Did I mention it is almost my birthday and I also have issues?

This year, I am facing it head on. My Birthday monsters will not chase me into a dark corner to hide until this sucker is over. I will stay out in the open; sword-of-generosity in my hand and shield-of-oversharing around me.

Birthdays are hard but I sure love them. For our kids, we decorate the entire house the night before their birthday with some of their favorite toys and printed pictures of their favorite things. The year they loved Minions, there was a handmade Twinkies-in-the-shape-of-Minions cake.  In order to get their presents, our kids solve puzzles and clues to complete an epic scavenger hunt that often takes them underwater and to the houses of their best friends. This year we incubated duck eggs and fostered ducklings for a month because my daughter loves ducks. All of this, to show them how loved they are and how seen and how known – that they are WORTH IT… basically to communicate all the things we hope for our children … the rich soil I deep-down believe they need in order to grow up big and strong, so they can go out as courageous adults and save the world while still feeling totally rested and loved because their childhood birthdays were so so so good.

And now it’s my birthday. And I am about to become a moving target for anyone trying to really love, know, or see me.  On other days, it’s so simple.  On my birthday, it’s so complicated. My expectations are erratic because I either change my mind about the actual thing or (really) change my mind about whether it’s ok to want the actual thing. I want to see every person I love and I also need to be alone. It is impossible to fit everything I’ve wanted to experience into one day so it’s tempting to do nothing at all. When asked directly what I do want to do for my birthday, my brain goes immediately blank. It’s nearly impossible for someone else to make me happy on my birthday.  Basically my heart hides behind a black-hole-of-need that eats every nice thing.***

But I have found that focusing on a few simple, active things makes my birthday way better. I’ve been trying this for a few years in different combinations and I think I’ve figured out a pretty good plan.

3 things to do to Celebrate My Birthday Well:

1. Write out everything I want for my birthday. Write it all out. Who do I want to see? What do I want to do? What presents do I wish I could have?  What do I wish my life was like right now?  This is not going to be an essay to impress the humbleness judges. This is flat-out confession. What do I want? I think we struggle some days because we are afraid to call out what we really desire. It doesn’t mean I will get a single thing, but that’s actually the point. It’s in the acknowledgement of my own needs that the toddler in me can relax and actually feel seen. Part of why I do not feel seen, despite other people’s efforts, is that I refuse to really see myself.  My desires and longings are a part of my core self.  The more I deny them, the louder and weirder they get in their expression. If I am willing to mirror them back with passion and compassion, I will relax. We need to diffuse the situation and mirroring works – with actual kids and with the kids inside ourselves.

Try this with your kids or yourself and it will help: Next time your 2-year-old is throwing a fit because you said NO to them about something like having a cookie, try mirroring back, with lots of passion: ex. “Cookie! Cookie! You want a cookie!” And see what happens. They will often nod and pause the fit they are throwing. Follow it up with a big wish like, “I wish we could have a castle made of cookies and eat them all.” Your toddler will relax and feel seen and your inner toddler will too.  (If you have kids and have not read Happiest Toddler on the Block, I really recommend it. It helps me parent my kids and myself!)

2. Give myself a present. After I write out all the things that I wish for my birthday, I will take the time to pinpoint something that feels really tender and vulnerable and important on that list. That thing, I will get/do for myself. Maybe it will be a visit to the beach to watch the sunset. Maybe it will be a pair of yoga pants. Maybe it will be 30 minutes of reading on the couch. I’ll pick one thing I can actually do for myself and stop waiting for someone else to do it – not out of reactive anger, but in preemptive love and gratitude for my own life.

3. Give Reverse Birthday Cards and Gifts. As I write out my birthday list of wishes, I will also write out a list of the people who have made my life better. My mom. My sister. My husband. My kids. A few friends. I will write out the names of the precious people I would grieve if they were not in my life … and I will TELL them that they matter to me. I will tell them how much I appreciate them and how glad I am that they are alive. I will give them a Reverse Birthday Card or present.

Reverse Birthday Cards

 

 Those are my first three steps. What do you do to celebrate your birthday? You probably do something really selfless like accept NO presents and just have everyone you know give to EXODUS ROAD or CHARITY WATER because they do good work. I could do that too. 🙂

 

-Nicole

 

 ***This does not mean you should not try to make my birthday special.  That would be a ridiculous conclusion. I’ve pretty much fixed all my problems and anything you do for me will be met with real gratitude. There will be explosions of joy.