I want to approach my birthday with the same excitement as a child. The unapologetic: it’s my day! A morning greeting of balloons, donuts adorned with candles for breakfast, cupcakes before lunch, a birthday crown to sport all day and cake at night!
But we’re adults. Not. How. It. Works. By the time we start paying our on bills, just as our parents are no longer responsible for those, they’re also no longer responsible for ensuring it’s the best day ever.
If some of this sounds familiar, six weeks ago, I wrote this about my son’s third birthday. As I was writing that, these thoughts about adults’ birthdays began as a tangent in the middle of the page. I decided it was worth its own post.
Nine years ago, I woke up on a beautiful Sunday morning. It was my 27th birthday.
I got up early and headed out of the house by myself. I jumped in my 2-door hunter green Honda Accord (I loved that little thing). The sun was shining, music was playing, the windows were down and the sunroof was open. I went to the local Caribou Coffee less than a mile away on East Blvd (gone now, tear), got a latte and found a table outside in the beautiful sun.
It is one of those moments engrained in my memory. Everything felt right.
In the preceding years, my birthdays had disappointed me. I pointed fingers at others. But if asked, I couldn’t answer what I even wanted to do on my birthday.
Previous birthdays disappointed because I didn’t have expectations of what I wanted. Of course the day could never live up to the expectations in my head because there weren’t any expectations in my head.
This birthday would be different. I would be prepared.
First, I decided I wasn’t looking at anyone else to make my birthday great. It would all be on me. Second, before my birthday I asked myself: what would I do for my perfect birthday? What are my favorite things? Being outside, the peacefulness and quiet of early mornings, a good run. What makes me happy? time to myself to begin the day and time with loved ones later in the day.
Now that I knew what I actually wanted to do, I made a plan.
Since that beautiful Sunday morning, when it became clear that I’m the only one responsible for making my birthday happy, I have never had a bad birthday.
Don’t get me wrong, that’s not to say others haven’t done things to make me feel extra special on my birthday. Nor is it to say that I don’t enjoy it when my friends and family make me feel special – I love it and so appreciate it. It’s just that until I was happy, I couldn’t truly enjoy what they were doing for me.
That moment that I took responsibility for making my birthday as special as I wanted it, grew into something bigger. It became not just about my birthday, but about every day. That I can’t look to my friends, my significant other or my family to create that happiness for me (and I certainly can’t do it by silently wishing in my head that they could read my mind because: if they loved me enough, they’d know what I want!)
While I wish I could say I follow this philosophy without fail, I don’t. I have days when I’m cranky (but oh my gosh the Gratitude Journal is making those days less and less!) and look to my husband to make it better. Or wish someone else had read my mind. There are days I could be a better daughter. Or times when someone hurts me and I get angry. But then I remember, no one can read minds, we all have our things and ultimately it’s up to me to choose how I see and react to those things.
This birthday, I really don’t want much. I’ll go for a run. Get a latte. Take a shower. Grab lunch with my husband. Make something yummy (my mom would make us our favorite dinner on our birthdays. This is my favorite birthday memory from childhood and what makes my heart warmest) and eat dinner with my children. I’ll end it with a glass of wine with a younger man, as it’s the only day of the year I am older than my husband.
For kids, yes, parents are responsible for making it the best day ever. But as adults, it’s up to us. Just like making our life the best life ever is up to us.
Note: If you read last week’s Thursday post, I said I was going to write a third post about behavior. I just couldn’t this week. The rule here is that the writing should feel good. Hitting publish might be scary, but the writing should feel good. This is where my mind was. And man, I get sick of talking about behavior all the time.
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