My Birthday Present To Me; A Brand New License Plate
This Saturday I will be 47. As a child I always looked forward to celebrating my birthday; the presents, the cake, the parties, really what more could a kid ask for? Once I had my own children my focus shifted to them and wanting to see that they got the same in return; the presents, the cake, the parties, all of it and more. I always loved planning their birthday parties especially coming up with a fun new theme each year and sometimes I even went so far as to create my own unique loot bag for all of their friends as a keepsake; doing so from scratch. Those days have long since faded away and although they still want the presents and the cake, their party themes have sorrowfully veered away from Elmo and Dora The Explorer to Coors Lite and Vodka.
I had never really concerned myself with the thought of what birthdays truly represent which is a basic acknowledgment that you are getting older. I guess a big part of why I never fretted over my age much as I was growing up was perhaps because as the baby in my family I longed to be older so I could do more of the things my brother got to do first. I also consider that another reason age was never such a big deal to me the older I got (when I turned 30 and 40 I didn’t even bat an eyelash) was due to the fact that I don’t look my age at all and never have (just ask the concerned bridal consultants when I was dress shopping for my wedding), or maybe it’s simply that I married a guy who’s almost nine years older than me!
Over the last few years however the significance of birthdays and getting older has impacted my mental wellness considerably. Birthdays are supposed to be a happy occasion filled with celebration and hopefully a day for being pampered and spoiled by your loved ones, but instead nowadays as that day approaches for me I begin to feel more anxious and sadder. Birthdays, although considered to be a happy occasion can also cause us to reflect, well at least they do for me. Turning a whole year older now signifies another year that I am still battling with depression and anxiety, another year of reflecting on the ‘what if’s’, the regrets and the missed opportunities. They are all neatly wrapped together in a tiny little box with a beautiful pink bow on top just like that birthday present you once longed for except this time as you tear away the layers of wrapping paper you are hoping it has a gift receipt attached to it because all you can see inside that box now are the ‘what ifs, the regrets and the missed opportunities.
This past weekend seemed to add further fuel to that growing fire. Every year about six weeks before your birthday you receive a notification in the mail as a reminder that your license plate sticker needs to be renewed (well in Canada that’s how it works at least). This year was a double whammy for me, actually it was more like a quadruple one because I not only needed to renew my license plate sticker which is quite simple and can be done so online, but I also needed to renew my actual license and health card too which for most individuals would not be such a big deal, just time consuming, but for me, well it’s a whole other story.
Needing to renew my license and health cards meant I had to go to the crowded license bureau itself and it also meant I would have to have my picture taken, yup just a few of the 100’s of things that would cause my anxiety to soar through the roof, driving outside my comfort zone nowadays, being alone in crowded rooms and last but definitely not least having my picture taken which I will have to look at for the next five years when all I want to do is erase any memories that represent this fractured part of my life. To help avert part of the problem my husband agreed to take me and although he couldn’t resolve the issue of having my picture taken, he came to my rescue once again.
Over the past few months I have not been able to drive much due to my anxiety and panic attacks and will only do so within my comfort zone, but within that comfort zone I stand out like a sore thumb because for the last 30 plus years I have been driving around with a personalized license plate, and everyone who knows me or has ever known me, knows I’m coming from miles away. It was originally my mother’s plates which my family had given to her as a birthday present over 30 years ago but at some point in my late teens I became the sole owner and operator of her then baby blue Le Baron and the license plate too. I was more than happy to keep the license plate as it was my dog’s name, and once my dog was no longer with us it meant even more, and believe it or not it still does today, however recently having a personalized license plate has been adding to my list of anxieties. It may be difficult for someone to understand who doesn’t suffer from acute anxiety or a severe lack of self-esteem but when all I want to do is hide or drive through the neighbourhood with the least amount of resistance I needed to make that change.
It was by far a much more difficult decision for me than it seemed leading up to that moment as I stood speaking to the customer service representative at the license bureau asking her what I needed to do in order to change my plates. After she finished telling me the simple steps it would take in doing so, she said, ‘so would you like to do this today?’ I hesitated and tears began to stream down my face (yup, that’s how life goes for me), and my husband who was waiting nearby saw my struggle and piped in and said, ‘yes, she would.’
You see it’s those simple and loving nudges I need in my life, the ones that help me look toward my future instead of sticking to my past. I will never let go of that personalized license plate, rust and all, in fact my kids were actually a bit sad when we arrived home with my shiny new plates, so maybe when they buy their first car I will wrap up those plates for them with a beautiful pink bow on top, knowing that they will take as good care of them as I have, but this time there will be no need to attach a gift receipt inside.