chosen attention


I hate my birthday.

No one ever really believes that when I say I hate my birthday, I actually mean I hate my birthday. Generally, people assume its a passive aggressive way of saying that you better make my birthday awesome.

But no, I hate my birthday.

I have a lot of wonderful, caring, and sometimes sensitive people in my life that I love and cherish and care for. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to react to things as they happen. Specifically, I don’t know how to react to things when people are paying attention to me.

And this is why I hate my birthday.

I appreciate gifts and gestures and all these things, but I barely know how to react when someone in the grocery store says “How are you?” without retracting into my shell, much less opening a present that happens to be something that I’ve wanted or going somewhere I’ve really wanted to go. Opening presents is like negotiating a hostage for me. I can’t even express how much less stress I feel when a box comes in the mail and I get to open it in my room by myself and then call the sender and thank them genuinely.

It’s not that I mind attention, I could speak to an audience of a thousand about Flash mobs, I’ve danced in front of several hundred. But those are situations in which I have chosen the attention, practiced to near-perfection, and am ready to give a performance. Birthdays are not performances, and therefore I am not adequately prepared for them.

Birthdays are really hard. I don’t know how to react to gifts or parties and then seem unappreciative and ungrateful, and then in the aftermath people are upset with me. This happens every year that someone else plans something wonderful for me. I love the things that are planned, I appreciate it, I try to be excited but there’s a fine line between under-reacting and having fireworks shooting out of your ass in excitement. I have not been able to find that line.

I am grateful for the love and affection and support of people, but rather than bringing me joy (as they really should) it’s a source of stress and worry that ends up in backlash that really hurts my heart.

And so, birthdays are hard, and I hate my birthday. And this has been the longest Monday I’ve ever experienced.