27 September 2005

Screw My Birthday Already, Okay?




Greg:

I hear tell that the Jehovah's Witnesses don't celebrate birthdays. I'm thinking about becoming a Jehovah's Witness for exactly one day per year: June 27th. I hate my birthday for a myriad reasons, none of which is that I'm getting older. Quite frankly, one thing that I'm truly looking forward to is the day that I'm old enough not to give a rat's ass about anything except whether my oatmeal was hot enough or whether my pansies are blooming. I suppose that it's the proximity of death that makes me imagine that I should be that carefree at an advanced age, and am currently never-minding the fact that I'm probably looking right down the barrels of death every day just like everyone else is. Nevertheless, aging doesn't bother me. Birthdays - actually just my birthday - bothers me.

I was sounding off to my friend Matt about it because he's a big birthday-phobe as well. He hates the fact that it's a day for people to recognize you for no particular reason. He feels, as I do, that you should have done something worthy of recognition in order to be celebrated. The ironic thing is that both of us only feel that way about our own birthday, and not about the birthdays of others. Frankly, attention makes me uncomfortable. Not all attention, mind you, or I wouldn't be writing this to you on what amounts to a giant electronic graffiti wall where everyone can read it. Just that "birthday" kind of attention. Can't quite put my finger on it.

And then the author skips a groove -

But what I was saying about a blog-and-a-half ago, about artists and writers being necessarily nutso-ballo - here is the deal. I realized the other day that rumination is at the heart of every serious mental illness (disregarding those caused by brain malfunction, such as the schizophrenias). And when it comes to rumination, who has it in spades? You got it. Artists and writers. Both types must be able to seize upon an idea and not let it go, turning it over and over in the lathe of the mind until it becomes something meaningful that can be then transferred to another medium. That still does not mean that artists and writers are by necessity going to be nuts. It just means that rumination is a very potent thing, and must be harnessed in order to be used as a tool. Otherwise it can just run rampant and cause all sorts of fun things, like anxiety disorders and bipolarity. Rumination is also kin to obsession, which in small doses can go a long way to driving the "work" part of the creative process. I read today that artists and writers have to be both anal expulsive in order to free their creative process, and anal retentive in order to be able to finish things. That sounds to me like the perfect mental environment for someone who'd like to drive themselves totally nertz, but it does sound true enough given my experience.

And then the author skips back -

Okay, so there's the other thing about birthdays, which is that we all like to be reminded that we are loved or at least thought of fondly, and in the absence of that happening the rest of the year, we formalize an occasion to take care of that basic human need. It is ever so nice to be remembered on one's birthday, and such a drag when one is not. Maybe my big damn hangup is that I didn't have a ninth birthday and I just can't get over it. The day just went by unnoticed. It's very difficult for a child to articulate that he needs to be told that he's loved and appreciated when that's not something that is done. You don't just go around to people and say, "Hey, I'm feeling a little insecure and need to know that I'm liked. Could you throw me a birthday party?"

So what's the cure? Given that I can't go back and give myself a ninth birthday party, nor can I ask anyone to throw me one, the only answer is this: to overcome the need for that kind of validation - to feel okay without it. That's what maturing and being mentally well is after all, isn't it? It's the difference between wanting recognition, which is perfectly healthy, and needing recognition in order to function, which is neurotic. There has to be a way to accomplish that sort of mental self-sufficiency, even considering my history with birthdays. I suppose I should get about figuring out how it's done.

That's good. Now I have something to do, rather than something to ruminate on.

Cheers, and give my best to Marie.

1 comment:

The Birthday Muffin said...

Who says you can't have a "Ninth" Birthday?

The great thing about having birthdays out of order is that they can happen any time.

So expect it when you least expect it.