The last birthday which ended in ‘0’ that I actually recall enjoying was when I turned twenty.
Lots of people love them. Lots of people have huge parties, and see a zero birthday as a wonderful and special landmark in their lives.
Me? Not so much. My 30th, 40th and now, 50th Birthdays have been a time of self-reflection, inner turmoil and anxiety. Perhaps because I have always seen them as milestones where I take a long hard look at what I’ve accomplished in the previous decade.
And I have to admit, I always find myself coming up short.
In truth, my expectations are set incredibly high, and consequently, most of the goals I set are out of the ballpark in terms of possibilities and realism. Being the girl who wants to do and have everything done in a set way under strictly established rules and guidelines means that I don’t always set reasonable life expectations for myself (or others).
Consequently, when I hit those ‘0’ birthdays, I generally have a mini meltdown because I haven’t done what I thought I should do. I’m not in the position I think I should be. I spend a lot of time, analyzing and fretting over the many, many things I think I’ve done wrong, could have done better, and wish I’d had the courage to do.
HIndsight is a wonderful thing, and hindsight involving the life of an introverted woman who suffers from a major depressive disorder, OCD, panic and anxiety attacks means my hindsight tends to tail me, overwhelm me, have me questioning everything I say or do.
This year however, I’ve found it somewhat less difficult to cope with – (turning ’49 + 1′ as my beloved brother and sister-in-law had iced on my cake) – surprisingly.
No, I haven’t accepted birthdays ending with ‘0’ any better than I had before. No, I haven’t reached an epiphany and said to hell with worrying about things. I haven’t decided I’ve missed out on so many opportunities to have a humdinger of a party and consequently invited every single person I know to celebrate with me.
But I have accepted myself – who I am – more so in the past eleven months since the ‘incident’ (I still think ‘nervous breakdown’ encompasses what happened far better than a ‘severe depressive incident’, but that might just be me).
This year, I didn’t worry that people would ‘expect’ me to have a big party. I accepted that I’m not the partying kind, and I didn’t drive myself crazy worrying about everyone else’s expectations of what I should (or shouldn’t) do to celebrate turning 49 + 1. A huge milestone for someone who is brilliant at worrying about stuff like that.
I spoke to a very small amount of people via phone on the day. My mum, and my sister to be exact. Both asked if I intended on going out to lunch with the darling husband to celebrate, and both got the same answer – but for the first time in as long as I can remember, I told them the truth and didn’t feel the need to apologize for my weirdness, or explain my decision. “No. I much prefer to have a quiet day at home.”
And I did. I had an enjoyable day at home with the people I love the most. I had a couple of texts from other family, and that was okay, and something I was comfortable with. The day was perfect for me. And it ended with cheesecake!
Because I’ve finally, finally begun to come to terms with who I am, and how I operate. I’ve finally discovered the power that comes from acceptance of myself. I am who I am, I’m strange, quirky, introverted, have weird thoughts and feelings, and don’t communicate or cope well with the outside world. I struggle with friendships, I don’t do well when playing with others.
But I am me. I have strengths, and I have weaknesses. And I don’t have to apologize for those weaknesses. I’m finally coming to terms with the idea that people can accept me for who I am, and I don’t have to be something else to prove anything to anyone. I can be me, and I’m unusual, and probably a tad freaky, and sometimes I’ll say inappropriate things, and occasionally, I won’t react to situations in the way that is expected. It’s one of the reasons that so many of my so-called friends have fallen by the wayside over the years. Because I don’t do well with friendships. I questions them every single day, wondering why anybody would want to be friends with me, and consequently, I’ve come to a major conclusion. I sabotage those relationships myself, because I find them too difficult to deal with. I must admit though, to a few friendships which have lasted for many, many years. Decades in fact. Why? I hear you ask?
Because that small group of people accept me exactly the way I am. And don’t expect me to be constantly in contact, doing the things that ‘friends’ do. They know my quirks and idiosyncrasies, and accept them.
But I’m getting off track. Yes, I have turned 49 + 1. And next year I’ll be 49 + 2. I still hate the concept of a birthday ending in ‘0’ and I doubt that will change.
But I’m going to work on learning to stop and smell the roses. To learn to accept the things I can’t change, and try to learn to love myself as I am. I’m going to be proud of the achievements I’ve made, and try not to dwell on the many, many mistakes I’ve made in my life. I can’t change them, I have no way of fixing them, and really, the main achievements I’ve made are colossal.
I may not have a fancy house to call my own, but we’ve always had a roof over our heads. I doubt now we will ever be ‘homeowners’, but we have thoughts and plans for the future. We have never been rich, but if laughter could be counted in dollars, we’d be millionaires. I have accepted that I will never hold down a ‘real job’, due to my anxieties and issues, but I’ve carved a little home business for myself through editing, and make a little pocket money from it. I’ve established a career as an ‘author’ (of course, I’m anxiety ridden, and have no confidence in my writing but I’m still putting it out there) and I have a teeny, tiny little following of people who like what they read, much to my everlasting disbelief. My Darling Husband and I have been fortunate to share thirty years of our lives together and still love one another deeply, and we have four wonderful, quirky, endearing children who are growing into wonderful, quirky, endearing adults. I used to fret over the fact that they were too much like me – now I’m trying to learn how to let them be themselves and not let outside expectations push them into the situation I found myself in, the situation in which I tried to be something I am not, to please those around me. I’m hoping (and praying) that I’ve given them the confidence to accept who they are and to know that it is okay to be exactly who they are. They can no more help who they are, than I can help who I am. We are given a certain set of cards in life and have to make do with them as we can.
And I’ve just begun to figure out, 49 + 1 years into my life – how to play them properly. I might not be comfortable with those birthdays ending with ‘0’, but I’m better learning how to manage them.