Each year, as the month of March makes her appearance, as my birth date rolls around once more, I think about the dreaded question - 'What are you doing to celebrate your birthday?'. I say 'dreaded question' because for a time my birthday became synonymous with a lack of control. I carried out ideas suggested by others, like an actor performing from a director's script. Carrying out my duties to others because I was incapable of saying 'No' to suggestion that I did not favour. This, of course, was a situation of my own making. Like the coach described (at some training I attended recently) I was caught in the victim role of Karpman's drama triangle. I recognise this now and I oscillate somewhere between bemusement and amusement when I ponder these experiences. I feel a slight swell of pride in knowing, like Oprah says, that 'I've done the work!'.
The last few years I have enjoyed my birthdays. They have been simple, spent with those I love and hold dear. All drama absent. Developing the ability to say no has been ground breaking. It has fractured some relationships but typically the ones that have been impacted are the very ones that were in need of re-examining. Ones which weren't in the best of shape, ones that were exhausting, destructive and in need of change. Much like my poor judgement in letting go of junk in my home: in my cupboards, clothing rack, book shelves, video collection, cassette tape collection, 7 inch vinyl collection, boxes of letters and keepsake boxes and that table piled high with this, that and the other, I struggle too, to let go of the emotional junk in my life. My tendency leans heavily towards keeping it 'just in case'. But here is what I have found interesting of late - I have changed.
I am finding it much easier to have those difficult conversations. I am able to stand back (over time of course) and identify my own shortcomings and to some degree, able to stand in someone else's shoes. It isn't always a quick revelation, nor comfortable but I can say that as my forty fourth birthday approaches, I feel proud of myself for putting in the work. Most lessons in life have not come easily to me. I am not a quick thinker or a fast learner but I am a grafter. After forty four years, I understand that one of the greatest gifts I have is the ability to knuckle down and work hard. I have spent many years feeling cursed by my mother's words - 'You'll get there in the end!' which she uses normally when I am facing challenges or difficulty of some kind.
These words have followed me since girlhood, like a pesky stray dog. I despise these words which she did use, has used, does use and will use (all without a second thought, all without meaning malice). I feel the hackles on my back sharply rise, my body stiffens, I want to snap, I want to bark, bite and show my teeth. She means well but these words are powerfully reductive. Instead, I do the work and I graft, reframing years of habitual pigeon holing. Negative words used as encouragement are like wolves in sheep clothing and I do not believe in fairytale endings. So here it is, the difficult and the testing, reframed from the position of victim to a position of my own making, a position hopefully outside of any drama, any triangle. What is this position? Well, it is this: I am nowhere in sight of the whisperers or callers, I have taken flight and cannot be found for these words to take hold. Alright, I admit that at times I may open a cupboard full of junk and the debris begins to spill but I know now. As soon as the junk begins to make a mess, I grab it all and throw it straight out. No sifting, no indecision, no guilt. Nothing. It's trash. It stinks and out it must go and straight away too. Job finished. The fine work of an experienced grafter.
NB The writer published these words at least a week after they were written, unable to decide whether to post the entry or not. Said birth day has now been and gone. No one was injured in the passing of this week or so leading up to the post forty birth day.