I had a birthday. (There are fabulous photographs here: the Sekrit Password is Bespin)
There are two things that have annoyed me about birthdays for the past, what, forty years or so. First of all, for some reason I have always wanted to be given a Surprise Party, in the cheesy way they have on American tv shows, but having no Significant Other to organise one for me, it’s never happened. But it’s a no-win situation: once you’ve got the thought in your head you are always going to be disappointed. Every year I do something for my birthday, but every year however brilliant it is it fails to live up to the platonic ideal of the surprise party in my head, so it’s never quite enough. And you just know that, if I finally do walk into a room and find everyone I love wearing party hats and yelling “surprise!” there will still be a part of me grumbling “well finally! I’ve only been hinting for half a bleedin’ century!” The things we do to ourselves!
No, I’m not asking you to *organise* a surprise party for me, I’m just trying to explain what’s going on in my head every year when it comes to my birthday. I’m putting it out here now, officially, that I have accepted I will Never, Ever Have a Surprise Party and I’m putting it on the list next to Giving Notes to Keanu Reeves on His Hamlet and Having Lunch With Benedict Cumberbatch. You know, the It’ll Never Happen list. I’m OK with it, really. I had a great time this year, and I really did have (just about) everyone I love in one room, and I’m letting it go.
But the second thing about birthdays is that I had this bloody therapy thing back in the day, when I was working at HMRC. They sent me off for some individually tailored development sessions with a remarkably groovy advice/counselling/NLP service that included all sorts of useful 360 degree feedback, career planning and goal-setting stuff. Trust me, it was excellent.
One of the exercises was imagining your retirement party or your 60th birthday party and looking back on your life. What would it be like, how would you feel about it…. and what did you have to do in the here and now to make the exciting possibilities you had envisaged actually come about.
And here I am. I had a retirement party when I left HMRC. And now I’ve had a 60th birthday party. And, you know, there were speeches. Kind friends and relatives looked back on my life with me and drew me a picture of it that made me go, yes, I think you’re right: it wasn’t so bad after all. I can be a grown up, after all. Thank you.
There was no-one there from the world of science fiction. No-one. And now I see that’s the part of my life I have let go, the plate I stopped trying to spin.
No, I have no conclusions to draw from this. I just notice it, and move on.