Beating the Birthday Blues

The other night, I attended an impromptu birthday dinner with a friend.  Her family was out of town and I had a rare evening off, so we enjoyed a fabulous dinner at our favorite restaurant.  Midway through dinner, she raised a characteristic concern of many single people.

What do you do when you find yourself in that “funky” space?  We’ve all been there.  Whether it is a significant birthday spent alone, a bit of post-holiday blues, or a bad day at work that sends us into the throws of a pity party.  Why me?  Why am I still single?  Why can’t I find someone?  Haven’t we all blamed a bad day on our lack of a significant other?  My married friends would be the first to say that marriage is not a cure for loneliness, nor does a relationship exempt us from the blahs. 

My single friend admitted spending a better part of the day in a funk and was finding it particularly difficult to take joy in the kind words of strangers, friends, and co-workers who bid her a happy birthday.  “How do you do it?” she asked.  “How does being single not depress you?” 

I was a bit stumped for big insights.  I try to live in the moment, take joy in everyday simplicities, and be kind to myself as much as possible.  Every day is a day worth celebrating!  I’ve learned to place a little less hype on any one particular day even birthdays, holidays, or special anniversaries.  Sure, I make plans to spend the holidays with family and enjoy a celebratory night out with friends.  But as much as possible, I try to let go of the results and not force the day to be spectacular.  Our best days and most significant moments in life are usually not planned in advance. The day is not a failure if I don’t walk away feeling blissfully aglow.

Gratitude in all things, big and small, goes a long way toward a sense of contentment in life.  I was particularly grateful to be spending that day with my friend, celebrating her birthday, and catching up on our way too busy lives.  I have to admit, though, my answer to her question felt somewhat trite … until today. 

For reasons that are too personal to disclose in a public blog, I found myself in that funky space. It had nothing to do with being single, but I often wonder if I would feel less alone in my daily struggles if there was a significant other in the picture.  As the day draws near the end, it’s worth pausing to ask “How did I make it through the day?”  And would my experience today somehow change the answer I gave the other night. 

Someone recently told me that if you need to throw a pity party, it should last no more than 10 minutes.  Give yourself permission to have a good, long cry, then pick yourself up and get on with your day. Luckily, I had the morning off work which allowed me to dilly dally around the house a little more than usual.  As much as I wanted to ignore my own honey-do list, the laundry absolutely could not wait another day!  In between trips to the laundry room I spent a little more time than usual sitting in my favorite chair, writing in my journal, and reflecting on how I got here.  As much as possible, I tried to stay busy without completely neglecting my own emotions.  It is what 12-step followers refer to as “acting as if” or “fake it until you make it”.   

At the end of the day, as difficult as the day was, I lift up a prayer of gratitude.  As I paid attention and consciously tried to live in the moment throughout the day, there are many things for which to give thanks.  I am grateful for the kindness of a co-worker, a long conversation with one of my students, and hearing someone affirm, “you’re really good at what you do.”  I am reminded that there will be good days and bad days, average days and extraordinary days.  My single status doesn’t cause them to occur or increase their frequency.

It is a real blessing when our best days coincide with a birthday or other special event. Gratitude puts our difficult days into perspective and makes those special days even more memorable.  And for the record, I’m feeling much better tonight than when I reluctantly rolled out of bed this morning. 

I wish you happy and healthy days, today and always. 

“For I will refresh the weary soul; every soul that languishes I will replenish.”  (Jeremiah 31: 25)

1 thought on “Beating the Birthday Blues”

  1. Thanks Beth, this is a great reflection. I’ve had many of those “funky space” days too, though they are coming fewer and farther between. I like the reference to “fake it til you make it”, and I don’t think I knew how to do that until just the past few months. I’ve come to realize that life is not all about me. The more I can focus on being of service to others, doing whatever the next right thing is, and (like you said) finding gratitude for even simple small things, the faster I’m able to move out of that funky space and disperse of the blahs. Sometimes it would be nice to have a significant other to share those days and moments with, but I too have learned that friends and family members can sometimes be just as helpful and supportive. Anyway, what you wrote really resonated with me so I wanted to respond. Thanks!

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