Birthday Blues

These are the days before my birthday. I do no like these days before my birthday. Sometimes, I wonder if I create some of this angst by assuming that this week will suck — but then, I think of the years I spent trying to pretend that it didn’t suck. As a child, I always felt agitated and unsettled and wrong before my birthday. I learned young that that’s not considered “right.” People love to ask children “are you excited for your birthday?” and it is never polite or socially-acceptable to say “no.” I learned. It was just one more way I performed ¬†socially-acceptable emotional responses and buried my more honest, often confused, true emotions. Man, cognitive dissonance. I’m no great actor, so I needed to try to fool myself into being happy, too.

5 years post-reunion, I am aware of landmarks and emotions about them. I’m aware of my own internal conflicts. My first mom’s birthday is 2 weeks before mine. As I wish her a happy birthday — glad to be able to do it — I can’t help also thinking about her 18th birthday, almost 9 months pregnant with me, a secret kept as long as possible so that she could graduate high school. The decisions she was making that summer that changed both our lives. She became a legal adult, became a mom, and then became a “birth mom” in quick succession. And then knew nothing more about me for more than 3 decades. I am sad for her and for her baby, for that me that could have been, for the baby that ruined one life and was a “gift” for other people.

I want to be happy about reunion, about knowing her and her (my) family and roots, about these indisputable good things in my life. I want to be confident in the person I am today, the life I’ve built, the search I needed to do. And much of the time, I am. I am able to ground myself in my own story, reclaim my own narrative now in a way that I couldn’t 6 years ago. But these weeks, I am sad and small and insecure. I am lost. I am that newborn who was left to nurses and social workers for lost days after I lost my mother (and I know I’m “lucky” it was only days).

I am desperate both to celebrate and ignore the day. This week, I want to be alone and I hate being alone. I want to reach out to friends, but I pre-reject myself instead, convinced that no one will want to spend time with me. I crave companionship but can’t stand people. I’m a walking contradiction, with all my confusion spilling out around me. My consolation is that I’ve survived decades of this and come out of every single birthday so far.

Also, I do really like cake.

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