Unfortunately, these small details left a big impact on my sensitive soul. I became super sensitive to being overlooked and forgotten. I craved affirmation that I was special and important, especially on that one day. And I heaped such high expectations on my husband and my friends to make a memorable birthday experience, that most times I was left slightly disappointed. I didn't tell anyone that, of course, but that's the sad truth.
This year, I decided it would be different. The past few months I have had to take a good, hard look at some of my most deep-seated areas of insatiable neediness, and by God's grace, I believe I have put them to rest. This birthday would let me know if things had indeed changed. I decided to take the pressure off Dean and plan my own birthday party. It was a fabulous idea, too. It would be a reverse surprise birthday party, where all the guests would show up and not know what was happening. And then I realised that I was just trying to make sure that something cool happened, that my need to feel special on that day was being met, and I said, "Okay, God, I take my hands off the whole thing."
I woke up yesterday morning and lay in bed, talking to God, as I usually do. I thanked him for the day and decided that I would not ask for anything specific for my birthday. No requests for special times with friends, no pleas for people to read my mind and get me the perfect gift, none of that. I said, "God, whatever you have for me today, I receive it. I will be grateful and content with whatever happens, no expectations and fantasies to fulfill. This is a good day because you gave it to me and that's enough. If I get together with people, great. If I end up at home alone watching a movie, wonderful. Whatever you want to give me today is good. You pick. I trust you with my birthday."
I received numerous happy birthday messages from friends and thought, "Awww, that's so nice." I did my workout and read my Bible and ironed some clothes and then got down to some homework. Two friends texted me to see if I would like to have coffee with them, one before my evening class and one after. I said yes. Dean told me he had a dinner with some people, so we would do something another night. I was content with it all. In fact, I felt like I had balloons of gratitude swelling inside my chest. Having finally let go of my expectations for an extraordinary day, every little thing felt like a gift.
I had a most wondrous drink (green tea with honey) with my friend before class. I told her of my unusual contentment and we laughed and smiled and enjoyed a half hour of mutual affection. I had an interesting class on the relevance of miracles and then met my other friend after that. We went to his place and when I walked into the kitchen, a whole herd of my friends yelled "Surprise," threw balloons at me, sprayed me with water pistols, and cheered. Dean was there, too (this being the 'dinner' he had), and we ate watermelon, popcorn, chips, and margherita pizza (all my favourite things). It was a loud and friendly evening, filled with laughter and games and synergy. I received more gifts and kind words and heard the silly stories of how the party evolved.
When the adrenaline and excitement finally wore off at 1:30 am, I lay in bed and marvelled at what a wondrous life I have and what a stellar day it had been, especially because I let God pick instead of telling him what I wanted and needed. He knows that better than I do, and he will never disappoint.
Thank you to all my friends in Montreal for the best birthday ever! And thank you to my family for faithfully loving me all these years, every day, and not just on my birthday. Contentment and gratitude are two gifts I never thought to ask for, but they came anyway.
This is me on a street corner in Bath, UK. Dean gets the credit for the photo. May I stand under the sign of surrender every day of my life.