Shifting into a New Year

Yesterday was my birthday, and it was one of the worst, and one of the best birthdays that I can remember.

If you've watched me on YouTube for more than about 5 minutes, you will probably have heard me mention that I have never had the best relationship with my mother. Our closeness has waxed and waned over the years, the worst years being when I was a child and teenager, and the best being post-divorce with my first husband. But lately things have started to go south again, as my mother has put the renovations of her home at the top of her priority list, and family at the very bottom. This has not sat well with me at all.

It became apparent just a few days ago, however, just how low I was on the totem pole of her life, and it broke me. I had one of those ugly sobbing on the kitchen floor moments after it happened, and not being much of a crier, that is saying something. In fact, I'm liable to break down into one of those again just even talking about it, and so that is REALLY saying something. The breakdown of our relationship has weighed especially heavily on me since the departure of my best friend from my life, at her choice, about 2 years ago now. So this year, with the last 2 birthdays being quite painful and difficult because of a very difficult and emotional pregnancy, and then an especially bad bout of PPD, I wanted to make this year count.

Last year was my 30th birthday, and I didn't do much for it. My birthday got lost in the vacuum that is summer life, and I think (??) I maybe went out for dinner with a couple of family members or something? That's how memorable it was. The year before I was on bed rest, and I know I went out for Indian food, but that was all I could manage. This year, I decided to go all-out and throw myself a bbq party, which is HUGE. I've always had a tumultuous relationship with my birthday, and while I often dream of having a party, I never do.

Remember me saying my worst years with my mother were as a child? Well, picture this, my 2 younger brothers, born in the beginning of June, and on Halloween, and who were vastly more popular than me, both got parties every year. Friends, sleepovers, presents, decorations, themed parties, cakes, the whole she-bang. Me, born towards the end of July, well, the friends I did have were often on vacation with their families, or, we were, and so I usually got hot dogs for dinner (and I don't really care much for hot dogs), and usually extremely cheap, super sweet store bought cakes because we couldn't bake a home made one while camping or at the cabins. One candle was usually found in the bottom of the cabin drawer (probably a remnant from a long-ago birthday in 1972) and lit in the make-your-teeth-hurt icing, and presents were often poorly put together at the last minute, or promised to come when we got back home. It was very, VERY hard not to feel neglected, invisible, and unloved in those vastly different birthday scenarios between myself and my brothers.

My birthday usually finds me feeling emotional, raw, and forgotten about, even when people are actively trying to wish me a happy birthday. My birthday usually finds me feeling sorry for myself about my past, or navel gazing, or attempting to become invisible (because it's so, so much easier to just go with what you know) and have it all blow over without much fuss. This year, with my mother and I not talking, and a good majority of my mom's side of the family away at a funeral for my great-uncle, I was in great danger of repeating this scenario and really feeding my depression all the more.

And then sometime about 3 weeks ago, I decided that this little story that I had been telling myself about my birthday? I needed to stop telling it. It wasn't helping, it was HURTING. Really, really hurting. And the worst part, I realized wasn't that it was hurting me, because while it was, I also saw that it was hurting my family. By my family I mean my husband and kids. They looked forward to spoiling me on my birthday as much as I did on theirs, and I was denying them that opportunity to show their love for me. I realized that while I had in fact, been quite jipped in the way that my mother handled my birthday each year (often with reluctance, after thought, and sometimes outright laziness, like refusing to bake my cake on my 16th birthday) and it had led to some feelings that were uncomfortable, it was up to me to change the way that I celebrated every year.

I am currently not talking to my mother, which means that there is a hole in me right now, where I feel like her love should be, should really have been my whole life, really, and it sucks. It really sucks. But to ignore the fact that there are people who love me just as much as she claims to, or perhaps even more, is to do them a disservice. So, I threw myself a damned party. I cleaned, and scrubbed, and ran errands, and cooked, and socialized, and dammit if I didn't accept presents, get and give hugs, forge new relationships, and relish in being the center of attention from a few people for one evening this year. I was emotional at the end of the day when everyone went home, and I was laying in bed, awake, remembering the day, but I was so glad I did it.

It was the worst birthday I ever had because I'm not sure if I'll ever be on good terms with my mom again. But it was the best birthday I ever had because I finally felt like I was loved, and seen, and that I mattered to these people. That is a very good feeling to have, and you know what? I'll take it.

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