Yup. Yesterday was my birthday. Not sure exactly what I imagined it would be, but that wasn't it. The issue is my expectations. And because my expectations are unrealistic, I've got a bad case of the birthday blues.
Birthdays in the home of my childhood were BIG deals. I blame my mother, (don't we always?) who indulged me with the Norman Rockwell birthday. From the moment my eyes popped open (when I heard her singing in the kitchen) until nightfall, the day would be centered on The Birthday Girl. My favorite breakfast, lunch, and dinner; a birthday party with balloons, crepe paper, friends, and family. Always a homemade birthday cake. On my fourth birthday, Mother's angel food cake emerged from the oven with a serious center sag. So she colored coconut green and filled the saggy part with a nest on which she laid chocolate Easter eggs topped with a bright yellow peep. That's always been my favorite birthday cake, certainly the most memorable.
These days, I don't wish to announce to the world that I've grown a year older. Actually I'd rather forget the number. I don't feel as old as I know I am. I'd just like birthdays to be special occasions. Problem is, I married a lovely man with many fine qualities, one of which is NOT sentimentality. To him, a birthday is just another day. And while I realize that in the big scheme of life, it IS just another day, I've still got the birthday blues.
Mind you, I don't want or expect anyone to color coconut and make a nest in the center of a cake. I certainly wasn't neglected. A package of books and tapes arrived from one daughter and my daughter-in-law and two grandchildren dropped by with a gorgeous orchid. The other daughter left a sweet phone message. DH managed a card and yellow roses. I got tons of lovely greetings on Facebook. And sweet friends sent cards with precious messages. You would think that'd be more than enough.
A few years ago, I decided to create my own "perfect" birthday. So, I plan my table setting and menu or I choose a restaurant. I give myself gifts--this year it was a trip to the salon for a bit of pampering. And I indulged in a bit of shopping therapy, too. Pink shoes and a matching pink top. Perfect for spring. Again, you'd think that would be enough. Still, I pouted while eating birthday dinner alone because all that still didn't make my birthday perfect.
I get that DH is overwhelmed to the point of being totally consumed with caring for his aging mother. My rational self knows his heart is breaking at the gradual loss of her to dementia and I definitely don't want him to have regrets after she's gone. I paint on my fake smile and say it's okay when he tells me he's staying with his mother another day. It's my fickle feelings that won't stay in step with sound adult reason. It's those darn expections.
Deadly creatures, expectations: joy stealers. They color the world in tones of darkness at a time for rejoicing in the gift of good health, peace, and life itself.
If I learn to accept other people just as they are, and situations as just what they are meant to be, my expectations won't throw me into disappointment.
The cure is gratitude and getting my focus off myself.
B. B. King sang a song titled "Happy Birthday Blues" (YouTube) The words don't fit my situation, but I really like the music. Maybe instead of throwing myself a pity party, I'll write my own version of that song and sing it to his tune.
Think I'll begin with "Another year older and deeper in debt." I’ll wallow a bit in the romantic notion of my ideal birthday. It’s a blues song, for goodness' sake. Got to have some wallowing. Then I'll transition to what the Bible says about God's love. How only God can satisfy the longings of my heart. When I run to Him, I always find Him waiting with open arms. I'm never disappointed. God's Word promises that in His eyes I'm special and deeply loved with a love I can never comprehend. Once I take my eyes off my own my pitiful predicament and accept that I am exactly where I should be, doing exactly what I should be doing, my feelings will catch up. Letting go of my need to be the center of the universe will mean no disappointments.
How about you? Where do your expectations rob you of the joy of the day? Do you get the birthday blues when your special day is less than you hoped? How about other holidays or situations? Do people disappoint you? Only God can fill hearts with contentment. Refusing to sing "The Birthday Blues" in favor of praising Him for His ample provision, mercy, and great love is the way of true joy.
George Stanton is filled with unfulfilled expectations in my latest book THE ROAD TO TERMINUS. His discontentment imprisons him in a life of searching and never finding. Only when God strips away everything he values and all his hopes are dashed, can George finally look up and see that God is really all he needs.