The long weekend is upon us! If you live in Canada anyway. Which I do. Happy Canada Day to those who celebrate. And for those who don’t, well, celebrate it anyway. Canada’s birthday is as good a reason to celebrate as any other.
But perhaps you don’t like to celebrate. I certainly don’t always feel like celebrating. Honestly, celebrating can be down right stressful. Many times, you feel forced to celebrate. It’s Christmas. It’s New Year’s. It’s St. Jean Baptiste Day. But those holidays come just once a year. Birthdays, on the other hand, come one after the other, after the other, after the other. Throughout the year, and every year after, in one way or another, it’s your responsibility to celebrate somebody’s day o’ birth.
Prior to Facebook, I never knew what the people I went to high school were up to, but now I know what they ate for dinner, where they vacation, what their kids are up to, and I am notified and encouraged to wish them a happy birthday.
Fine. I’ll wish them a happy birthday. Because dammit, it’s easy enough to do. I’ll say “Happy Day!”, and they’ll “like” the comment, and we all feel good. But I must say, when Facebook tells me it’s someone’s birthday, I groan a little bit. This is the first step of celebrating becoming a chore.
The next is when you’re invited out for a birthday party. You get a jolly message like “Come Help Me Celebrate My Birthday!”, and you do, because you don’t have any other plans, and your friend will appreciate it. And hey! There’ll be booze, and who doesn’t like that! But then you find out you don’t know anyone else going. And then you find out the celebration is in a far away place that will make it an expensive cab ride. But you go. You suck it up, and hope that if you drink enough, it’ll be a good time. But once you arrive, you realize that you didn’t bring a present, and everyone else did. You eye the table that holds the many brightly coloured bags, with lovely tissue paper and curly bows, with thoughtful Hallmark cards attached. And you have brought nothing. And the guilt starts to wash over you like a dark nauseating cloud. Your bowels clench. You find yourself apologizing profusely for not bringing anything, making a bigger deal out of this than you should. You’re an embarrassment. A clown. Have you helped to celebrate? Or have you just proven to everyone that you’re a dick, who is too cheap to pay for taxi fare, booze, AND a birthday present. I’m getting stressed out just thinking about it.
I don’t like celebrating my birthday. Not really. Not any more. Partly because when I was a kid, it was the best day of my life. As the youngest of four children, it was the one day that I could choose what I wanted for dinner. What I wanted to watch on tv. My siblings treated me with respect, and my parents too. And I got gifts! A Barbie doll, a new game, a cool Swatch watch with snowflakes dancing along the wrist band. It was fantastic. The best day of my life.
But then I got older. I moved out of my parents’ place. I got married. But I still had the great expectations for my birthday that I had when I was a kid. And it was ruining my “special day”. My husband, who I love, has a horrible gift giving reputation. One year, he gave me a Swiffer sweeper. Another year, he lugged out a HUGE present, and as I unwrapped it with glee, it turned out to be a broken television he found on the side of the road which he thought looked cool. It was not cool. It was a dirty, broken, homeless tv.
Each year, I felt pressure to have a “Happy Birthday!” And I was not having a happy birthday because I always felt disappointed and then ashamed of myself for feeling disappointed. This lead me to a new era. An era in which the last thing I needed or wanted was a yearly celebration reminding me that I’m no good at celebrating my birthday.
One year – a particularly difficult year for me – my husband wanted to do something special for me because, well, it was a particularly difficult year for me. There was a knock on the door, and voila, all of my closest friends were standing in front of me, and they yelled “SURPRISE!” and I started drinking immediately. I know they all wanted to help me celebrate, which is not an easy task. They accepted the responsibilities, and the chores associated with ensuring I had a “happy birthday”. Which forced me to act happy, to avoid disappointment. But as I’ve said, the circumstances of that year was not conducive to me being happy, and so I just had to keep it together until we all made it through, and I could convince my husband how wonderful it all was. He was pretty drunk by the end of it, so it was fairly easy to do.
In retrospect, my husband was absolutely right to have a party for me. I did need help celebrating that year. I was depressed, and celebrating was a difficult concept at that time. Sure, I would have been happy not celebrating, but my husband wanted to remind me that I still had reason to celebrate.
The word “celebration” sounds so exciting, and wonderful. It sounds like a gift in itself. But honestly, celebrating can be difficult. It’s work. It can cost you money. It can cost you time. It can cost you your sanity. And your life might be in place where celebrating sounds dreadful. And helping someone celebrate seems impossible. But that’s life. It’s work. And sometimes you can call in sick for work, but other times you just have to suck it up, pop open the champagne, and celebrate your face off, because who knows, you just might enjoy yourself.
So happy celebrating everyone! I know it won’t be easy, but let’s give it a go anyway.