I’m turning 30 tomorrow.
This bears repeating: I’m turning 30 tomorrow. And my ego has been out in full force over the last few weeks.
First, I had this idea of what I wanted my “big day” to be like. I don’t always have birthday parties, but I definitely wanted one for this year. And I wanted it to be a large party, for me, with 8-9 people. I wanted to get everything on my wishlist (only 23 items, how hard can that be, really?).
The wrinkle began over a month ago, when a good friend of mine told me she couldn’t make it. That wrinkle grew quite a bit, with most of the people I invited saying they already had other plans.
Then my in-laws seemed to forget that my birthday was approaching. Last year, I didn’t get the traditional birthday dinner; they chose to celebrate my birthday on Mother’s Day and picked up fried chicken (which doesn’t agree with my intestines, let’s just leave it at that) for dinner. The chocolate cream pie, while homemade, was made with Splenda, which also doesn’t agree with my intestines. Let’s just say it was kind of a… crappy birthday meal. So, I’ve been a bit anxious about whether this year I’d actually get a birthday dinner that I could really enjoy.
As the weekends passed without any mention of my upcoming birthday or questions about what food I may want for my birthday dinner, I began to get more anxious.
Did it matter that my father-in-law’s mother was in the process of dying and succumbed to death two weeks ago?
It should have, and I knew that it should have, but I’m ashamed to say that it didn’t really matter as much as it should have.
I felt like a 3-year-old jumping up and down while waving my arms and shouting, “LOOK AT ME!!! LOOK AT ME!!! LOOK AT ME!!”
It wasn’t pleasant. I could feel how unusually self-centered I was, but seemed completely powerless to stop the onslaught of ego.
It’s still there, really. It’s kind of hard to contain it. Turning 30 is made out to be such a big deal in American culture, like it’s the “end of youth and the beginning of the slow march into middle age”, as Dr. Bashir stated so eloquently on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. And I honestly have mixed feelings about turning 30, because of my physical issues. I’m used to people being shocked by how young I am to be dealing with these kinds of physical problems, and the older I get, the less shocked people become. It’s like I want the credit of having dealt with these issues for 30 years instead of people assuming they’re a new problem somehow related to my current age. (I know that 30 is still young to be dealing with the level of physical issues I deal with, but it’s not as young as, say, 12.)
The teacher of the meditation group I attended suggested treating my ego with some compassion. This is a good suggestion. I often talk about my body parts as if they have their own thoughts and desires and have found it helpful, e.g., “My left hip isn’t happy with the amount of walking I’ve done.” I will begin relating to my ego in the same way, as if it’s a body part: one that I need to care for, but, like all body parts in pain, one that I need to realize is just a part and not as all-encompassing as it seems.
So, ego, I just want you to know that I know you’re there. And I don’t want to destroy you or harm you in any way. I just want to understand that you’re not the center of everything. Just like if I favored my left hip and completely ignored the rest of my body, I’d end up injuring myself: just so when I favor you above all others, it’s harmful.
Happy 30th birthday, ego.