I celebrated my birthday today.
Yes, past tense.
Technically, it’s still my birthday (at the moment of this typing) and I still should be celebrating.
But I don’t feel like celebrating anymore.
I would be lying if I say I don’t get excited for this special day.
But I would also be lying if I don’t say I have certain expectations from the people around me.
In my mind, I imagine being treated like a queen, like the center of the universe.
At least once a year every year.
That would be nice.
A break from all the chores, the worrying, the back pain, the planning, and the deciding.
(The list goes on, but you get the point.)
Unfortunately, life has its surprises.
Last night, I told my family the birthday gift I wanted — their phones.
Before you react violently, I was aiming for a “no-phone day” so we can bond and talk and celebrate.
My daughter said, “No, thanks!”
I didn’t want to show my disappointment. Not to her, not to my family.
I tried to keep my emotions to myself.
Then, another trigger…
We ate out after attending the Sunday service to celebrate my birthday.
As my daughter and I were preparing the leftovers to take home, she carelessly poured the contents of her pasta bowl to mine.
I’ve got food splatter on my newly cut hair and my nice red dress… on my birthday.
It was like the awkward situations in movies where the date turns into a disaster.
I paused to see the “damage” done.
Wiping the pasta sauce off my dress, I told my daughter that if she wanted to make up for what happened, she ought to stop being on her phone.
I told my girls to check out this gift store I know they wanted to go to every time we’d be at the mall.
I did this to buy me some time to think, process, and compose myself.
I didn’t want to be the one to ruin my own birthday (which was kind of what I did).
I was sad that we can’t even have a nice meal together as a family at a nice restaurant.
I ate alone.
It could have been a delicious and satisfying lunch.
I had my kid’s leftover Banoffee Pie as my birthday cake.
I could have enjoyed it better if shared with the people I love.
Sadly, it’s as if there’s no difference between today and yesterday…
… Between today and tomorrow.
No plans. No special treatment. No nothing.
Yes, I confess… Pity party kicking in. 😢
(I hate it when this happens. I’m in the process of changing my mindset and it’s NOT easy, so please bear with me here.)
We didn’t even have a family picture. (And the grumbling goes on.)
I always thought pictures were special.
Being a visual person, photos allow me to relive the moment.
(At least, I got to take photos of the food and the wonderful ceiling.)
And the battle began…
I was eating, thinking, hurting all AT THE SAME TIME.
Holding back the tears, I was wrestling with my thoughts…
Why are you expecting anything from other people?
If they don’t want to be with you, then don’t push it.
Decrease expectation, increase appreciation.
Where do I draw the line between “tolerating” and letting my children experience the consequence of their actions?
No expectation, no heartaches!
I interrupted my thoughts and got my phone.
I opened the Bible app and checked out my Bible reading for today: Psalm 142.
Verse 2 says…
Look to the right and see:
there is none who takes notice of me;
no refuge remains to me;
no one cares for my soul.
It was as if I was the one who wrote this passage.
It reflected exactly the way I was feeling at that moment.
I continued reading…
6a Attend to my cry,
for I am brought very low!..
7 Bring me out of prison,
that I may give thanks to your name!
The righteous will surround me,
for you will deal bountifully with me.
That’s how this sadness felt like… A prison.
I wasn’t free to celebrate and be happy because I chose to look at what I don’t have.
Because I chose to dwell on my hangups.
And because this was my attitude, how could I give thanks to the Lord’s Name?
The battle continues.
As I finished taking my evening shower, I remembered an encounter I’ve had with two little kids on the train.
They were siblings — a 6-year-old girl and a 4-year-old boy.
The little girl told me her brother just celebrated his birthday.
But he didn’t have any gifts.
I remember telling them that waking up every morning is a gift.
Not everyone gets to wake up the next morning.
Too much for preschoolers to process huh?
Yeah, I think so too.
Then, I paused for a while and stopped typing. (Yes now.)
I asked Jesus what triggered these responses.
I wanted to feel important.
Oh yes… My desire for significance!
Growing up, being the second child gave me confusing thoughts about my role in the family.
When my older sister and I would fight when we were younger, my mom would tell me, “Listen to your older sister because she’s older”
When my younger sister would have tantrums, I’d be told, “Understand your younger sister because she’s younger.”
Okay… But where does that leave me?
Who will listen to me?
Who will understand me?
(Ugh, so selfish of me! See? Another me in my sentence!?)
Absentee father. Working mom. Bitter grandmother. Passive grandfather.
Yes, the formula for dysfunction.
But then again who’s perfect?
There is no such thing as a perfect family.
(For the record, I’m not saying this because I’m bitter or hurting. I learned this from a life-equipping program I joined years back.)
On top of that, I have been a single mother for the LONGEST TIME.
I know how the society treats people “like me” and it’s not something I’d wish on anyone.
Back to my story.
Walking on the way to buy rice, I asked forgiveness from the Lord for my grumbling and complaining.
I even asked the Lord to take away these desires in my heart.
My mind is battling with my heart because my heart is aching.
I know God wouldn’t answer that prayer because it’s a wrong prayer.
He doesn’t take away desires. He’s the One who put it there in the first place.
But here’s the catch…
To be filled by HIM.
My fiance asked me tonight what I think God was teaching me.
Not to expect any special treatment from my family.
Not to look for happiness from my family.
These were the answers I quickly blurted out.
Before you raise your eyebrow, let me elaborate a little.
We all have desires.
I am feeling this way (sad, insignificant, worthless) because I am filling my desire for joy, significance, and value with the wrong thing/people — my family.
Now, this is another recipe for disappointment.
So, I took the time to write all my thoughts in my journal.
I didn’t edit anything nor cared about wrong spelling and grammar.
I had to let out all these thoughts in my head and emotions in my heart.
I had to release this poison.
As I was writing about my discontent in life, my tween daughter knocked on the home office door and asked if I wasn’t hungry.
I told them to go ahead and have dinner without me since I was busy doing something else.
Then, she gave me a hug and greeted me a happy birthday for the Nth time.
I suddenly remembered that she gave me a letter at the restaurant while I was eating.
I opted not to open it because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to contain myself since I was emotionally charged with all the sad things that were happening.
I asked her to get the letter for me, thanked her, and gave her a hug and a kiss.
I opened the letter…
And felt my heart melt.
I realized I was mean and unappreciative of how they have shown their love for me today.
I was so busy sulking that I didn’t have the time to appreciate the Lord and my blessings.
My fiance did most of the housework today.
My teen daughter helped take care of her siblings at home and at the mall.
My tween daughter also helped at home and even gave me a birthday letter.
Here I go again — default mode kicking in.
While appreciating what my family did is good, I don’t want to focus on the things they DID.
This is PERFORMANCE-BASED appreciation and is definitely NOT the way to help fill their desires.
(Note: I said “help fill” because I am only a medium. It is Jesus alone who fills our desires.)
Instead of looking at what they DID, I’d like to appreciate them for their BEING.
I thank the Lord for my fiance’s patience in dealing with me.
For his generosity (the wonderful lunch treat) and for the love that he has for me. I know this kind of love could only come from the One who Himself is LOVE.
I thank the Lord for my daughters…
For showing their love through their kindness, compassion (towards younger siblings), and courageousness since I know how difficult it is to be responsible for another “life.”
I also want to thank the Lord for all those who greeted me and remembered this special day.
(Yes, I will get back to y’all after I publish this post.)
Have I resolved the problem?
First things first.
I had to resolve this heart issue by coming and talking to the Lord about it.
Then, I will talk to my family.
Decrease expectation, increase appreciation.
Humility. (Not easy! But I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.)
Thank You, Lord, for another birthday! 🙏