Today something important happened that I am now celebrating, something that is not traditional birthday fare.
One is that I stood up for myself with someone who does not value who I am. It was very, very hard, but it was one of those situations where I didn't make a decision---something primal just rose up in me that refused to accept being consistently treated in a poor way. It reminded me of a situation years ago with my mother.
My mother was my primary abuser as a child. One day, after 16 years of physical and verbal abuse almost on a daily basis, instead of hiding the bruises, I put on a dress (in those days you wore dresses to school, not pants!) with a lower neckline that showed the bruises where she had tried to strangle me the night before. I even pulled my long brown hair back into a ponytail so that the bruises could not be missed. I didn't decide to do this consciously; it just happened. For years I had hid the marks---for my whole life. I knew that was what you were supposed to do.
My teachers all asked me what had happened and I told them. I told them how she hit me all the time. How she screamed at me. Some days she beat me, as she'd say, "until I draw blood". My mother lost her job as the school truant officer. There were no other consequences, as it was a different time, but she never hit me again.
Back then, no one talked about child abuse. I don't think I had a conception of it as being "abuse". Something in me just finally knew that trying to strangle your daughter was wrong.
It was a very good feeling to stand up for myself. And when my mother died 6 years later, I didn't cry. I still have not cried, nor do I miss her.
So, standing up for myself was the absolute most important thing that I could have done for myself this year on my birthday. The feeling I have is one of sweet safety, holy self-care, the great kindness of the Universe, the incredible feeling of being loved by God and of knowing that His love is immense.
If any of you watched Saving Grace (my favorite television show) last night, the expression on Earl's face as he told Grace how much God loves her---this face, and what Earl said to her---it made such a deep impression that it carried me to a safe place, just as God carried Grace and Neely to safety in the show. It stayed with me through a difficult night. I don't think I will ever forget it.
So despite the unusual circumstances, it is truly a happy birthday for me. I feel those feelings---the feeling of "NO!" and the feeling of safety and love---and I would not exchange them for any other birthday gift at all.