by Tanya Ruckstuhl-Valenti LICSW, MSW
I don’t quite understand people who refuse to make a big deal out of their birthdays. For heaven’s sake, we’re talking about the beginning of your existence! I like to think a healthy dose of narcissism is homeopathic: it protects us from the other, more insidious kind.
Birthdays are cause for celebration, gifts and pampering!
Years ago, my neighbor Lee introduced me to a wonderful concept on the occasion of her fiftieth birthday. Instead of just celebrating their birthday, she and her husband celebrate their “birth month,” which includes eating a fabulous meal together, going out with friends, getting gifts, going on a trip and spending an evening doing high quality you-know-what together.
I have taken this wise advice to heart and for my birthday this year I’m taking myself on an art retreat for four days of painting, yoga, and organic food. But that’s just the finale!
A few weeks ago I saw “In the Heights” and ate delicious food with a dear friend. This weekend I toured the Picasso show with two dear friends, one of whom is a genuine working artist who’s every opinion I thoroughly enjoyed and have now adopted wholesale as my own. I had a lovely night out with my husband and another couple, and tomorrow night will enjoy another evening out with husband and kids.
My new birthday gift Kindle is already loaded with enough reading material to keep me for a good year. I feel thoroughly loved and celebrated, spoiled even.
And here’s where mental health enters the picture: so many folks out there believe that being low maintenance about birthdays is the “adult” thing to do. By adult, they mean mature and selfless.
In truth we never lose that part of ourselves that yearns for and fantasizes about parades and balloons and marching bands in our honor. And while some people genuinely seem content with a card from their significant other and maybe some nice homemade lasagna, I suspect many more would love a big deal to be made, but don’t know how to ask for it.
I say create for your partner and/ or best friend a fabulous birthday experience and then when your birthday rolls around, they will want to do the same. Feeling cherished is more than great fun: it’s healing. And healing is what all our attempts to foster mental health are for.