Photo Credit: Lorene Farrugia,

Yep! It’s that time again–the anniversary of another year gone by. While I know many middle-aged women (ahem! around my age) who lament their upcoming birthday because it reminds them they’re growing older; I’m not one of them.

Growing older doesn’t frighten me. In fact, I embrace Time in all its wrinkly glory because I know with each passing year I’m wiser and more consciously aware of myself and others and simply more in love with Life than I was the year before.

But despite my zeal for the wisdom and grace of age, I nonetheless abhor my birthday.

The Bitter B-day Pill

See, historically speaking, my birthday has heralded disappointment, sadness, pain, and ghostly insignificance. It became a cursed day, foreshadowing such traumatic occasions as a family member’s surgery, my dog’s death, my brother leaving me land bound to whitewater raft with his friend’s family, my own surgery, the birth of my eating disorder, and to years of simply begging for a birthday party that I was never allowed to have.

After numerous years of pleading and bargaining, I gave up trying for a while, until my Sixteenth Birthday. A Sweet Sixteen, a girl’s iconic birthday, like a modern-day rite of passage. I was supposed to wear a pretty dress and have an amazing cake to share with all my friends and experience my first, real kiss. You know the scene, it’s in every teenage movie filmed between the late 80s and early 90s.

But life’s very rarely like in the movies. You already know none of this actually happened.

In reality, I spent the day rollerblading with my best friend in between baking and decorating my birthday cake. A three-dimensional, old-fashioned train engine, decadent chocolate, embellished with fire-engine red, sunshine yellow, and Bermuda blue icing (my favorite colors) and boasting engine number ‘16.’

As soon as we finished adorning the last detail, we reverently sliced off its back end and ate it and then headed outside to be left to our own devices. No strain of “Happy Birthday” chorused, no balloons, no partygoers, no fuss, just us.

Thus far I’ve omitted one last detail that further perpetuates the curse. My birthday also competes with Father’s Day. So while everyone’s busy celebrating their fathers at barbecues or dinners, my birthday becomes an afterthought, a random footnote out of place among the chapters of a novel, crammed in where it doesn’t belong.

Yet, try as I might, I can’t escape it. Pretending nonchalantly that it’s just another day, hiding under the covers, sticking my head in the sand, it always has an uncanny knack for finding me, and making me miserable.

So, as I find myself again on the eve, tensely holding my breath and anxiously awaiting the curse to wreak its annual havoc, I suddenly asked myself, why? Why should I expect to unwrap heartbreak this year?

Just because something painful happened last year or two years ago or was a frequent pattern throughout my childhood, why does that automatically mean it’ll be my gift this year? Assuming that simply because something happened in the past, it’s destined to repeat itself, is a false philosophy.

Today’s a different day than yesterday. Each of us is a different version of ourselves today than we were yesterday; we’ve gained knowledge and experience and insight. The world itself has changed. And besides, curses only happen in the movies!

As I began to disentangle myself from my false birthday assumption, it created space for the possibility to perceive the annual affair more objectively. The realization that dawned stunned me. My perspective was focused externally, looking outwardly to others as my source of celebration, instead of inward, celebrating and honoring and appreciating myself. I was my own curse.

It’s not the job of others to celebrate me. It’s for me to celebrate myself, whether on my birthday or any of the other days of the year.

As I directed the spotlight of my newfound perspective on the memory of my sixteenth birthday, I discovered a novel facet of its reality. While it’s true I didn’t get to wear the stunning dress or kick off my shoes and dance with unadulterated abandonment at my awesome party or kiss the guy, I did get to bask in the unconditional friendship of my very best friend for the whole day.

My best friend who wanted me by her side as we streamed down great hills on blades of wheels. Who knew I would want chocolate, who knew my favorite colors, who knew that in my heart what I actually wanted on that achingly raw day was to simply be surrounded by someone who loved and accepted me. I was gifted the best present in my world that day. And, in case you were wondering, I did get my first kiss three short months later.

This birthday reflection has left me wondering, how do you celebrate yourself? What false assumption or perception is holding you back from enjoying all the moments of your life?

What’s another way you could look at painful events to see another aspect of their reality? How might your life look different if you appreciated the things you do have instead of focusing on the things you don’t? What are you willing to do today that honors the awesomeness that’s you?

Me? I’m going to buy myself a birthday cake and dance among the trees!

Photo Credit: Lorene Farrugia,