It’s my birthday today. Well, not today as I’m writing this, but tomorrow while you’re reading.
I love birthdays! No, I’m not going to tell you how old I am. Oscar Wilde wrote, “One should never trust a woman who tells one her real age. A woman who would tell one that would tell one anything.”
I love birthdays because I love cards and gifts and well-wishes – even those casual greetings from Facebook connections prompted only by the algorithm popping up in their notifications. I bask in all the attention.
I am also unashamed in my requests for gifts. Not from all and sundry, of course: I don’t corner random strangers on the street with demands for birthday presents, but from the family members and close friends I know want to give me something. I reason that most people would rather give a gift they know will be well received, than chance an offering that will be met with a strained smile, a dutiful thank you note, and which will then be quietly passed on at the first opportunity.
Today I got a text from a dear friend. “BTW can you send me again that link? I thought I had bookmarked it but apparently not. Sorry I have delayed so long with it. Chalk up the usual lame excuses.”
I laughed and was unsurprised. Nor was I disappointed. In a true friendship, one accepts people as they are, and does not build false expectations. I shall be delighted and touched to receive a gift in due course. After all, it just makes the birthday last longer!
Many years ago, I attended a personal development seminar where we were introduced to the idea of analysing our upsets. When we are upset or distressed by anything, the leader said, it is from only three possible causes: an intention which was thwarted, an undelivered communication or a disappointed expectation.
Take a moment to think about the last time you were upset over something. You will most likely find its cause was one or more of these – perhaps all three.
At my last company conference, we had to complete the following: “To work with me, you should know…” My answer was, “I have a black hole of admin; if you keep track and remind me of what I should be doing, I will be SO grateful. Be straight with me: I appreciate it. If you recognise my contribution I will cry with gratitude. I will ALWAYS give you everything I can – but I may forget what I have promised to do.”
My friends and family know I am forgetful; they know I never mind being reminded. They also know I do my best NOT to forget.
Sometimes, of course, there are traits in those we love that we cannot accept; we must be continually disappointed and upset.
It’s always worth considering, however, if our expectations are reasonable. Maybe we should lower them to avoid disappointment.
I shall be delighted then, with just one birthday card.
A Moodscope member.