The offer to me came earlier this year, and to Julie’s shock, I accepted it. The offer? Julie asked me if I wanted a birthday party to celebrate my 65th birthday. She has queried such options in the past, and I have always said no. But, dear reader, it is time for a change, and I am changing. With this said, my simple “Yes” was anything but easy for me to utter.
Why would it be so difficult for me to allow someone to celebrate such a special day? The answers go beyond the obvious, but many of these reasons will be familiar to those of you who have been reading my blog.
First, the obvious. I am an introvert and being the center of attention can be an exhausting experience.
Second, the more significant reason. My life has been a life of service, both professionally and personally. I have formed many of my relationships under the umbrella of things that I have done, or could do, for others. I think that this reality is not accidental. In part, I feel if you can help someone, you should. In part, providing a service to someone justifies the relationship. “Be my friend, and I will help you.” In part, it allows me to have a certain amount of control over the connection. Like most people, I am complex, as are my motivations to do things. Those motivations are neither good nor bad, they are.
Back to my birthday party…
My real fear of asking someone to do something for me is that they won’t do it. This is based on my childhood where that was my experience. I learned very early on that I had to rely on myself. I could not expect others to do things for me. Having to rely on myself made me angry, and I turned that anger into the fuel that drove me forward. As I have said in previous posts, “Take a disadvantage and turn it into an advantage.”
I became robust, resilient, and self-reliant. However, there is a flipside to this coin. There is a part of me that wants to be loved, cared for, nurtured, and celebrated for who I am, not what I do. This aspect of me is buried deep in my psyche and highly protected. However, part of my current efforts to grow beyond past limitations is to confront these needs and acknowledge them. Hence, “Sure throw me a party.”
My past strategy had been to never expect anything from anyone, but to fantasize that people in my life would be there, “If I needed them.” As a psychiatrist, I know the folly of such a fantasy. I have worked with many caregiving patients (often women) who have devoted themselves to others in selfless ways. They have selected individuals who were more than happy to be cared for. Sadly, when these caregiving individuals needed help in return, their relationship was nowhere to be found. Their connections signed up to receive full service, not to deliver a service. Naturally, this makes sense. However, even psychiatrists use psychological ploys to get through the daily experience that we call life.
Although my actual birthday was earlier this year, my celebration is scheduled for this weekend. I am stressed as this event draws a clear line defining my worth to those around me. My old tapes are playing. Instead of thinking that the people who care about me will be happy to celebrate with me, I think that they will be resentful and act out their feelings in one way or another. I have heard stories of people traveling to another state to celebrate a milestone with an old neighbor or a casual friend. This seems entirely normal for others, but not for me. Are my close connections willing to put themselves out a bit to celebrate with me? My rational self says yes, my inner child says, no. I guess I will know the truth in a few days.
To add to this drama, Julie has asked people to write a little note or letter to me which she will bind into a scrapbook. I want such records to pass onto my children and grandchildren. I don’t want to become an unknown image on an old photograph. I want to be a real person to my future lineage. I don’t think that this is grandiosity, I believe that it is based on my sense of mortality. Who are we if no one remembers that we ever existed? Here again, I fear that I’m burdening others. This reality will also be soon known.
Dear reader, thank you for following my story. We are all imperfect. My goal in life has always been to make a difference in the world, however small. I want to leave the earth a bit better, rather than a bit worse. Otherwise, why should I exist?
To move forward with my life, I have decided to be fearlessly honest with myself and those around me, including you. I may be 65, but I still am growing and evolving. I am traveling forward to a destination not yet apparent in the fog that is my future. However, I am starting to see vague shapes ahead, and my writing is one of the things that is allowing this clarity to happen.
Next Sunday is my birthday party; the day will come and go. It will be replaced by Monday. Will it justify my childhood fears? Will it support my objective reality? I guess I will have to wait and see. Either way, I will grow. Peace.