In previous years I have deliberately not announced my birthday to anyone, and it was the happy accident of people seeing the birthday prompt on their Facebook feeds that caused me to receive a lot of good cheer and wishes for the best of health.
This is what happens when you grow up in a colonial British culture, when being Stoic is celebrated and rewarded. Holding yourself back in a self-deprecating way is The Thing, and you don’t ever, ever declare to the world that you are having a birthday: that would draw attention to you and people might feel obliged to give you something or bring cake. Dignity and refinement, while not explicitly articulated as being the desirable goal, were the desirable goal.
Parties were fine, of course, and issuing invitations so that people knew which day to arrive, but sometimes I didn’t even tell the invitees why we were gathering. I would then be able to simper a little and say in a bashful way, “Well you know, I didn’t want to make a fuss. But thank you so much!” And inside myself I would be secretly delighted that they noticed me and my birthday.
Then we came to Portugal, where there is no self-deprecation and no hesitation in putting yourself forward in a very public way, where you stand on a hilltop with a megaphone and tell the world that it’s Your Day. Well, the metaphorical ‘hilltop’ of social media. I was suddenly exposed to a world of people who not only tell everyone their exact age and date of birth (gasp!), but they also invite anyone who will come along to celebrate their fabulous selves.
If you are one of the exuberant who flings arms wide and says, “Here I am,” this year I joined your club and Made Announcements.
It’s not that I am shy exactly, but it is quite nice to be incognito in a cave sometimes. We felt this during Covid when after a while it felt cosy and comfortable to be in your pyjamas at noon. The anonymity brings a kind of freedom.
So when I stood up recently and brought myself to life on social media with never-before-seen birthday announcements, I was surprised at what happened and how it felt.
It felt like I had climbed out of the shadows and had a conversation with myself. I felt something shift inside me, as if somehow in standing up and saying to the world out there, ‘Here I am,’ I declared to myself that I can show up for myself more often.
My public self is fearless and can address multitudes from a stage with no hesitation and bestow big hugs willy-nilly on all who will receive them.
But somehow at the time of my birthday, it feels like my inner self is saying hello. That vulnerable inner self that can age, make mistakes, forget things, and stub her toe. She shyly called out her birthday message and nothing tumbled down!
Now that I have spilled the beans it seems rather silly to be retiring about such a commonplace event. It is a great way to show yourself love though, to bring your hidden parts out into the open (clothes on 😂). The value is twofold: you find out that people care about your (possible) foibles way less than you think, and the lightness and weight-off feeling is priceless.
It felt so good, that I am looking at other ways to be there for myself. Throwing caution to the wind this year, I plan to do one new (probably scary) thing every month, and I will definitely not take life so seriously.