or need help, by the way. I may only be here because my cats need me, and I love them. And I’m too afraid to be anything except here, bleeding. I will take care of me, as I always do, and you will continue to do what you do. Because nothing I have ever done will ever change that.
I know the most uninteresting way to start any blog post is to apologize for not writing for a while. But yea–here we are, except I’m not really apologizing. There’s a lot going on in my life, and I also don’t feel like life update posts are all that interesting either–so I’ll spare you that. 🙂
The truth–I’m not that into writing at the moment. Well, to some degree, but mostly in short bursts. Twitter is good for that. Besides, other more pressing/important things are happening–that could mean MUCHO change in a while. I’ll talk about it more, at some point, maybe. Those who matter already know, and those who are curious can just ask, yea?
I’m mostly good. Something I’ve been learning how to do lately is to be okay with people not always liking me. (Imagine that). Also not hustling for shit–which is a big deal for me considering my entire life was built on hustle. And it’s an important thing for stuff that’s happening now. A real switch for me from a mindset of fear-based thinking to inviting, and responding to, abundance. Here’s a weird fact: shit shows up in force when you just are open to it. Like–in the past 3 weeks–I’ve been given free things on three separate occasions (an ice cream cone, a lemon bundt cake, and a cookie sundae). Oddly, I had been craving ice cream like it was my job, and lo and behold–people just gave me stuff. Why? Because I was nice to them.
I know it’s very woo-woo, but maybe there is something to that whole Human Design stuff–that idea that Generators need to just respond to things that come to them. That they should never chase. I’ve gotta say, I enjoy this switch. I’ve found a whole new level of self-worth in not chasing things and just letting things be–trusting it’ll be okay if I say no. And I’ve said no to many things.
I’m asking for what I need a lot more. And I’m a lot happier and calmer–though it is hard for me not to go into straight up hustle mode 24/7.
What is mine will know my face.
Hope you’re well. Tomorrow begins birthday month for me. Here’s hoping the self-worth lasts.