Resentment happens. Often when we aren’t looking and sometimes when it’s really inconvenient. Like on your birthday.
Pause with me for a second and pinpoint your gut reaction to that word. Birthday. Does that invite images of “Yay! How fun!”? Or did you sigh and roll your eyes remembering your last birthday disappointment? Or maybe you’re entirely indifferent to the potential festivities of that day?
Your gut response yields a road map toward the feelings that are most likely to follow. If birthday equals fun in your land, you may be disappointed if your family and friends don’t play along or surprise you with something amazing. If you’re indifferent, other people’s responses (or lack thereof) may not phase you at all. Pay attention, bees. Your gut knows what you need. You’ve just gotta listen.
Good news. There are lots of ways for your needs to be fulfilled.
Bad news. You probably expect that your needs will be met in a very specific, pre-determined, planned-to-the-last detail sort of way. Probably. Not because you’re bossy or manipulative or high strung. But because you have a human brain and human brains like structure. They crave order. This doesn’t have to be a problem, because…
Good news again. Once you’re aware of your specific expectations, YOU CAN CHOOSE whether you’d like to hang on to them or not. Really. Truly. YOU GET TO DECIDE.
On my birthday 2018, I discovered that I live in the “birthdays should be fun” camp. I need to feel loved. I need to be seen and I need a break.
I expected that my need to feel loved and get a break would be fulfilled by my husband taking the day off work. Obviously. Of course. It was a Saturday AND my birthday. What else was he going to do?
Keep his morning shift. That’s what.
(I hear some of you gasping in solidarity. Thank you for that.)
He and the kids made me breakfast in bed – delicious! He queued up a movie that he knew I’d been wanting to watch with my babies – aww! Then he grabbed his bag and said he’d be back in a couple of hours – wait, what?
I pouted at first because my human brain (specifically the lower, animal instinct part of my human brain) likes order and thinks it’s very dangerous if something doesn’t go according to my plan. My lower brain believes that I might miss out on a resource and then I’ll probably die because things didn’t go the way that I thought they should. (Sounds dramatic, I know. But everything really is life or death to the lower brain and her only job in this world is to keep me alive… so, I try to cut her some slack.)
Good news again. It’s always an option to open your lower brain up to the idea that needs can be met in a variety of ways. Your higher, rational brain knows this already. It can be useful to help your lower brain catch up by coaching her with some version of this thinking:
But I guess it’s not.
I wonder what it will be….”
Choosing to embrace flexibility in the way your needs get met could transform your life into a super fun scavenger hunt where you’re always on the lookout for how things are actually going your way. Or how they could go your way with just a little tweaking.
My husband didn’t take my birthday off work. I would’ve preferred that he did. But it was always my choice to let his absence overshadow a yummy breakfast in bed (there’s my break – I didn’t have to cook). And it was my choice to focus on my disappointment or on the love I felt (my other need) during snuggle time with my kids during a morning movie my husband had selected especially for me (there’s love for me again).
It’s also my option to let him know that I’d like him to take my birthday off in the future. And I can choose to appreciate that he works hard to provide for my family in the meantime.
Why not choose the one that feels best to me?
Especially on my birthday?