My birthday is this Sunday. I should be happy. SO much accomplished in my 30th year on planet Earth. 31 will be just as awesome, right?
A wave of anxiety hits, pangs of sadness, grief. Racing thoughts. I quickly try to find the reason behind this sudden emotional downpour. PMS? Stress? Probably a bit of both. But something more lurks beneath the surface.
Then it hits me. The last two years my birthday has become a reminder of things forgotten. I no longer get a birthday card or phone call from my mother. Dementia robs her from her sense of time and place. I could call and let her know my birthday is coming up or even the next day and she’d soon forget. I try not to mention it anymore because I don’t want to make her feel guilty for missing it. It’s not her fault.
I’m learning to accept this. Yet, another part of me hopes she remembers.
My birthday is of course the day I was born. There’s an immediate connection to motherhood, thanking my mother for giving birth to me and raising me. My birthdays growing up had an extra special connection to my mom. She threw me parties in places like craft stores and arcades, and since she was never a very social person, this was a very special day for me. Into my adulthood, I took on the habit of throwing myself parties, recreating that celebratory day. And who doesn’t like an excuse to eat cake?
Like other holidays, birthdays are a time of reflection, and my mind tends to harp on the negative. OCD can make this so much worse and no matter how much has been accomplished, you still feel guilty for not having accomplished something else. So what I wrote a book? I have five others unpublished! My guilt-mind professes.
We’re also living in turbulent times in the United States with social media helping to expose these terrible current affairs. The constant stream of awful information exacerbates anxiety disorders, and if you’re like me, you then experience guilt for feeling anxious over the little things ’cause there are such bigger problems in the world. “Oh boohoo you don’t get a birthday card, they’re people being deported!” So says guilt-mind…
But we are all human. We all have families that we love and families we have lost. We also have to remember to be kind to ourselves.
On my birthday, I intend to be kinder to the person my mother raised, to be kinder to the person who tries to make a difference every day through work, writing and good deeds: myself. Happy birthday me!
Now go eat some cake.