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Why I hate surprise birthday parties.

Updated: May 8

To be clear, I don't mean literal surprise birthday parties for myself. I have never had one, actually, so I don't know if I would hate it or not. Also, I generally try to avoid the use of the word "hate", but not in this context.

But what I mean is....have you ever seen a TV show or movie where there is a surprise birthday party for one of the characters? And in every single one of these episodes/storylines, part of the scheme is to treat the birthday person like sh*t to keep the surprise a surprise? Like somehow, every single person in this characters' life is in on the secret, and they have all agreed to collectively ignore, avoid, be too busy for, walk away from, be rude to said birthday boy/girl. I always hate those storylines because I always feel so sorry for the unfortunate soul who has to endure an entire day of feeling like no one cares, like everyone forgot, like they don't matter. All day. Sure, it all "works out" in the end because they get the lovely surprise at the end, and all is right in the world again, and lies are unraveled; "Oohhh, when you said you were meeting our mutual friend for coffee without me you were actually decorating my house!" or "Haha, when you saw me in the store and turned around and went the other direction, it's because you were holding my present!", etc. Mysteries are solved, and the birthday boy/girl is once again reassured that they are loved and remembered. So with there always being such a positive end, why does this storyline bother me so much?

Well, for one. I don't think people should be treated like sh*t on their birthday, or any other day, just to make them feel extra special later on. Two, what if the happy party never happens (or still hasn't happened as of yet)? What if, some of us in our lives, myself included, feel like they are in a perpetual state of "Pre-Surprise Birthday Party Inertia" with no happy party to make up for it all? Like the universe just...forgot about us, and everyone else forgot about us, too. I know this mostly certainly is not the case, and I believe in a Higher Power that has a greater plan for each and every one of our lives, but that the plan unfolds in it's own Divine Timing. I do know that. But as we all go through Dark Nights of the Soul, times of deep Shadow Work, times of grief and depression, whether or not this is the case, it feels like we have been forgotten. Abandoned. Rejected. Cast Away. Written Off. By almost everyone in our lives, sure, but worst of all, by the Creator, by the Universe. Maybe there is a happy ending or party at the end, but that feeling before it happens can be excruciatingly painful, especially when we don't see the end yet.

I am reminded of a movie I watched as a kid, a Canadian movie called, "Looking For Miracles", and in this movie there is a scene that broke my heart. The main character (a teenage boy) and his younger brother are at a summer camp, and on the younger brother's birthday, the camp cook brings out a cake for the boy. I might be remembering some details wrong, but I don't think the boy had ever had a birthday cake before, so he was super ecstatic at having a cake. But in the spotlight of all the curious eyes of all the campers, the boy excitedly cuts into the cake....and it's cardboard. Everyone bursts out laughing at him, and he runs out of the mess hall crying, embarrassed and devastated. When the older brother gets angry at the camp cook, the cook insisted he had a real cake in the back that he was going to bring out. But it was too late. The moment was ruined and the boy (had this been a true story) was likely scarred for life. In the movie the boy actually had run away, and the brother had to go looking for him for quite a while. He probably got to eat that cake eventually, but he would be forever changed by that initial disappointment.

I bring this up because, life is just like that sometimes. I'm still trying to figure it out for myself, which is why I'm writing this. But things aren't always fair. Amends aren't always made. Justice is not always experienced. Rewards for our immense efforts are not always reaped. At least not when we expect it or hope for it. But in that in between period of waiting, feeling forgotten, it's just....immensely hard. And it could be extremely jeopardizing to our faith that things will get better. I am experiencing "Pre-Surprise Birthday Party Inertia" right now, and it has lasted for years with no party to act as a grand finale, no resolve to the discordant chord. No "SURPRISE!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!" to make everything make sense again, to clarify the secrecy and mystery, to explain the confusion and avoidance, the feeling of being invisible and forgotten. I have felt cast aside in every way; in friendships, in career, in love life, as a songwriter and in my spiritual life. I have come to recognize, albeit not in a resentful way anymore, that my entire life has been this way, like most of my personal life events have been designed and calculated to make me feel unlovable, unworthy, unsuccessful, invisible and forgettable. Things like...

  • Having friends drift away that I poured love and energy into, with no closure

  • Being rejected by every person I have ever loved romantically

  • Being unsupported by those (some) who I would expect the most support from

  • Feeling invisible, unappreciated and cast aside at every turn in my music career (ie. failing to win music contests <not even honourable mentions>, little traffic or subscribers on my Youtube channel despite having it for almost a decade, writing and uploading over a hundred songs to both my channels, many of which just seem to float away into the ether of not being heard by anyone other than the Universe, even when I share my songs directly to groups and pages, working for years to build a career and reputation as a musician and accompanist, only for it to be kiboshed once Covid hit, etc)

  • Being given multiple "good reasons" to doubt myself, my own intuition, my skills and abilities, my own sense of beliefs and how the Creator works

  • Often being cast aside, ignored or unconsidered in the presence of someone else with the same skillset, or even less than I have at the time

  • Constantly being criticized for being too loud, too bright, too fast, too slow, too off-rhythm, too high, too low, speaking too much, being too intense, too weird, too too too. Sometimes it was true, but sometimes it was just not (and I should mention I do have many friends and loved ones who compliment and support me, as well). But it honestly started to feel like the criticism just followed me everywhere. Example: I was at a week long harp retreat in Ireland, and during one of the music pub nights, (where everyone was invited to play along with whatever instrument they had) I joined in on the piano that was in the room. I have a good sense of rhythm (I am a percussionist) and I knew I was playing in rhythm with the harpists, flutists and violinists. But the other foreigner in the group decided, for some reason, to saunter over and tell me I was "off beat" with all the other musicians and I was throwing everyone off. Of course I immediately stopped playing and sat back down. My other friends asked me why I stopped played, and I told them why. They all adamantly agreed I was not off rhythm, and we were all musicians, so I trusted their assessment. I never understood why that had to happen, but here's my theory and point to all of this. And it most certainly is not to complain, fish for compliments or feel sorry for myself.

Clip Art by Karen's Whimsy

There comes a point in our lives when we need to make the change into who we came here to be. We have had enough life experience to help us learn the first set of lessons, and we are ready for the "practicum" part of our spiritual journey, which I believe often happens around what we call "mid life", but that by no means is the case for everyone. It's usually around this time we feel nudged to make significant life changes, and we can't bring everything from the past with us, whether it is friends, ideologies, romantic partners, beliefs, career paths, you name it. We enter into a metaphoric chrysalis and begin the goo phase of becoming the next best version of ourselves, which involves healing and trauma work. But in that goo phase, which can last years, btw, a lot of painful things happen; People that we thought would be there forever fall away. Marriages end. Careers end. We become apathetic towards things we once enjoyed, and things that once made us happy or fulfilled no longer do. Things that once made sense no longer do. It feels like everything is on pause until we somehow get the go-ahead or green light to come out of our chrysalis. But until we are ready to come out of this stage of life, I do believe things are just hard. They are confusing, and you may feel the world is against you, that no one understands you, that everyone has forgotten about you and the world has moved on.

I think we go through a series of necessary rejections in many, if not all, spheres of our life, so that we learn to detach from a path that is no longer serving us, and to let go of outcomes and expectations, so we can be open to where we are being divinely guided, with as little resistance as possible.

I've heard this phrase many times in the past year, "rejection is God's protection." We will literally be rejected by people, places, beliefs, behaviors, etc. who and which are simply not meant to go on the next part of our journey with us. This is the tough love way that we are taught to be in the world, not of it. For some, like me, that rejection process can occur for almost an entire life. But the point is to become who we came here to be, and learn what we came here to learn. So if that means the Surprise Party doesn't happen until the bitter end, then so be it.

Normally these kinds of blog posts are written by people who have a positive ending to tell. They have finally gotten to the end of it and figured out their life, or got that dream job, or finally found true love, or discovered their true calling, and they can encourage everyone else and give tips on how they did it. This isn't that kind of blog post. I'm here to say I'm not there yet. Maybe there is no there. But there definitely was no party here yet. I still have no answers to most things. I still am single. I still don't know what I will be doing when I grow up. I still am unclear as to my Soul's mission and purpose. I still haven't had my Surprise Party, for which I've suffered and worked hard for so much. I'm still in my chrysalis. I'm still marinating. I guess I felt the need to write this for all of you who are also still in your chrysalis, wondering what the hell is going on. And all I can say is, you're not alone. It will end eventually. And it will get better.

But that doesn't change the fact that this phase genuinely sucks, and it feels like the world simply has moved on without you. In a sense, the world does move on without you, if you are dangling somewhere in a chrysalis, safely protected from the world. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. And that doesn't mean that someday you won't emerge as a beautiful butterfly, and become an inspiration for others to do the same. So try not to take the rejections personally, or the feeling of being forgotten, abandoned, or unloved. It's all a part of the process, and those who are meant to stay in your life will stay and still be there when you come out the other side, marveling at your new pair of wings. And hopefully holding balloons, giving you presents and eating cake. Real cake. Not the cardboard kind.

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