Hello, dear WP friends! I have been MIA in our little online community for a good three weeks, and I have missed you! It’s good to get back and start to reconnect.
Where have I been? To keep it short, I guess I could say I spent about a week feeling quite depressed and discouraged, about a week sick as a dog with the flu, and about a week traveling to California to spend Christmas with the family.
Now I’m back home again, still coughing but generally feeling healthy, and in better emotional shape than I’ve been for several months now. It’s not a bad way to finish up the year.
But that’s not what I planned to write about tonight. Instead, I wanted to try to put into words a subtle emotional shift that I’ve been undergoing, one that I think is good for me. It grew out of that week of feeling depressed, leading into getting the flu.
Let me back up a bit and remind you that I have an issue with my birthday, to put it mildly. It falls on December 14, and it’s just not a good day for a birthday. Even when I was a kid and didn’t hate it, I knew it wasn’t a good time because everyone was busy with the holidays, so it was hard to have a party or any sort of celebration separate from Christmas (I was always envious of my sister with a birthday in late May). The weather is lousy this time of year too. Then I had some rough birthdays in my teens, then a marriage with a man who acted like my birthday was a burden to him and also berated me for selfishly having any expectations at all about my birthday–how childish I was!
In recent years, I’ve felt like my birthday actually had some kind of bad luck curse on it. One year I lost like $1200–long story, never mind the details. One year a car crashed into our house, yes, really. Several years I have been sick. The worst was five years ago, of course, the slaughter at Sandy Hook elementary school. I will never manage to separate that from my birthday, and in fact now I always spend a part of the day remembering and mourning those first grade students who were murdered, those little six-year-olds.
Anyway, I know it doesn’t make any sense, but I’ve developed a bit of a complex about the day and wish there was a way to just skip it. Since that isn’t possible, I decided that this year I would plan something pleasant ahead of time, and I invited some friends to go out to dinner with us at a restaurant I’ve been wanting to try. However, my husband came home from work early the day before and crawled into bed with a fever. It was very clear by the morning of my birthday that we weren’t going anywhere.
I told myself, It’s fine. I’m a grown-up; I can cope. I love my husband and want him to be well. I cancelled the dinner and settled in to do little things at home. But I had a bit of a panic attack that morning, all connected to a combination of my birthday, bad luck, my teen memories, and essentially feeling that I didn’t matter, that no one really cared about me. It’s not true, I know, but my emotions didn’t care about the truth. They just needed to have a little temper tantrum.
I was calmer the next day, relieved a little that it would be a full year until I had to think about my birthday again. But that relief was quickly followed by my own sore throat and a fever that then sent me to bed for days. (See? Birthday curse again!)
During this time, I texted a couple of times with E, but she took much longer to respond than usual. I started to suspect that something was going on with her, because one time it took her about 14 hours to respond, and one night she didn’t respond at all, which is quite unlike her. Maybe something was up with her family, or perhaps she was extra busy with the holidays.
When I texted that I was upset about my birthday, she absolutely did not get it. Okay, maybe I understated how upset I was. Or maybe she wasn’t paying very close attention; I’m not sure.
On Sunday I texted her to say I was much too sick to make our Monday appointment. I hated to cancel, because we were already going to have a long therapy break again, between my California trip and her own holiday travel. I so rarely cancel appointments, so this was a big deal for me. Of course she was nice and hoped I felt better. In a way she said all the right things, but I didn’t feel like she saw any of it–not the birthday despair, not how sick I was, not how much it bothered me to extend the time without sessions.
A day or two later, I realized I was mad. I felt unseen, invisible, unattended to. E wasn’t noticing anything about what was going on for me!
Almost as soon as I thought this, I could see how unreasonable it was. We hadn’t spoken. I had only sent short texts. It was a busy time of year. She had responded most of the time, and always in a kind and friendly way. She hadn’t done anything wrong.
But here’s what was different for me this time: I could see that there was no reasonable factual basis for being angry with her, and yet, I decided to allow myself to feel angry anyway.
Oh little one, I said to that raging girl in me, you feel forgotten, don’t you? You are hurt and disappointed that E doesn’t understand what you are feeling. You are sick and miserable and tired and lonely. You feel afraid that no one really cares for you. No wonder you are upset! It’s okay to feel upset about that.
Growing up in my family, as in so many families, it wasn’t acceptable to be angry with my parents. I never got to learn that you could be angry and love someone, both things at the same time. But my wise woman self was able to do this, to allow my little girl self to pout and feel mad, knowing that my other selves continued to love E the same as ever.
This seems like growth to me.
I told myself, go ahead and feel mad, if you want to. It’s okay if you need to be unreasonable. E is an important person in your life, and it’s okay if you want to be angry that she’s not seeing your pain right now.
And you know what happened? I felt mad for a bit, and then it faded. A couple of days later, I thought of texting to wish her a good holiday, and I stopped myself, asking, Are you sure you want to do this? Are you done being mad? Because you can go ahead and be mad as long as you like. You can also text her if you want, but do it for the reason you are texting about. Do it to wish her a good Christmas, if that is what you are feeling. Don’t do it to try to run away from feeling angry.
I let that sit that for another day or so. By Christmas, I knew I wasn’t angry at all anymore, so then I did wish her a merry Christmas. And she texted back, just short, but kindly, like always.
I don’t know, something feels different. I mean, I feel distant from her, and disappointed that I still won’t see her for another week. I am frustrated that we haven’t had much momentum in therapy since my vacation started in October. I am a little at loose ends after an intense session we had on December 13 with no chance to follow up. I do feel she’s been distracted, a bit less present. But I’m not mad, and I’m not freaked out, and I’m confident that once therapy starts up again, we’ll be okay. This all seems rather healthy, especially for someone who has a horror of her own birthday and gets angry when her therapist can’t read her mind. Perhaps indulging my unreasonableness is good for me?