heart and home, life lessons

Birthday Blues

birthday cake

Birthdays are an odd sort of mix aren’t they?

Our childhood frames a structure around celebrations – it is our day to feel ‘Special’ where we are surrounded by our friends and family. Big parties, people showing us how much we are cared about, cake, cards and presents.  I remember lovely childhood Birthday parties – I once had a magician who pulled a live rabbit out of a hat – there was always cake and singing and that lovely glow of feeling special.


As an adult it is hard to maintain, life just isn’t like that, is it? Our friends have busy lives, family may not always be able to drop everything. We may have to go to work. The day does not revolve around us – our parents aren’t there to make it special.  Our loved one might not understand the complexities of the emotional baggage that surrounds that one day marking our entry into the world. As much as I hate to admit – Birthdays leave me in emotional turmoil every year.

Childhood memories are mixed, my Birthday was a bit of a burden arriving just after Christmas and the New Year. Aunts and Uncles would inform me that my Christmas present were more expensive than my siblings, because they had combined my Birthday and Christmas into one big gift, but I knew it was a lie. Early on, I envied siblings who had Birthdays in Spring or Summer without being overshadowed by Christmas and the New Year. It bothered me so much that I made sure my children were Spring babies!

Icing on the cake

It is surprising how much anxiety I have had over the years about celebrating my Birthday, I hate that it arrives at the one time of the year when, quite frankly, I am tired of feasting and rich food and I am all partied out. I am also aware that most people have stretched themselves to pay for Christmas – to burden everyone with yet more present giving makes me feel uncomfortable.

This is an awful situation – friends and colleagues knowing its your Birthday and wether they feel like giving you a present or a card. I am not very comfortable receiving, it is embarrassing. But what if they don’t? What if I plan a party and no-one comes, what if my friends choose to ignore it or forget about it, what sort of message is that?

With reflection most of the anxiety is down to trying to maintain the childhood celebration in an adult world – it no longer fits.

I am uncomfortable being the centre of attention – that might surprise some of my friends because I never come across as shy. But there is an awkwardness about Birthdays – there is still deeply buried  five year old girl who wants to feel special, but an adult knowing that to be honest, for everyone else it is just an ordinary day. There is also a woman that needs to feel she is connected and supported, loved and cherished.

In her book, The Simple Abundance, Sarah Breathnach writes:

We need to see life as it is, not hold ourselves captive to a vision of how it ought to be. Surrendering our expectations opens us up for the gifts of spontaneity, serendipity, enabling us to cast off old agendas of what is supposed to make us happy.

Birthdays don’t have to be celebrated in a particular way, I can escape the past and do something different! Claim the day as my own, forget the old worn out hallmark celebration- it is time to map out the day to my choosing, let it unfurl with opportunity, rather than a barbed measure of my popularity.

reading in bed

I am going to take responsibility for my own happiness; not give it away to whims and echoes of the past, or the expectations of others.  I am going to fill the day with things I love to do – most of which can be done on my own.

In a world where there never seems to be enough time – a whole day seems such a gift.

Of course you know the old wise saying about Birthdays – those who have the most Birthdays live longest.

How do you celebrate?

14 thoughts on “Birthday Blues”

  1. What an interesting post. You start by saying you actually had wonderful birthdays as a child – but still that has been counterproductive as an adult. I totally agree it’s a rotten time to have a birthday anywhere near Christmas. But I know many people aren’t happy with birthdays elsewhen – including me. I’m born at the end of August. I was jealous of all the kids at school having a fuss made on their birthdays, when nobody noticed mine, because it was always in the school holidays. And of course there was always someone having a birthday. On a more important note I was youngest in the year, which is now acknowledged to be a disadvantage right the way up to university. I was very aware of it, so much that I avoided having summer babies. Although I also avoided Christmas for your reasons. Mind, if I’d had trouble conceiving I’m sure I’d have given those boundaries up. But all in all, you’re right, whatever shadows your birthday from the past, it’s in our own hands to make future birthdays happy ones 🙂 Happy Birthday for whenever it was over Christmas.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Bekki for your own take on Birthdays – and you are absolutely right about Boundaries. There is a lot of truth in what you say about being the youngest child, I remember studying it at Uni. Once you are beyond academia – there is a sense of freedom isn’t there?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Having a Spring birthday myself, I have never felt like you but have often felt sorry for those in your situation. One of my children has a birthday on 7th January so we always leave the Christmas decorations up until after then to make him feel a bit more special. I’m sure he must have similar feelings as people do occasionally combine his Christmas and Birthday gift – although we’ve been sure never to do that and have a proper celebration on the day itself.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Happy Birthday for whenever it is/was. It must indeed be quite strange having your birthday so close to Christmas. Mine’s in November which isn’t as overlapping with the celebrations of the festive period. Maybe next year you could get away for a weekend in January near as possible to your birthday. Somewhere localish you have always wanted to go to. So you have something to really look forward to…as well as/instead of your birthday. X


  4. I get what you mean about birthdays being a bit of a let down as you get older. I’d have happily skipped my last few birthdays – but this year my friend reminded me that it’s always good to celebrate getting through another year still in good health (if not wealth!) it made me thankful!

    Liked by 2 people

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