Have you ever had a bad birthday?
I have found that birthdays are among those milestones that drive us singles to drive ourselves crazy. (Others include New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day and every social function that requires a date.)
We tend to see them as barometers of how we’re doing. (“I don’t have a spouse and kids to celebrate with, so if it isn’t a super-fun day, it somehow means I’m pathetic.”) Hence, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves and everyone around us – which generally leads to less fun, not more.
I recently had a birthday fall on a day that didn’t, overall, turn out to be a particularly good day.
It looked promising.
My family was planning to celebrate it with me with not one but two dinners. The kids were excited (mostly about the cake). I’m actually going to an office every day now, so I had the opportunity to be around people I like all day instead of spending my workday at home like I used to. And it wasn’t a big birthday, so the new, slightly-higher age number was a complete non-issue.
Those were the plusses.
‘Over the edge’
The downside was that I had been traveling, working, pushing myself too hard and spending my spare time with the children I love but who happened to be serially sick. All of which left me running on fumes.
And all I needed was a birthday to send me over the edge.
I’ll spare you the details, but the short version is that, for no particularly good reason, I hit a physical and emotional point of no return at the first family celebration.
I was still in meltdown mode the next morning. I tried to go to work, and only made it as far as the parking lot when I realized a visit to the doctor might be a better idea.
Diagnosis: strep throat.
A trip to the pharmacy, back home and into quarantine, a long nap, brief dinner with the family. Sick, physically and emotionally exhausted – that was my birthday.
Fortunately, as the day went on, I became increasingly aware of the ridiculousness of the pressure we place on birthdays. It has to be a good day…or else it’s a terrible, terrible thing.
I had a bad day. So what?
I think it’s actually better to have a bad day on your birthday, because at least you’re getting cards and your friends are calling and people you barely know on Facebook are sending good wishes. All of that can brighten even a crummy day – and it did.
The thing is, I have lots of good days – great days, even. (More now, thanks to the antibiotics and the two days or enforced rest.)
I had a particularly good one just last weekend. My sweet nephew spent the night, then I got to show houses to two sets of buyers I really like, then another buyer I really like went under contract, then I got to speak to the awesome singles at my parish and we had a great discussion. I was thanking God for that day, and I thought “Who am I to dictate when my good days come?”
I know – when you’re single, it’s hard not to freak out a little at birthday time. It does become a bit of a barometer for our success as single persons.
So here’s my advice: Next time you have a really great day, thank God for it, and then ask Him to remind you of it at birthday time.
If your special day doesn’t measure up, you can just go back to God and say, “Let’s call that other one my birthday.”
And presto! You had a great birthday!