Birthday parties were a mystery to me for a very long time. I was rarely invited to them, so in a way I was simply low on experience, but I have a degree of incomprehension with regard to social dynamics in general, and I think that was the bigger issue. Who plans these parties? Are birthday parties always surprise parties? Isn’t that complicated? If someone doesn’t plan one for you, do you plan one yourself? Wait, really, people just throw birthday parties for themselves? How do you convince people to actually go? What if no one shows up? Will anyone notice if I just hide in this closet for the rest of my life? No one will, right?
I experience a constant torrent of anxiety about parties in general, which also doesn’t help. So for me, birthdays have never had a default celebratory setting – in fact, I’ve spent many of them alone, often with feelings of sadness or bitterness. That kind of emotionally difficult birthday experience is behind me, although I won’t bet against it reasserting itself in the future, but even now my birthdays are still more about reflection and self-assessment than merrymaking.
Thankfully, that process of reflection is very different today than it’s been in years gone by. I still possess a calamitous variety of personal frailties; I still spend the wee hours fighting off the same merciless churn of psychic turmoil that’s always plagued my nights; I still feel like a wobbly, bent-spoked wheel of a human being. But I no longer feel isolated, friendless, and without purpose. I no longer feel like my dreams are foolish and beyond my grasp. My birthday is no longer an occasion to internally debate the validity of my existence. It hasn’t been for quite a while, in fact. I’m 45 years old today, and I’m probably as fully engaged with the intricacies of life as I’m capable of. It’s complicated and hard, but eh, I think it’s the way to go.