Birthday Awareness – 3 Questions to Help You Align With Your Desire

Today it’s my birthday

It’s interesting to think back on how I’ve celebrated, or not, throughout the years. Birthdays are an excellent litmus for beliefs about worthiness and maybe even celebrations in general.

My earliest memory of a birthday is at about nine years old.

A cloud of gloom had seized me. I was anxious and very uncomfortable. I was unaware at the time, but I had the ironclad hope, no, expectation that my birthday be different from all the other days. It needed to be special. I needed to feel special.

So when I woke to commute to school, same as any other day, with the same 40-lb backpack,  same violin case,  same cold air raging in my face down mid-town Manhattan avenues under the same gray sky. I was already pretty miserable by the time I got to school.

Everything spilled on me. Somehow I was the last to be noticed. Even with my doubts, I’ve always been decent at creating stories and the one I lived for many of my pre and adolescent birthdays was: I am not special unless I’m special on my birthday.

That year had the potential to shatter my heavy birthday story. My mother surprised me with an ice-skating party, something I didn’t even know existed. There was glee, relief (I am special after all!) and underneath, there was shame about how I was so thoroughly caught off guard and had such a miserable day over it. I figured I should have known that I’d be special… that someone would remember… or I should have told someone at school it was my birthday…

Who knows what else ran through my gloomy little psyche.

Celebrating used to be hard.

The need to be special led to some extravagant parties.

Sleepovers, then secret parties, then college-sized blowouts, then post college carnival-like affairs. Each spectacle, bigger than the last. In between, there were sprinklings of gloom during the years I couldn’t live up to the magnitude of plans I would make or when I didn’t feel up to socializing. A secret I had yet to admit to myself was that I didn’t always like or want big blowouts. I just felt I needed to have them, you know, to keep being special and all.

And then I found spiritual practice

A while after my gloom had had time to blossom into full-scale depression, I found a spiritual practice where I noticed lots of things that were previously unexamined. Eventually, I noticed this whole deal about birthdays and being special. Even so, I regretted not one of my crazy parties.

Looking back I could remember celebrating with people that were important to me and experiences that were truly unique. Things I valued. Things I treasured. At the same time, considering my fearful motivations and the way in which I would stray from own desire to preserve the notion of specialness, at least 30% of all my birthday celebrating thus far had been a sham.

What would birthdays be like with no overwhelming need for specialness?

I had no idea. I didn’t know what I wanted. That year, I did nothing for my birthday. I waited for the quiet voice within me to rise and meet me with my authentic desire. I trusted that I could hear it without the roar of needing to be special.

It took a few years.

It’s still soft.

At that time there was a part of me that asked, how I would know that I was special without the fuss!? It asked, how I could be so selfish by not celebrating? And so on. This part seemed to partner with the people around me who had come to expect a fuss around my birthday and didn’t altogether trust me when I told them that I was going to do nothing.

They wondered if I wanted them to surprise me or plan something for me. They wondered if they needed to be psychic. I reassured them and the part of myself that was very much afraid of inner silence, nothingness, and not celebrating. And I waited.

A Mini Awareness Practice

Waiting for my authentic desire has turned into its own thing. I still struggle with alternating between being still and looking for the special. Every year I practice. I pause before jumping into assumptions and plans, and I consciously ask myself:

What did you believe about birthdays in the past?
What do you believe about birthdays now?
This year, what birthday plans, if any,  align with your intentions?

Each year, the part of me that asks gets more distant from the part of me that answers and my awareness grows. Lately, I let the part of me that witnesses do the birthday planning. Try this for yourself!


What do you believe about birthdays?
Answer in the comments

This Mini-practice has grown
read the updated version

Featured images:
1  Teddy Candle photo via www.pdpics.com
2 Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” (1893) celebrating the new year (edited by the author for Hyperallergic) via http://hyperallergic.com

7 thoughts on “Birthday Awareness – 3 Questions to Help You Align With Your Desire

  1. Francie says:

    I have often felt that birthdays must be super special or it means I am a loser, or unloved. I’m still wrestling with that, but I’m learning to better connect with myself and my authentic desires. I love your questions and will use them next time my birthday comes around!

  2. Siobhan says:

    Awesome!! I hope these questions lead you to sweetness! I didn’t even know what to do with myself once I got a little wiggle room between me and the gotta-be-special feeling. It was awkward at first. Then it was sort of an adventure.

  3. River Roaring says:

    I loved reading this. It’s something I don’t understand because I’ve never celebrated my birthday or made plans. I like to feel special every day so I’ve never understood birthday celebrations. It almost makes me feel fake because if I love someone I would treat them special every day. This helped me see inside a different set of beliefs.

    So … Are you only special if people treat you special that day? Is that still true?

  4. Siobhan says:

    I love hearing your take on this since I know you have different beliefs about birthdays. In answer, it depends on the day or year. ::biggrin:: It feels fluid. Sometimes I revert to the past. Lately, I feel like I live in a vacuum where a new truth is growing.

  5. SJ says:

    Birthdays are hard! I had mine a couple weeks ago, and it was the first time in years I managed to listen to myself about what *I* wanted. I’ve spent the majority of my birthdays succumbing to my depression, so I was trying to find the balance between being around the people I care about who care about me, too, and honoring the fact that it was not what I’m used to. But it felt so good, that week, to do what *I* wanted to celebrate, not what I thought I *should* want.

  6. Siobhan says:

    Happy belated SJ! I think there’s always an option for “easy”, for effortlessness. Especially with practice. I’m glad you spent the last one the way you wanted. Peace and blessings for the rest as well. 😀

  7. Barbara Ruben says:

    I typically work my birthday. I too don’t want to succumb to my depression and go into the whole Why was I born thing! When I work I’m caring for other people. Happy Birthday? There are 365 days a year, 7 billion people on the planet. My calculator dosen’t go that high! I AM as special as the clouds and blades of grass, we are all expressions of the divine.

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