Talking About Birthdays But Not Really Talking About Birthdays...

Early Rik times and my hot mum.

Early Rik times and my hot mum.

It was my birthday yesterday.  A day on which I think of my mum because... well... she did do the whole "pushing me out of her vagina" thing... and a day on which I try to thank my previous selves for carrying on enough for me to exist now.  

I don't mean to sound morbid... I don't not like my birthday but I also don't not, not like my birthday.  I also don't not like double negatives when they allow me to express things I don't want to sound negative about but don't want to lie about either.

Like... "I don't not like you but you make it difficult sometimes when you say things like that" or "I don't not wish to be living, it's just difficult sometimes when I think about it like that".

Last year's birthday.

Last year's birthday.

Now, I don't want to worry anyone - I am doing just superbly right now, honestly - right now in this moment, I'm good. I don't like to go too much further forwards or back from this moment though - hence why I struggle when people ask me how I am: I need to know over what time period they are asking me to average from - and on a birthday that period is a whole year, or a whole life! But I also don't not want anyone to worry (well maybe not "worry" but at least "bear me in mind") because mental health can be a sneaky beast. One that requires supervision. Pacing. Preparation. Awareness. Care. 

But this post wasn't meant to be a cry for help or anything. It is a celebration. Not of my birthday necessarily but of how I spent my birthday. I often struggle with how to spend my birthday. I don't like to make a big thing of it. And especially not with lots of people. Because with that potentially comes a lot of set reactions and scripted conversations and all manner of things that I don't particularly enjoy and I don't want to spend my birthday (or any day) doing things I don't particularly enjoy... if at all possible.

In recent years (and not so recent years) I have ended up doing nothing at all on my birthday. And I have been ok with that because I avoid all the above but at the same time, that means that I do not take time to take stock or allow myself to celebrate what an achievement it can be to continue surviving. And it is.

So yesterday, on my birthday, in a private show of defiance and celebration, I went for a long walk. An 11km hike along Paekakariki Escarpment to be exact.  I know 11km doesn't sound THAT much in the grand scheme of things... but I also suffer from a long term groin/ hip injury that gives me chronic pain and stops me from a lot of physical activity.  So I set myself this task knowing it would be difficult for me to complete and knowing it would cause me pain.  But I wanted to do something that would force me to reflect on the achievements I complete everyday (well... most days) like getting up, eating, washing, dressing, going outside - all in spite of how my brain can bend... This would be a challenge that I would only get through by bearing all those victories in mind - seeing the strength I have and applying it there.

The path along the walk was varied - I had been prewarned: there were steep ups and rapid downs, hundreds of stairs to climb, strong winds and sheer cliff edges with no barriers - I was prepared for this; I am used to the extreme! I had engaged my core to preserve my injury, thought carefully about the motion of my step to give maximum sustainability and packed a warm coat. But with all this preparation, what ended up surprising me was just how flat the journey was - at least at first - and I found myself powering through it, losing mindfulness of my injury, forgetting pacing because it was so much easier than I had expected... until I hit the first set of inclines and felt the pain of my already worked groin start to take hold... I had to pause for a bit, even though I was only a couple of km into my hike. It was frustrating. But I knew if I were to complete this, I needed to take time to take care and reset for the harder parts still to come... and suddenly we see a metaphor arise...

Because this is often what we do right? I mean, I found myself constantly doing it during my walk: taking photos, recording videos, documenting the hard, the steep, the cliff edges but nothing when it came to the flatter parts between - just pushing from one challenge to the next. So I started making sure I paid equal deference to all parts of the hike - appreciating when my body was working hard through the tougher sections, monitoring its work and progress, thanking it, even, for its continued efforts, but then really taking the time to feel the more restful sections - paying attention to recovering and taking in the scenery whilst I could.

Now don't get me wrong... it wasn't like this made the walk painless, and it's not not like I can barely move today, but I made it through - all 11km of it. And sometimes that is the most we can do!

Anyway, I think this is how I like to spend my birthdays - things don't have to be a steep incline or drastic drop all the time - using it as a means to appreciate how I've journeyed this far. A soft reset. A congratulating. A loving.

And also reminding myself that I don't always need to wait for my birthday to do that. And neither do you.

Made it to the top! Cue obligatory handstand.

Ergh... that was a sickeningly sweet ending wasn't it...

Back to thinking about being pushed out of my mum's vagina... yep... ruined the moment.