Growing up, I didn't have many birthday parties.
My folks didn't like other people's kids in general, or me in particular.
They didn't have tons of money.
They were young when I was born, and had me about 9 months and 1 week after their Honeymoon.
Don't misunderstand - there was never a time that my family "16 Candles"ed my birthday and completely forgot. (Though my neighbors up the street threw me my 16th birthday party because my parents had no intention of doing so. This family up the street thought that was a travesty, so they actually stepped up and did it. How fucked up is that? Ropers - thanks. I still remember and appreciate it.)
And I was luckier than some. I always received something. I wasn't Harry Potter sleeping in the cupboard under the stairs. It just always felt more like an obligation than a celebration. More like a "well, I guess we have to do something," than an actual celebration of human life. Maybe that sounds ungrateful. I'm sure that'll be the accusation. Whatever. I genuinely no longer care.
I was told some pretty terrible things about myself - who calls their 5th grader a "bitch" for not wanting to be slapped around all the time? I mean, honestly? What are you in 5th grade? 11??? - which, I guess, justififes not making a big deal about your kid on her birthday...but suffice to say that I learned at a pretty young age not to expect much. That I didn't deserve much.
This is an oversimplification - for my sanity's sake as well as your own - and there have been times over the years that attempts were made to rectify...all the things that need rectification.
I have to say that. I want to be fair.
Some people grow and change and try to do better, later. That's acknowledged.
Hell, it's even forgiven, even if it can't be forgotten.
But with that acknowledgement comes another - one that crept up on me and makes me realize just how broken I am.
And y'all brought it to my attention.
Not purposefully, but you did, just the same. (Thanks a lot, y'all.)
There are a few folks who went out of their way for my birthday this year.
And while gratitude is my first and most prevalent emotion, it's followed closely by confusion.
I literally do not understand WHY people care about my birthday.
And the fact that they do - and that they want to do things that are within their power to ensure that I do - is a concept so foreign to me that I literally do not understand how to thank or repay them (you).
I do not understand their (your) gesture.
I do not know what I am supposed to do about said gesture.
And I am stuck.
I feel unworthy - which makes me think I need to "make it up to you" somehow. Like I claimed time and energy and effort that I do not deserve, and I need to give it back to you with interest.
That I do not know how to do this makes me feel inadequate, ungrateful, and in a precarious situation because, if I do not adequately show my gratitude, I will be punished... somehow.
I do not know how to comfortably sit in love. I do not know how to take it in.
I'm so afraid of squashing it, or of it disappearing into vapor, that I stand far away from it.
I can observe it, but not interact with it.
I can marvel at it, but not understand it.
...If it disappears, I'll know I deserved its departure.
Or I will come to the inevitable conclusion that I never deserved it in the first place.
I will overanalyze what I did or did not do to make it go away.
A part of me will always be glad it came - and for that part, I thank you.
I thank you for taking 5 seconds, 5 minutes, 5 hours, or 5 years out of your life to make me feel that maybe I should have had some birthdays.
I'm fucking lost.
40 years and this shit still doesn't make any sense to me.
For whatever it's worth - I AM grateful. I'm just broken.
I don't know how to deliver because I do not know what is expected of me.
And I'm sorry.