Most years I skip observing my birthday entirely, concealing its very existence from friends and relations. Unlike most people, I don’t enjoy celebrating my birthday. Frankly, it feels like getting a participation award than a celebration of life, the general tone being: “Hooray, you didn’t die or get yourself killed!”
Growing up homeschooled, birthday celebrations were limited to immediate family. I never invited friends over to celebrate as I had none. I don’t remember if I’d even wanted one, or known of such things. Truth is, we were an insular family. As I got older and started making friends, there was always the fear that if I invited anyone that no one would come, so I never bothered. I’ve always had that expectation of others.
In college, my best friend Emily attempted to throw a surprise birthday party for me. I guessed this was what she was up to and consequently waited until the last minute to go, essentially standing up my own party. According to her, I dressed everyone down upon arrival, though I remember only taking her aside to sternly reiterate that “I don’t do parties.”
For my twenty-fourth birthday, I did invite several friends for a party and was shocked when dozens of people actually came. One of my friends even wrote a song enumerating my quirkier and more endearing qualities. I was, in some ways, very close to being… moved by it.
The last time anyone threw me a birthday party was in 2011, the infamous evening when my heart was irreparably broken and I renounced my faith. Seriously, it was bad. Consequently, for the last three years, I’ve forbidden any observance of my birthday.
When I was dating Jason last year, I don’t recall if we even did anything for my birthday. We did go to my sister’s house for dinner and was shocked at how well that went. But, as usual, he wasn’t feeling good, so I didn’t even get birthday sex that weekend. Just like every other year. Last night I learned that Jason is now dating someone, and they look very happy. That was a special feeling, still being single a year later, not to mention currently laid off from temp work.
This year, despite still feeling depressed, I decided to get together with some close friends. It was nice to know that people do care, but it was still… uncomfortable. I don’t really know what to do with that kind of attention. I’m used to getting noticed for the things that I do—music, writing, performance, etc—but not for merely existing. Frankly, I don’t understand why anyone enjoys my company, or thinks I’m worthy of their time and attention. Even today, I can still hear my parents’ voice: If people really knew who you are, they wouldn’t like you…
On Saturday, I did a Tarot reading for myself as a way of “checking in.” In the cross part of the spread was a vertical line of cups – Six of Cups below and Three of Cups above, both reversed – and a horizontal line of pentacles – King of Pentacles on the left; reversed Two of Pentacles on the right. In the center was The Sun, crossed by The Hermit.
Cups typically represent “the emotional level of consciousness and are associated with love, feelings, relationships and connections.” Pentacles “cover material aspects of life including work, business, trade, property, money and other material possessions” as well as “the physical or external level of consciousness and thus mirror the outer situations of your health, finances, work, and creativity.”
Reversed, cups suggest “being overly emotional or completely disengaged and dispassionate, having unrealistic expectations and fantasizing about what could be.” Also, “there may be repressed emotions, an inability to truly express oneself and a lack of creativity.”
The Six of Cups is a card of nostalgia, childlike love and generosity, and a carefree, naïve outlook on life. Reversed, though:
… [it] may indicate that you are clinging on to your past… it suggests that you may have had unrealistically rosy ideas about a particular stage of life, based on your dreams and ideals from when you were younger… Or you may be disappointed that you have reached a particular age but have not fulfilled your childhood dreams just yet…. Your ideas and beliefs that were established in the past may be prohibiting your progress. Use your past as a guide for your future, and focus on living in the present.
I delayed breaking up with Jason last March for months, terrified about being single after 30. Who would want a guy like me whose best years are already behind him? There’s a myth in the gay community that a man’s shelf life expires after 30—or earlier.
However, what I realized this weekend was that it’s not that I feel old. Rather, its more that I’m disappointed with where I am, having little to show for having lived thirty-one years. In many ways I’ve had to start over, figuring out who the hell I am after my Christian identity imploded. I’d planned after college to go get my Master’s in composition. Though I’m taking steps to make that a reality now, I’m worried those years spent aimless and wandering will work against me.
I’m frustrated that I still haven’t found a guy who I’m compatible with, that Midwestern gays have been utterly disappointing, but that relocating isn’t financially feasible. I’m frustrated over having unwittingly played matchmaker for virtually everyone else in my life, while no one has been able to do that for me. I lived with my sister for six months, during which she met her husband. All of my flatmates (current one included) found their partners after living with me. Every guy I’ve ever dated is now with someone long-term.
The message of the Six of Cups is to let go of the past. It’s difficult to do that, however, when the past is haunting me with virtually every step. Perhaps I need to meditate on The Sun.