Before I get into this one let me first say that if you’re expecting a newsletter with me unpacking all the upset and anger someone (me) would feel when their mother doesn’t acknowledge them on their birthday this is not that writing piece.
This is going to give some context about what happened but focus on the power I unearthed and growth I experienced when I didn’t hear from my mother on my birthday.
If you missed it on Instagram, I turned 40 last Wednesday.
It was a portal to say the least.
Every birthday since I got sober 5 years ago has been a challenge in a way I didn’t expect.
Birthdays in my 20s and early 30s were about planning the best parties with all my friends. They were about a celebration of life but also, since I was untreated in my own additions, about getting completely wasted in the name of fun and celebration. They were about creating the most lavish experiences (whether I had the money or not). They were about showing social media just how cool and loved I really was.
So I guess what I’m realizing as I write this is that I wasn’t ever really present on my birthday.
Over the last 5 years without the buffer of substances, I’ve had to get present to all the core beliefs and feelings those core beliefs bring up on my birthday.
One of the core beliefs I’ve gotten real present to is my belief that I don’t matter to the people I care about the most.
This “I don’t matter” belief has always been there but before recovery I just covered it up with substances, denial and control.
Unpacking and discovering its roots has been such a blessing. I no longer feel like it has a hold on me and I can observe my beliefs as painful as they may be rather than be swept away with them and cause myself and others more harm.
So when I woke up last Wednesday, on my birthday (and early I might add) I was already observing myself. Noticing that part of me that wanted to collect evidence that I don’t matter.
That people would forget and that I would feel hurt and rejected.
My partner wished me a happy birthday first. Then I scrolled through the early birthday wishes from my acquaintances in Europe. Then got a text from my father on the East Coast. Then one from my sister in Texas and then from other friends from various places…it felt good.
By midday, the one person I wanted to hear from the most I hadn’t yet and that was my mom.
My mother and I have had a rocky relationship and in the last two years we've made such great progress together healing and rebuilding.
My sister and I were born 2 years and a day apart. My birthday is the 20th of April and hers is the 21st of April. My mom has mixed up these days before in her mind in conversation with us.
There have been two birthdays I can recall that I didn’t hear from my mom at all because we were estranged and fighting.
As the day went on, I tried to stay present doing a lot of self-care and staying open to receiving love and birthday messages from those that gave them to me.
I thought about how last year she waited until the evening to call since she thought I’d be out and about doing birthday things. I considered that to be the case here.
Working with my mind in these ways helped moment to moment but I could feel how this old belief and pain was right under the surface with each hour that passed without hearing from my mom.
I went to the spa with a friend and enjoyed that immensely and when I came home I could feel the heaviness of it all again.
That was when I knew I had to slow down and turn and face what was really happening for me.
I reached for my emotional growth practices.
Since I’ve done quite a bit of family systems work I reached for an inner child meditation to connect with the younger part of me that was feeling forgotten and rejected.
It helped set some context for myself and open my heart to more compassion for myself and my feelings of abandonment but on the other end of it I could feel there was way more underneath.
Next I reached for a somatic practice (Emotional Freedom Technique aka EFT or Tapping) that focused on feeling left out. It was the closest guided EFT I could find to get my inside my feelings of abandonment.
I felt a lot more relief after that but it wasn’t until I picked up my tool of “Phone a Friend” that this whole thing cracked open.
This is a friend who I feel safe with who knows how to listen, doesn't try to fix and asks permission before offering advice or reflections. She also knows the experience of abandonment and working with the inner child.
I talked. I cried. I got quiet and then asked for reflections.
She offered a perspective that I needed.
She reminded me that I’m a 40 year old woman now and that while there is sadness and grief from my inner child that can and should be honored, that in the present moment I am 40 and that people (even my caregivers) are imperfect.
She reminded me that my triggered inner child is trying to get something from her mom right now that isn’t available.
She reminded me that I’ve learned how to give myself the things my younger parts need when those needs can’t be met from the outside.
There was something SO clarifying about separating my triggered inner child feelings and my present 40 year old embodied woman.
I laughed as this a-ha moment landed in me and could feel myself snap out of this spell my inner child had me.
I could feel myself coming back.
As I got myself dressed for dinner with my partner I could feel I moved through a big portal.
I felt different. I felt my maturity blossom in a new way I hadn’t felt before.
I had a decadent meal at dinner, received wonderful birthday presents and before I went to bed a sent 3 gratitudes to that friend of mine:
I’m grateful for practices that help me feel and work through my emotions
I’m grateful for the love I received today
I’m grateful for my inner child who is constantly helping me get my deepest needs met
I went to sleep with a light and open heart.
When I woke up in the morning I had a text from my mother:
“HAPPY BIRTHDAY SHELLYI hope you have a fantastic day. Hoping that all your dreams come true on your special day.”
So what I suspected was true.
She mixed up the days this year. I sent her a loving text thanking her for the birthday wishes and gently told her mine was yesterday and my sister’s was today.
It felt clean and compassionate because I had done all that emotional growth work yesterday.
She understandably felt bad but my level of security within myself was so solid and I had zero urge to capitalize on those guilty feelings for my own emotional benefit.
Please read that again if you didn’t get it because this is the entire lesson here
When you can take responsibility for your own fears, resentments, insecurities and expressions of your triggered inner child…
When you pick up tools to find out what’s happening inside of you instead of running from the pain or running to those you’re triggered by from a wounded space to give you the answers and security you seek…
When you can reclaim your emotional security when it gets shaken…
You’ve become an integrated adult.
I hope this story and sharing my process was helpful for you.
Always in your corner…