As has been pretty well-documented on the blog, I've never been much of a birthday person. For me, it's rarely about the age I'm turning (I've always embraced getting older), so it's taken me until recent years to pinpoint why birthdays are so difficult. As much as I hate to admit it, I have certain hopes and expectations for how I'd like the day to go, and feel let down when expectations don't line up exactly with reality. It's not that I want outlandish gifts or fancy bottles of Champagne, but I want to feel acknowledged and loved in the same way I try to make others feel on their birthday. In the past, I've unfortunately let something as simple as a friend forgetting to call throw off my whole day.
We've all forgotten a friend's birthday, which has everything to do with being busy or distracted and nothing to do with how much we love that friend, but I couldn't help but interpret it as a reflection of how they felt about me. I'd make these grand connections between them not calling and me not being loved, even though I know rationally that isn't true. Birthdays can highlight our existing insecurities by putting relationships under a microscope. A missed birthday text or absent party attendee could send me on a spiral of: Do I have enough friends? Do I mean as much to others as they mean to me?
It got to the point where I had these figurative boxes I needed checked off: When I went to my phone in the morning, I'd feel hurt if I didn't already have a text waiting. I expected my parents to Facetime before coffee, and Geoffrey to acknowledge the day first thing with breakfast. I don't have to tell you that this is unhealthy behavior.
As my birthday approached this year, the response I got leading up to the day was, "I hope you can at least have a good day despite what's going on!" But, I found that it was actually the best birthday yet.
The coronavirus has given me the gift of perspective in so many ways, but mostly how lucky I am to be healthy and safe. Of course, there are moments when I let this gratitude slip from center focus, but it's made many of the smaller concerns I once had, like unsent birthday texts, feel inconsequential.
While I obviously missed my family and friends, I enjoyed the day so much more than usual. Because I had so few expectations leading up to my birthday, I was able to actually appreciate everything I had, instead of cataloguing the things I didn't.
G picked up scones from a local bakery, then we had mimosas while playing cribbage. Sloan and I looked for four leaf clovers then laid out in the sun, my mom sent handmade necklaces, and I Facetimed with so many people I haven't been able to connect with for a while—without the distraction of planning a party to celebrate with them. My friends went out of their way to make the day feel special, with distanced deliveries of cake and homemade sweets, and I made it through the entire day without a twinge of insecurity.
I really hope that I'm able to remember this for next year: That less is more, that I don't need dinner at a new restaurant, and that I am so lucky to have such a supportive community every single day. That I'm always able to remind myself of what's really important.