Anybody who knows me knows I love my routine. I do best when I can plan my day (and week, month, year, and—you know—entire life).
At least once a year, though, things come up and kind of throw me off my game. The most predictable of these events is my birthday, which happens in the middle of March. This year was no exception.
Now, I love my birthday. I’m pretty much as bad as a (bratty) small child, expecting special treatment, lots of cake and gifts, and basically for everyone to recognize my birthday as the equivalent of a federal holiday (which, I argue, it SHOULD be). I try not to get TOO disappointed when all that stuff doesn’t happen.
To make up for other people’s complete and utter failure to treat my special day with the reverence it deserves, I do whatever it takes to make my OWN birthday rock. I’ll get myself a little gift, treat myself to a day of shopping, bake (or buy) my own celebratory cake, and take a day or two off work to devote all to enjoying my birthday.
The thing is, my body and brain do NOT enjoy the break all that birthday activity forces me to take from my usual routine—and they rebel against the change by more or less shutting down.
For days after my birthday, it’s all I can do to get out of bed, eat anything besides chocolate and Marshmallow Peeps (another downside of my birthday, which always falls during the Easter shopping season), and not feel completely depressed.
I used to think the depression was related to getting older, which can mess with anybody’s head. But the truth is, I’m in better shape now, at forty-six, than I’ve ever been, both mentally and physically. The truth is, I don’t care (much) about getting older.
For me, the emotional crash has to do with the lack of routine—and, more specifically (and philosophically), with the fact that around my birthday, I make an abrupt and excessive turn away from the joy that I normally take in PRODUCING and instead become wholly devoted to CONSUMING.
Yup, Birthday Me is a consumer extraordinaire:
I consume things—buying clothes, books, whatever I can afford (which, fortunately, I suppose, isn’t often all that much!).
And I consume food—in fact, I recall one birthday in recent years where I demanded to eat every meal out at three of my favorite restaurants and I annoyed my boyfriend the whole day by singing (to the tune of that old Lesley Gore song “It’s My Party”): “It’s my birthday, and I’ll eat if I want to, eat if I want to, eat if I want to . . .”
I’m not (too) ashamed of it.
Granted, we all know excess isn’t good for your body or your soul. But a little splurge now and then is actually probably (almost healthy). And for me, I try to keep it down to once a year around my birthday (though the Christmas season DOES tend to try to get in on the game as well—I’m working on that).
But being TOO obsessed with consuming more, more, more—the way I get around my birthday—is really just not me.
And my body knows it, so it does whatever it takes to bring me back: to my routine, to my morning run, to working too much (because I love it, not just because I have to).
Every year, my workaholic body reins in my shopaholic/overeater alter ego and brings us all back into alignment, back to normal life, back to where we all belong.
But cheer up, Birthday Me. Only eleven months and one week before you get to come out and play.