Or would the correct term be joy, a core emotion?
Either way, I suppose this is a milestone of birthdays. It has been coming for a while. There was nothing to do but allow it to tick forward, a day at a time, until now it is the big day.
I turn 65 today.
Now I can finally take advantage of the senior discount at Denny’s. Just kidding. It’s been so long since I was in a Denny’s that I am not even sure they exist anymore. And for some reason, I have been slow to take advantage of all the senior savings. But I do appreciate the idea.
I know many older people who benefit greatly from senior discounts.
But I am thankful that if I want or need something, I can pretty much just get it. I know that is not the case for many, senior or not. So, I am glad that these programs exist, but rarely use them. But I will admit, I did get the Lifetime National Park Card as soon as I was eligible. Living 8 miles from the Skyline Drive, we can see the Blue Ridge Mountains from the back deck.
I’m having trouble writing about my birthday.
What’s even harder, is feeling joy as I celebrate. The sun came up, I arose early, got the coffee on, and started a fire in the woodstove. Then it was emptying the dishwasher and filling the water pot on top of the woodstove. The birdfeeders were filled yesterday, so I don’t have to take care of those today. I still need to empty the compost pail by the kitchen sink.
Here I am doing it again, putting up a defense.
If I were looking at my Change triangle, I would find myself in the top left corner, in a defensive position. This is a way to deflect my thoughts, keeping me away from my core emotions. I have spent most of my life here, so I am comfortable in this role.
Now that doesn’t mean that being defensive is a good posture for me.
It just means this is where I live most of the time. I know my role when I am here, and I can block or inhibit my core emotions from this position. “I am a rock; I am an island. And a rock feels no pain, and an island never cries” (Thank you Simon and Garfunkel)
Now I have seen my core emotions and have even spent time with them.
Joy is one of those core emotions. I kind of expected to feel a bit of that today. But so far, all I feel is neutrality. Neither sadness nor joy, I am just here. Now the opposite of being here is not being here. I am thankful that I am here to celebrate my birthday. Last spring, I would have put odds on my not being here for this milestone birthday.
Yet, I was able to make decisions that have put me on the path to recovery.
And beyond that, I have learned so many new tools that are helping me lead a balanced life with depression. Thankful comes to mind as I review all the things I have learned. Grateful too, that I have the chance to do better, to think differently and to perhaps, make a difference for others.
I’m not sure that I need to feel joy today.
After all, it is just another day. And while I must go to work today, there is a birthday dinner planned for tomorrow. And yes, I have worked most of my birthdays, never asking for special treatment just because I was a year older.
Now I am on the top right side of the change triangle, exhibiting guilt.
Feeling like I don’t deserve the fuss about my birthday, and feelings that I am not good enough surface, driving away any joy about my birthday. Sometimes, I can see what is happening and I wish it were different. Depression still wants to suggest ideas that to the outside observer would seem ludicrous, but to me, are gospel.
With new tools, I am calling out depression when it offers up Unhelpful Thinking.
READ MORE: When will I ask these 12 better questions?
But this morning, my head is bouncing around in guilt, not in joy. Checking LinkedIn, I have over 30 birthday wishes. Later I will look at Facebook. Even if I cannot love myself, it seems others do. I try to remember that when depression tells me different.
It’s time to pack my lunch and get ready for work.
I will say goodbye to the Change Triangle for now and come back to it after I get home. Work is a respite and pauses my internal thoughts. I can leave my life at the door and focus on being the best manager possible while at work. Then, as I get in the truck for the ride home, my life outside of work crashes back onto me.
So, it will be with thoughts of my birthday.
If there is joy, that will be good. If there is just OK, that is OK. I am not expecting anything today. Setting my sights low will keep me from being disappointed. While this has not always been the case, setting minimal expectations has worked well as I learn more about MDD and my relationship with depression.
Happy Birthday to me!
If the tone of my writing seems as if I am feeling sorry for myself, that is not true. I am alive and I get to see another day. I have hope that I did not see last year, and the abyss is no longer just steps away from me. I am not circling the drain. I see so much to live for, and have so many things I still want to do.
So, this is not a pity party, it is a celebration of me, for me, by me.
I just need to believe.