Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Birthday Blues

I have a confession to make. I'm not fond of birthdays. Well, not all birthdays, just my own. Birthdays remind me I'm a year older, and it's another year I haven't accomplished even a fraction of the things I want to do before I die—and every year that passes, I realize the opportunities will only diminish.
Honestly, I believe my thing about birthdays goes back a lot further. I was adopted, and somehow, even though I know the parents who raised me loved me with their whole beings, a little voice still whispers in my ear things like, you weren't wanted. You aren't good enough. Well-meaning family members deepened those thoughts by introducing me as, "Roland and Nelva's adopted daughter." My mind always read that as adopted second-rate daughter.

As much as I've tried to silence that stupid voice, it has spilled over into nearly every aspect of my life. I was also ruthlessly bullied growing up. (Even within my own extended family) I lived on the wrong side of town, and my parents didn't have a lot of money, so I was the somewhat geeky girl with messy hair, pop-bottle thick glasses and weird hand-me-down clothes. Might as well have painted a big red victim target on my back. I remember trying to tell a teacher in grade school about a classmate who pushed me down on the playground. Her response? "Someday, he'll be a big football star, and you'll like him a whole lot more." Guess what? That guy ended up playing for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. It did nothing to improve my opinion of him.

These subtle messages played in my head while I was growing up, and I consciously and subconsciously tried to drown them out by trying to be the best I could at everything. I became the girl who would get a 99% on a test, and argue the one point, because I wanted to be perfect. I ended up in doomed relationships, because in my need for acceptance, I was unable to formulate healthy boundaries.
I don't want anyone to think I'm going off the deep end into depression or anything, because I'm not. But, when people asked what I did for my birthday, and I say, laundry, cooked dinner, and cleaned my apartment a little, they act surprised. My daughter asked me last night why I didn't have a cake or anything. Because I didn't want to bake a cake for myself? I still have a few nightmares about graduations when I was a cake decorator. That might have something to do with it as well.

I have four wonderful grown children, and an equally amazing step-daughter that I love dearly. All but the step-daughter have their hands full with spouses (equally awesome people) and at least two small children apiece. (My kids have made reproducing a competitive sport) Having raised those four children, I know exactly how difficult it is to balance the demands of work, family, and self. But, it's hard to not allow those same stupid voices to creep into my thinking. Sometimes those kids remember my birthday, sometimes not-so-much. (This year was half and half) I'm not always the "cool grandparent." I live in a one-bedroom, unbaby-proofed apartment littered with books, and writing implements. And dogs. Don't forget the dogs.  Plus, between work, writing, ghost hunting, and the special people in my life, I live a rich and full life. Time is always a challenge.

I'm sharing my thoughts, because I have a suspicion I'm not the only person in the world who has a love-hate relationship with birthdays. Oh, as for my personal boundaries, they are fine, thank you very much. Test me at your own peril. I write, which is an area where one can excel, but never master—and I'm okay with that. I bleed a bit of my soul onto the page in hope that it resonates with someone. I'm proud of my Iranian heritage, and my German/Czech small-town Nebraskan upbringing. I have amazing friends and family, and a new book release to boot. Life is good. But I will probably always get at least a little introspective around June 10th.