Birthday, Downsizing & Goodbye

It’s my birthday today. I’ve taken a week off work to spend it with Mrs Grump. 

36. Late thirties. Strewth. 

Mrs Grump has been asking what I wanted to do to celebrate but I’m a strange creature in that I really don’t enjoy my birthday. My instinct is to just gloss over it, ignore it, pretend it never happened. I don’t really see the date that I popped out into the world as worth celebrating if I’m honest. 

“What are you going to do for your birthday?” people ask. Why do I have to do anything? Why can’t I just ignore it? 

Yet I feel bad when Mrs Grump makes an effort to ask me what I want to do to celebrate and I just can’t seem to think of anything. I can’t think of anywhere I’d like to eat, where I’d like to go and I know I come across as a proper miserable git. When others want to make a fuss of me, I say I’d rather they didn’t. 

In a strange contradiction, I also feel sad that I can’t celebrate my birthday. A part of me would like to enjoy it but it intrinsically doesn’t seem to be a part of me. I am incapable of feeling anything other than uncomfortable about the 16th May. 

But I have eventually decided on going for some Japanese food. 

It’s the same at Christmas; I just don’t feel comfortable receiving gifts. It’s as if I don’t deserve any of this treatment. 

For much of last year and the early part of this year I have been unwell. I won’t go into details but I ended up in a pretty dark place and no, there isn’t a punchline about not paying the electric bill coming (although it did cross my mind). 

Part of my recovery has been to see a counsellor regularly and I’ve recently stopped seeing them. Again, I could shoehorn in a joke, this time about dating, but I won’t. 

One of the themes that kept appearing was that I don’t feel good enough, that I don’t deserve certain things and I think this is one of the fundamental reasons for feeling so uncomfortable about my birthday. 

But one of the biggest lessons I learned was about tolerance and acceptance of myself. To listen to myself and not resist how I’m feeling. 

It is for that reason that I decided that life has been a bit overwhelming of late. Not only have I had various things to deal with in the many facets of my life, I’d also taken on multiple personal projects, writing, creating, trying to change career completely and even managing to get a spot volunteering for 2 weeks at one of the best advertising agencies in the UK. 

But it was all too much and I had no respite. Eventually, I broke. 

So I stopped. I stopped everything. I downsized the sheer amount of information I had to deal with. I downsized the external influences I was exposed to. We’re not designed to be bombarded by so much. I took all the pressure off from doing anything and decided that I would only deal with what I could manage. I’d discovered the hard way that I had limits. Who was I impressing anyway? No one. What was I trying to prove apart from trying to abate my own insecurities and worries? I just did myself harm by trying to do too much and berating myself when I was struggling. 

We have to show ourselves compassion and there are times when it is acceptable to say, “No,” to things; always listening to yourself and how you feel. It’s self preservation. Sometimes it means making tough decisions but for your own benefit because you are the most important person in your life. You have to protect yourself from harm. 

So I stopped writing comedy and stopped all the projects I had taken on. I found balance again and said no to a few things to alleviate the pressure. I don’t follow the news much because it’s negative. I have left Facebook which is so liberating. I don’t need to spend hours of my life scrolling through people’s online personas and cat videos. It’s too much info to take on. We are not designed to be bombarded by entertainment, advertising, news media from all over the world and Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube. We are fundamentally creatures who are meant to manage our own survival through sourcing food, protecting our loved ones and ensuring we are sheltered from harm. Yes we are advanced enough to enter into social constructs but even that is limited. Know your place in the social hierarchy without the need to know what everyone else in your group is doing, what’s going on with every other group in your area, county, country, continent and beyond. I don’t think it’s healthy to take on so much information.

When I was in a calmer place I was able to exert my energy in a better way, rather than trying to keep multiple plates spinning. 

I’ve since got great job and promotion as a Training & Development Controller. I’m still in the insurance industry but my role is a world away from my previous role. I’m working for Head Office now. Yeah! I’m hanging with the big boys. It’s still early days but I love it. I’ve recently started back at the gym and will soon be the Birmingham equivalent of Wolverine. Maybe more Baldverine. 

I recently ticked another off my bucket list by having a go at stand up comedy. It went better than I could have imagined and I’m being encouraged to keep with it. I will, but at my own steady pace and not what others might expect. Primarily my energy is focused on the new job. 

During this period of illness, I discovered how much easier it was to express myself through writing and how cathartic it can be. My comedy writing is still very important to me and I will still do it when I can, but again, I’m not going to put pressure on myself to produce volume. As for this blog, well, I’m not so much of a young bloke anymore. Still grumpy but not young. So it’s time to say goodbye and continue with the downsizing of external pressures and responsibilities. Time to put the energy elsewhere, taking fewer projects, spending more time looking after myself and more time with Mrs Grump.

So it’s goodbye from me. Thank you for taking the time to read this and follow my blog. I hope it’s made you smile from time to time. 

This week is Mental Health Week in the U.K.  It seems poignant to write honestly and candidly about my own challenges. 

I wish you all the very best and thanks again. 

Dan

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