What It Means to Receive (Sometimes, in the Name of Half-Birthday Celebrations)

My birthday has mostly always been an afterthought for most people outside of my nuclear family (of course, with the advent of FB and texting, there’s been a much louder reaction to the day on the actual day). I didn’t blame people – it was Christmas, they were with their families, no restaurants were open, presents were most easily combined. It was what it was.

Still, it was tough to never have birthday parties growing up, or really feel special on that day (though we imbibed more than a few drinks on Christmas night, partially in the name of my birthday, once I hit college and for years after when I would visit my parents in Rocky Mount, it wasn’t quite the same as feeling personally celebrated). People rarely remembered on the day of, but always remembered at other times of the year, saying, “man, that’s rough” (and only recently, as I am carded less, do I get to miss out on the always fun conversation that begins with the checkout person exclaiming, “Christmas birthday! Do people just give you one present?”, when I have to go through the requisite same discussion that I have literally engaged in at least a zillion times in my life. Yes, literally). I can still feel the disappointment of wanting other people to contact me on my birthday throughout the years and it not happening; later I would sometimes get an email saying, “I’m sorry I missed it.” There was never being picked up and taken to breakfast or lunch, no flowers at work. There was never any surprise party thrown.

My friend Amar was determined to make up for all of it in my late 20s, throwing me a surprise half-birthday celebration after a performance. I’m not sure I was ready to receive at the time, but let’s fast forward to almost a decade later, after several years of living the “poor artist life,” which has taught me lessons of appreciation I never previously understood. I take care of all of it in my life – my food, my health, my house, my finances, my business, and it can sometimes feel exhausting – so when, this past Saturday, I was whisked away on a surprise half-birthday trip where everything was taken care of, I could experience gratefulness on an integrated level that only life experience which includes some struggle can give you.

Of course, I still had conflicting feelings about all of this. I recognize how hard it is for me to sit back and enjoy, as I harbor guilt of others having to take care of everything, spend their money on me, take time out of their busy lives to focus on me.

                 (I bet I know more than a few women for which these sentiments would also ring true).

I realize my introvert self worries if I’m being fun – and funny – enough, talking too much or too little, taking over or sitting under.

                 (Hey introverts, how do you feel about the space you take up?)

I realize these are issues I’ve internally faced my whole life, wanting to take up more room while worrying I’m already taking up too much, and therefore it’s easier for me to just be one-on-one, or by myself. Wishing it wasn’t so, but also recognizing the need to accept that it is.

                 (What do you wish in your life wasn’t so? What will happen if it always is?)

That if I want more receiving in my life, then I have to understand those conflicting feelings will probably always arise and I can witness them and still expand. Alongside all of this, I can focus on the joy that it feels to be celebrated and appreciated.

                 (Do you feel you receive well?)

And so I say to the women who took the time to channel their gratefulness of what I have introduced or re-introduced in their lives – the freedom to dance and perform as an adult women, showing them that they deserve to do so – thank you for showing me that I deserve a thank you in return.

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