Embracing the Unconventional Birthday

I’m not a fan of my birthday. Around this time of year I usually go into hibernation, snarling at anyone who reminds me of that approaching day.

I love my zodiac month, and I usually love the beginning of a new year for myself…but the day of my birth just isn’t up there on my list of things to celebrate.

Sometimes I think it’s more socially unacceptable to not celebrate my birthday than it is to not celebrate any other holiday. Most people will understand if I say that Thanksgiving is painful for me, or Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, but to say that my birthday is painful…? No one gets that.

Black for a life begun in sorrow. Red for the transforming fire of the Phoenix. White for the hope of the future.

Black for a life begun in sorrow. Red for the transforming fire of the Phoenix. White for the hope of the future.

It’s not that I don’t do things on my birthday. I have quite a few rituals that I’ve developed to mark that day. They just aren’t on the party spectrum because I consider my birthday a day for grief and mourning, a time to commemorate the beginning of a life of trauma.

It’s hard knowing that your mother didn’t want you—that she cried when she found out she was pregnant with you.

It’s hard knowing that someone you trusted molested you and that no one in your family paid attention to the warning signs.

It’s hard knowing that the first 20 years of your life were filled with lies, abuse, and pain.

It’s hard to celebrate the beginning of a life like that.

I’ve tried to be happy about my birthday—to imagine being excited about cake, parties, presents…okay I’m always excited about presents…but the rest of it. I’ve tried to be excited about the whole birthday tradition.

But I just can’t! It feels like trying to send a widow a card that says, “Congratulations!”

I don’t regret living. I love my life, and I celebrate it in many ways, including celebrating “unbirthdays” and “new years” before and after my actual birthday.

But the day of my birth?

That day I’ve reserved for funerial rituals and quietude.

In that way, my birthday is special. It’s a very sacred day for honoring what I’ve come through.

Celebrating is for the rest of June.


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