Taking Inventory of Birthday Emotions

The Berenstain Bears introduced me to the idea that not all birthdays are wonderful and perfect.  In fact, you can have too much birthday.


My birthday was great.  There were only a few happy tears.  But I thought it would be fun to share an inventory of all the complex emotions that can happen during your big day.

Trust me, this is largely out of my comfort zone to share all this as someone who is known for being even-keel and highly self-monitoring.  Maybe you’ll identify with a few from the list.  Here it goes:

Giddy when you get out of bed and feel the excitement of “my-one-special-day!” and embrace it like a 9 year old.

Accomplished as the Facebook congratulations start coming in and you tally up the people who find you deserving.

Slightly guilty as you remember that you always forget to tell people happy birthday on Facebook. This year you’ll do better.

Oddly cheery and wanting hugs.  They make any day better so why not make your birthday the most huggy day of all?

Confused when you see adorable little puppies at the farmers market (on one hand, awwww….on the other hand, someone is going to step on those poor things).  Also makes you think, “Do I want a puppy for my birthday?  Maybe a little.”


Intensely shy at the store, West End Salvage, home of the HGTV reality show and YOU SEE DON!  You even make eye contact, but it’s fleeting and awkward.

Amused when shopping at Forever 21 with your husband and he starts to say “let’s go” but stops because he is supposed to be the patient shopping companion. He catches himself after “let’s” and ends with a long “gewwww…”

Puzzled as you analyze your age and ask yourself if it’s a “big one.” You are also not sure if it is a scary or comfortable distance from the next milestone birthday….might be scary the more you think about it.

Eager at the mention of presents. You’re not sure what you’re getting but maybe they knocked it out of the park.

Disproportionately crabby when an odd, minor thing goes wrong and you are sure that such things shouldn’t happen on your birthday.

Incredibly indecisive when faced with the choice of ice cream, cheesecake, or cupcakes for a birthday treat. (Which will give the most festive sugar rush?)


Sugar rushed by cupcakes — the best. Although cheesecake would’ve been tasty too.

Even more indecisive as you try to pick the best restaurant for your birthday meal.

Steadily aware that making decisions does not come naturally to you, especially when they’re weighted with the significance of marking a year in your life.

Anxious as as the day moves toward evening and you’re not sure if you’ve squeezed all the “special” out of it.

More acutely anxious that you are moving from young adult to normal adult and maybe haven’t squeezed all the fun and accomplishment out of the years. (This one is quickly covered up with a distracting snack like kettle corn.)

Immensely proud that you saved your kettle corn — purchased days earlier — for this birthday occasion.

Teary joy when you get a card from your husband with a sweet message. He loves you and wants you to be happy every day and that means so much.

Frustrated as you play a game with your husband and you realize that while he values your happiness, he would not hesitate to beat you at your new game — not cool, man.

Happily redeemed when you win the second game by tie-breaker — today is your day.

Tired from all the decision-making and emotions.

Satisfied that it’s been a day well-celebrated — experienced broadly with many emotions to neatly label and package as part of your birthday.

Happy not-perfect-but-still-wonderful birthday to me!


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