Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Birthday Blues

Some months are poorly named.  February is one of the worst, because it abbreviates easily to "Feb".  The breathy whistle of the "F" sounds like the descent of a guillotine blade.  It slices into protesting flesh in the "e" and comes to a sharp stop on the wooden block of "b" below the neck.  This month takes you another year closer to your appointment with the Grim Reaper.  Vulnerant omnes, ultima necat.

Guyot Marchant, La Danse Macabre ( Paris, 1485)
[Image from here]
Grim start to a blogpost?  Sorry about that: I just turned 39 and I'm still in the grip of the birthday blues.  I managed the day well enough last year, which is to say that I cloaked it on Facebook and it passed almost wholly unremarked.  Unfortunately, Facebook seem to have rejigged their privacy settings and the date leaked out before I could re-cloak it.  I know the wellwishers' hearts are in the right place - no doubt in my mind - but I still feel like the amputee who is offered the consolation "cheer up: at least you've lost those last five kilograms".

How about no?
Fuck you very much, Facebook.
I don't think I've felt good about my birthday since 2010.  That was the year Grace and Rachel had just been born and I hadn't yet had an opportunity to fail as a husband and father.  I was still a moderately successful lawyer, and New Orleans had just won the Superbowl.  And every year since then?  On one birthday or another I've been watching my family life crumble to its ultimate failure, my work life morphing first into tragedy and then into farce (at this stage, I suppose one could call it 'street theatre'), and my bag of tricks become thinner and thinner.

I asked Dr Google about this and found that "birthday blues" is actually a thing.  Its advice wasn't especially helpful beyond that point.  To remember positive events in the past and remind yourself of past successes is to whistle past the graveyard when the present mercilessly throws them into perspective.  When you can't even secure work as a factory hand, your university degrees become a mere gewgaw.  Your 'achievements' in SES are just an unusual hobby.  Everything you've ever been or done becomes the contemptible toy of a child.

I don't know what this year will bring, but I can tell you I'm dreading 40 next year.

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