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It. Pod squad, there's something we need to ask you to do today that would mean so much to us. And that is take 30 seconds to make sure you're following this show. This weird thing happened with the apple updates, and it's kicked a lot of people out of the pod squad. They've been paused. And so we need you to make sure you're not paused.


I was. I mean, I was paused out of my own pod.


I know you are.


So to check to see if this happened to you Apple listeners, listen up. Open your podcast app search. We can do hard things and select the show page. In the top right corner, you may see a pause symbol. Tap the pause symbol to resume, please. If you see a download symbol, you can go to the settings and automatically download episodes. And if you see a plus symbol, please tap to follow the show.


So if you do this, the new episodes just come up in your feed. And this is really helpful to you because you never miss an episode. It's also really helpful to us. It actually matters to us when you listen to the pod. It makes a big difference. So thank you so much. Go to we can do hard things show page on Apple podcasts, Spotify, odyssey, or wherever you listen to podcasts and tap the plus sign in the upper right hand corner or click on follow. And you know what?


Tell your friends, maybe send them a link to your favorite episode or to the show. We love you. We appreciate you so much.


Thank you. Pod squad.


Unpause. Unpause us. Yeah.


Okay. Well, then. What you doing, babe? Why are you screaming like that?


I just had to do a yawn.




I needed to do a yawn.


Ha ha. Okay. What's a yawn? Ha.


You know, sometimes when you're like, yawn, you ever do that? Like, you need to like it out.


Okay. I'm so excited that this is recorded. I just feel like I have been suffering for so long with Abby's need to make every bodily function terrifying. Like, the sneeze would register on the Richter scale with how loud it is and even the yawn, which is like a quiet thing, and then there's like an animal scream after.


It's not a quiet thing for it.


That's right.


This is a thing in our marriage that isn't going to change. This is what we're going to keep doing until we're dead.




This is the only area of my marriage in which I've been able to actually achieve radical acceptance.


Well, that's good. So who's loud? Who's the loud sneeze.


Oh, John, sneeze is so loud that I feel like there's no way he's not making that up.


That's what she thinks. Think. I think they think it's performative, but I promise not.


It's not. Our marriage was in real shaky ground one day on a plane where Bobby was a baby and I was having like a panic attack because he was bawling and we were flying on an eight hour flight. Bawling, balling, bawling. We hadn't even taken off yet. And I was like, this is going to be 8 hours of this. He was an infant and I had finally gotten him to sleep and it was like a full body experience of anxiety for me. And I was holding him and my whole body was tense. I was holding him the most uncomfortable position because that was the only way I could get him to not be screaming. And as soon as he fell asleep, John sneezed.




And he woke up and I was.


Like, this is your child paperwork. Yeah. This is your child now. Forever. Wow.


And then you feel crazy because you're like you can't do anything to control that, allegedly. But I feel like you can.


I feel like you can too. No, you can. Scary.


I'm telling you, we can control it. I have done it. When I'm out in public, I'm like this. I swallow it.


Oh, so I should have filed that day because no would have done.


My eyeballs are about to pop out of my face.


Well, so were mine. I was holding a baby for 8 hours basically with my body upside down.




This isn't neither here nor there.


It is here and there is where it is and everywhere. What I do, because I am not a very good person, is that I blatantly withhold my God bless use when the sneezes are too loud.


Are you kidding me?


No. I can't believe you haven't noticed. I will not say God bless you to a loud sneezer. I hope that the ancient teachings are right and that's where the devil gets right in your body. And that's what I do. I do not bless the devil out of your body. If you're going to be so loud as to instill the fear of God in me, then I'm going to hope the devil sneaks right in during that sneeze.


Oh my God, that is really embarrassing. I'm bad, I feel embarrassed for you.


Okay, so if you're having a bad day, karma is my boyfriend. Okay? Feeling a little possessed?




That's because I did not. Bless you.


Yeah, it's the back to school.


I assumed you knew that the karma was coming back to you, Glenn.


Oh, no. Karma is a cat on my lap.


We're having a moment in our family like the back to school. Everything has been wild.


We are so mad at each other. Everyone in our house is mad at.


Each other, but the kids don't really know it. But I'm like seething.


So, apropos of nothing, what we have decided to come together today and discuss is something that the pod squad has been calling in and requesting as a topic for a long time. And it is because it is something that happens to all of us every single year, and it is something that causes all kinds of complicated feelings inside of us. If the emails stop yawning, am I keeping you awake?


No yawning. It's contagious to me. Then I'm yawning and then I'm making.


It contagious to her and we're just.


Yawning back and forth.


Did you yawn?


Did you yawn a palooza?


I'm trying to record a podcast.


I can't stop thinking about it, so I'm doing it. It's contagious.


So what we're talking about is birthdays and all of the complicated feelings that birthdays bring up in us each year. We have figured it out. We have figured out exactly why birthdays are so complicated and difficult for a lot of us. And I believe that by the end of this podcast, you will have some ideas about how to make your birthday less sucky. Yeah, I think we're going to fix birthdays today. What do you all think? Or are you too bored to answer?


I don't think we're going to fix birthdays. We're going to talk about birthdays. That's for sure what we're going to do.


All right.


I'm going to try really hard not to sing it's your birthday.


No, you're not going to sing 50 cent on our podcast.


Is that 50 cent?




Get busy.


Okay. No, that's not even in the song. Get busy.


It's your birthday.


We're going to party like it's your birthday. We're going to drink Bacardi like it's your birthday. We don't give a fuck because it's your birthday. Like that. All right. I think it's interesting that one of the reasons why I started my friendship journey in the last season, where I'm trying to gather and invest in and work on my friendship life is because it was kind of catalyzed by a birthday.


Catalyzed is a word.


Catalytic converter.


Oh, cool, cars. Thank you. I got that.


Okay. One of my birthdays, a couple of years ago, I woke up. March 20 is my birthday. And I had a lot of birthday messages from pod squatters and people on the interwebs. But the whole day, from beginning to end, I got four texts from people outside of my family. Four people, four real, live people, remembered it was my birthday and reached out.


To say happy birthday.


And I was, like, ill. That feels, like, really bad. And I sat with it for a while, and then I realized that, in fact, karma is my boyfriend. And if you never write back or call anyone or invest in other people, then they will not invest in you. It was a birthday because birthdays feel like some kind of big day where the whole life of you is tested and spotlit and put into contrast. It's like a referendum on your life. That's how a birthday can feel. That's one reason why birthdays are hard. What do you think, Ceci?


I think on a surface level, it's sort of like New Year's Eve, where we think all this magic is going to happen and things are going to be new and fresh and there's going to be some kind of revelation, but there's usually not. Like you, Glenn, think that because of all of your hope and faith in the world, that Abby will stop sneezing loud. We think, in spite of ourselves and in spite of all evidence to the contrary, like, a birthday is going to have all these magical things that it hasn't had before. And then when it doesn't, it feels sad. It does feel like this referendum that is quantifiable. I got four texts.




That is basically a performance evaluation of where I stand in the world, my popularity or my lovability or my worthiness. That if we have these criteria that we've met, like, a lot of people celebrating us, a lot of people reaching out to us, that means something. And if it doesn't, then we feel like we've failed. That's, like, at a surface level. But then I think at a deeper level, there's this whole idea of birthdays, where we rarely take any moments to look at the state of things, and birthdays are kind of a forced moment to do that. And on the deeper level, it's like you're asking, like, do I matter?




Does my being born matter? Am I seen by anyone? Am I known by anyone? Am I celebrated for who I am? Am I loved it's kind of like this is the moment that I get those answers, even though I haven't asked those questions. Maybe yes. There's this kind of underlying expectation that those answers will be delivered to you on that day. And if they're not, then the answer is no.


And it's like a forced stillness. It's like for the rest of the days, we can busy up and conjure up our own worthiness. We can make it so we can call the people. We can show up. We can do the email. We can busy ourselves up and reach outward to prove to ourselves that we are important and loved and whatever. But on our birthday, it's like this different posture where we just have to sit there and wait. If other people reach out to us, like we can't put ourselves in their lives, we have to see if they care enough about us to leave their own lives and reach out to us sitting in our house.


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I have a complicated relationship with birthdays because being the youngest of a huge family when I was really young, you know, they do the big celebrations and then as you get older, because I was the youngest, we would just celebrate a birthday during dinner. Like, that's what we did.


Did you get to pick your meal?


I did. I always chose marinated steak for some reason. That was my favorite growing up. But I feel like we're setting our adult selves up for real failure. Yes, because these huge parties are thrown for us when we're children, and then as we get older, they stop. They go away. At least that was the case for me. And I feel like it's kind of sad because we're getting older by one year every year, and there's an existential dread that's happening, like, oh, I'm getting older. And then we get celebrated in many ways. Like, less and less as we get older. And so it's kind of this sad hope for younghood.




Interesting. It's like all nostalgic. Nostalgic can make us sick. Okay, so if you really think about how we've set up birthdays for ourselves in our culture, we have made a pile of things that drive us nuts, that actually make human beings miserable. So birthdays are based on, number one, expectations. We have these idea that's just hidden from everyone else of what we hope will happen or we think should happen or we expect should happen based on this or that or that.


Oh, our secret expectations.


Our secret expectations. Expectations are just, as we all know, they're just resentment killer waiting to happen. Right? So expectations are a nightmare. That's what birthdays are based on. Number two, they're based on comparisons. The more I think about it, everything is comparison. Today is my birthday. I am today comparing myself to everybody else who had a birthday this year, who posted on instagram, who has 20 friends where I have two, who has this cake where I have this one. I'm comparing myself not only to other people, but myself last year. Like, did all the things happen this year that I thought would. I'm comparing myself to where I thought I would be at this age? Like, when I was young, I was 47. I had this. I had this. I had this.


Didn't you think when you were young, 47 was, like, almost dead?


Yeah, for some people it is.


Yeah. So comparison, expectations, comparison. Then. Existential dread. The big three of things that drive human beings mad, and they are all centered on our birthday. I think a lot of people would say it's getting older that makes me upset every year. That's just existential dread. That is one thing that I actually don't have. Every time there's an anxiety or a worry or a misery that I don't have, I just want to say it because it makes me so happy.


Yeah. You're not weird.


No. This is my theory. I had a really rough go of it as a young person because of addiction and all the things. So my life keeps getting better the older I get. I just keep being happier because the beginning was rough for me, so I would never want to be younger. I wouldn't go back for all the money in the world. But you, sister, I think you do. Have you told me that you have some worry each year about aging or.


We've talked about this on other episodes, about horizon living, where I love to live in the future. I love projects and planning and building. I think I've mentioned the time before where I had, like, a complete breakdown when the man told me that we had just purchased the last boiler we'd ever need for the house. And that was my existential moment, because I was like, what do you mean, the last of anything? There's not going to be more boilers, there's not going to be endless plans. There's not going to be endless building. That, for me, was just more about coming from a place of what makes me giddy is like, the possibilities are endless. Let's plan our way to heaven. We're just going to make projects and plans and do them. And really, the making of the plan and the project is what gets me excited. So I think, as I look just at numbers, I think, oh, actually, the projects are, in fact, not endless. And the possibilities are not endless. The possibilities are, best case scenario, four more decades. That is a finite number of projects. And if you're always living into the projects, like, what happens when there's nothing left to plan for at the end, when there's no ramp to the next thing you're building, then that really freaks me out, because it makes me think, oh, I don't want to get to the place where there's no more on ramp to a project and figure out that I've done it all wrong, that it, in fact, was never about the project, it was about the being there.


So I think I've had a different relationship with just time because of that. I'm trying to orient my time more now. And I think also my life has been changed by I'm walking my dear friend through the end of her life right now, and she is 47, which is why when you said 47 is almost dead, I was like, yeah, 47 is almost dead for some of us. And I think that has just changed. It sounds cliche, but I think it's true that it's just kind of changed. My feeling of any year we have is so freaking lucky. And it's a luck. I mean, you call it blessing. It's blessing if you call it. But my friend Wendy is more worthy of blessings than anyone I know. And that's her story. And so I feel like, so lucky. And it's just kind know. We talked to Andrea Gibson, and they were talking about how it just changed their whole view of their body. Instead of trying to make it correct, being just so deeply grateful for it. It's right in front of my face. She has a child the same age as my child, and it could just be different.


Anyone could find out in a hot minute that you got six months, you got a year. And so it just feels so supremely silly than to have angst. Yeah.


Going to the Andrea thing, it's like they said, megan said that Megan had spent so much time hating her body and worrying about the shape of her body. And then one day Andrea said, because Andrea had been diagnosed with cancer, and Andrea said, I just so badly want to have a body. And it's like, on our birthdays, we're like, I want this different kind of life. I want a different life. I want it to be different. And instead of being like, I'm just so grateful to have a life.




And I like what you said about the blessing versus luck thing. I just so reject every time someone says, I'm so blessed because of this or that. I know everyone's saying it with good intentions, but it's confusing because it's like, oh, so then the other person's like, if you're blessed to have your health, then what is my like? God was less excited to bless them.


I like, I'm grateful. Yeah, I'm grateful because then it doesn't matter the source. It's like, if you're grateful, and by the way, Wendy is more grateful for her life than anyone I know currently right now, in this moment. So it doesn't mean just because you're blessed or lucky doesn't mean you're grateful. Blessed out of your mind, totally, deeply ungrateful for your life.


That's right.


Just being grateful is probably what we should be.


Well, let's look at the list that we were talking about of the things that make us miserable on our birthdays expectations. The opposite of that is gratitude for whatever's here comparison. The opposite of that is gratitude. Existential dread, fear of what will be. Opposite of that is gratitude for what is now. So it looks like everything that makes us miserable on our birthday could be fixed, undone if we focused completely on gratitude for whatever is.


And that's also very hard. Of course, it's not the way of things, except in moments, so it's hard to sustain that. But I think it's interesting, because the reverse of that is, if you have people in your life that you're grateful for, why aren't we able to make them feel our gratitude and make them feel like they matter to us? If everyone's out there having very confused feelings on their birthday, why aren't we able to transmit our gratitude for the people in our lives to make them feel a little differently.


Is it just because everyone's birthday is everyone else's just normal, hard day of life? It's hard to figure that system out. We don't all get to stop on everyone else's day and tell our kids and our job and our family and our sickness and our whatever that this is Jody's day. It's just a bad, you know, instead of everyone having an individual birthday, if we had, like, an international holiday, which was like, gratitude of people you love day, and we all, on that day agreed that we were going to stop and tell each other whatever, but this June 2 being her birthday and being everyone else's, June 2 is a tricky situation.


Yeah. I'm thinking of what Abby just said about how it's a set up that we celebrate the shit out of kids. It's like a setup to begin with because they've really peaked too early most of their lives. It's going to be a disappointment, but it's interesting to think of it that way. I'm thinking of it from the reverse. I've always said, like, I'm not a birthday person. I don't care. John isn't either. We don't even exchange gifts. We're like, happy birthday, and we're really nice to each other on our birthdays. So I'm like, I'm not a birthday person, but that's a dirty lie because I'm obsessed with giving my kids really happy, special birthdays. So I'm selectively a birthday person. I'm a birthday person to the little people, but not to me. And so I wonder if the question isn't, like, maybe we need to stop hyping them up so much because it's a letdown and more like, is there a world in which everyone deserves to be celebrated? Like, a child is celebrated, like, stupidly and exuberantly and is that, like, the ache we have?


Yeah. And maybe we don't get it all year. Maybe most people feel unseen and unloved all year, and then on their birthday, they're like, at least this day, please.




And then it's also kind of like this resentment, like, just one fucking day. Are you kidding me?


And then you feel like people don't even get that right. I always think of that scene from the bear where Jamie Lee Curtis is in the kitchen freaking out, and she's like, I make things beautiful for everyone, and no one makes things beautiful for me. And it was a wild scene, but I think about that all the time. That. That is a caregiver's internal mantra. Do you guys have any good memories or stories about birthdays?


When I was in second grade, I was at this school, and I remember my mom showing up at our school on my birthday with friendly's little ice cream cups. You know, the ones that had the spoon?


Oh, yeah.


It was like high quality treats. And I remember we were all going out to the playground, and she walked up and she had 20 of these friendly cups in this brown bag. And I remember looking at my mom and being so proud that that was my mom and so proud to be able to hand each one of my classmates one of these friendly cups. And we sat on the side of the playground, and we ate our ice cream. And then we played on the playground for a little while.


Oh, that's so good.


I don't have many memories of my childhood, but that was a really good day.


I just love the little things about birthdays. So in our family, we always start everyone's birthday with breakfast in bed. Even now, if the kids are at our house, Craig comes over at, like, 06:00 a.m. All bleary eyed with his coffee, and we all hang out outside the hallway of whoever's birthday it is. And then we start singing and walk into the bedroom. And when they were little, they'd wake up, and their eyes would be all big, and they'd be soaked. And now they're teenagers, and they're like. But they would be so upset if we didn't do it. And then we sing Happy Birthday, and then we have our annual family argument about the birthday song because I insist that the birthday song is done wrong because it sounds like a dirge.


It's like, what's a dirge?


A funeral song. It's like, happy birthday.


To. What do you think?


I just start it, and I pick up the tank bell.


We're walking in their bedroom, and it's also like a wake up song. So. Happy birthday to you happy birthday to you happy birthday, dear chase happy birthday to you.


Right? Which is better and sounds better and sounds like we're happy you were born and we're not sad you were born. And also, it just takes too long the other way. So I have been on a long mission to change the birthday song. Tish, last year, or a couple years ago, said, mom, could you stop it? Just stop it. And I said, what? Why? I'm making it happy. And she said, do you think it's possible that it's long because that person gets a moment like that person gets to stand there while everyone is looking at them and they get to take it in that it's a purposely beautifully long. And I was, huh?


Do you want to know why it's actually long?




It's because it was made by a kindergarten teacher named Mildred Hill. And it was actually first good morning to all. And it used to be how she greeted her class every day. Good morning to all. Good morning to all. And so she actually would do that with her whole class and her whole class loved it so much that they started using it at their birthday parties and changing the words. And then it was put into a Broadway show in 1931, and Mildred and her sister Patty sued the shit out of the Broadway show, and they got the copyright to the song because it was theirs. And since then, the Guinness Book of World Records has the song as one of the top three most songs sung in America. And the hill estate still gets $2 million in royalties every year.




For that song, the copyright expires in 2030.


Oh, that is so amazing.


That's amazing. Who's going to get that copyright, Mildred?


They go public because you can't control copyrights forever. But that's a really long time. The hills are rolling.


Are doing it.




Question, do you feel like you've always been a little let down on your birthday? Like, the birthday hasn't hit your expectations? And so is this, like, a source of. I'm never going to remember it.


Not as an adult. I just remember always feeling like, I don't like this, and I don't know why or how. I just remember feeling like, you have the birthday party and then your friends come over, and then you feel like they're guests. So your mom has to be nicer to them, has to be like, pay attention to them, and there's all people all around, and then you can't win your own game. You have to be all polite. I would rather not have everyone else to deal with.




That's been a theme.


It just feels like a lot.


Do you know what I think is interesting? Is the origin of it. And I hate to do this, you all, but I'm going to.


No, please do interesting. I'm very interested in it.


Okay, so the first birthday recorded ever is 3000 BC. It was the pharaoh's birthday. And the whole idea is that when pharaohs were crowned gods, they were birthed. So it wasn't the birth of a person, it was the birth of a God.




So kind of like Christmas, right? When you think about it, celebrate that but the ancient Greeks, the reason they celebrated birthdays outside of just the pharaohs were they believed that every person who was born had either a protective spirit or a demon present at your birth. And so the same spirit every year on the anniversary of your birth. It was kind of this liminal space where it was like the closest that you would get to either that protective spirit or that demon would come and be with you.




So the whole idea of birthday parties and the candles and all of it was because it was celebrating your birthday. You were recognizing the closeness of the spirit. And so friends and family would come to try to protect you from the spirit and that they would bring, like, good cheers and wishes. And the candles and the wishes were because the Greeks believed that smoke helped carry messages to gods. So when you blow out the candles, you're sending your wishes. That's the whole birthday wish. That's the whole, like, we are sending our wishes skyward to the gods and we are calling protection on this person.




Because we know the spirits are near on the birthday.


I think we know that in our bones. And that is why birthdays take us close to the ache.


Yes, birthday.


Close to whatever it is that the swirly purple and black sequency. Swirly cliff, we're right next to. We're right next to that thing and the ache. It's life and death and God and spirit and we're all going to die and we're all going to be taken from each other and we just have this one brief moment of life. And on our birthday we are there with it. And we want people around us to block us from the ache to keep us in this dimension. And when we're alone, we feel everything because we are right next to the ache, the spirit, they thought originally alone. And that is why birthdays are fucking a lot.


To me, it makes sense. It's like, why people are like, I don't know, it's my birthday. And I just keep crying and I don't really know why. And I feel so many feelings, whether it's like the spirit thing or it's the recognition, holy shit, I was born and I'm going to die. All of that is a very mystical, wild kind of transcendence from the every day that we're in that makes us look at that for a hot minute. And it's a lot. And the other thing that I think is super interesting about it. So we have all those ancient folks then when christian tradition becomes very prevalent, the christian tradition said x nay on the birthday because the whole idea of birth was the recognition of original sin. So we absolutely do not celebrate birthdays. Very, very bad.


Because the Christians were like, turns out we're rotten, we're bad. We will not celebrate it because we are evil when we're born.


Well, because we're celebrating divinity, right. We're not celebrating sin. And so when the original sin that comes, that's nothing to be celebrated. You were born into original sin. That's not great. We're not celebrating that. We are celebrating divinity. We're celebrating Christ's birth.


Because every party needs a pooper. That's why we invited the christians.


Party poopers.


Party poopers.


But very interestingly, it's only been since, like, the 1880s that the average american celebrated a birthday. That's really, what, like, 150 years? It all had to do with time, which is this whole other thing that I think is fascinating. When you take the existential ache and then you add on this illusion of chronological time and progress and smoosh those together, that's when our brains explode. Pre industrial revolution, people didn't have clocks. People didn't have watches. The whole concept of time and passage of time wasn't even a thing. But then in the 19th century, we started getting pocket watches. And so this was the first thing that made it possible to even constantly know what time it was. And that's exactly when lives started to be run by schedules, like factory schedules and streetcars and all the things that started to dominate. You had to know what time it was to get through the day that became institutionalized. This whole idea of comparison that you're talking about, that's when we started separating students into grades by age and being like, you're ahead, you're behind, you're ahead, you're behind, right? That's when doctors started to say, like, these are the age metrics, and we're tracking your development, and you're not okay.


And you are okay. And that's exactly when folks started celebrating birthdays. And it seems this whole idea of, like, are you on time or are you late? This is part of our angst around birthdays, right? I'm 30, I'm not married. I'm 40. Am I going to be able to have a kid? All the things that are like, time, time, and I'm late. That's all because we started to get in touch with this idea of time as this thing that we were keeping up with.


Yeah. And like a commodity. Are we spending it right or not? It's something that belongs to us, that we make decisions about as opposed to, it's something that we belong to.


Something to monetize, too.


Birthday. Yeah. So I wonder, is there a way to approach our own birthdays with the limited time we have left on this earth in a way that makes them more satisfying, in a way that avoids expectations, comparison, making it a referendum on our life? We had three friends over last night, actually, to celebrate one of their birthdays. And it was just a very simple, lovely talking on the couch dinner. And then at the end, we all sat down and I had a little notebook, and we talked about Deb's just kind of like intentions and hopes and dreams for the next year and together. And we wrote them all down. And it was really beautiful because as her friend, now I know what she is dreaming of for the next year. I know so much of what's in her heart and what she values and wants. And so now I feel like it's not just about next year, finding out if it all came true. It's about knowing what to check in with her, about knowing what's real for her.


And if she does get one of those wins or one of those desires, she'll be able to come to us and it will be this beautiful moment.


Yeah. And it's not just like a secret wish. I think it's so weird, the birthday wish that we have to keep secret. And then some of us are so superstitious that I'll speak for myself every time I'm making a secret birthday wish and my family's all around me, I want to wish for something for myself, but then I'm like, oh, God, I got to wish everybody stays happy and healthy again, because if I don't, I'm a bad mom. So then I have to spend that on my wish every year, and I.


Kind of wish wander. Your wish on the health and happiness and your family.


Exactly. I just think caregivers should get two wishes. But what do you think are some ideas to go into our own birthdays without falling into the pitfalls of what makes us sad on our birthdays?


I think that one of the things that I try to do is to explain the things I really want to do on my birthday and the things.


I don't want to do that's good.


For instance, we talk about this like, a month before both of our birthdays, and usually it's like we are foregoing any material item that we will be handed as a gift. Because the real truth is both of us just want to go. Just the two of us, somewhere different than here.


We always want it to be an experience. And that's another way of avoiding the pitfall of the secret test. I think people use their birthdays as a secret test. Will the other person figure out what I actually want and give it to me the way I want it? And then the secret test. Birthday has never worked for anyone.


But we do have those conversations telling what you want really important, not only in terms of the general idea of a gift, because it's like, hey, is there something you're thinking about that you want? Usually we both say we want some sort of experience, and then it's like, what do you want to do on your birthday? And honestly, this last year, I just said I want to do what I do every day. Like, I want to wake up, I want to work out. I want to hang out with you. If we do some work, cool, doesn't matter. I just want to have, like, a calm, quiet night with you all. That is the perfect day.


But that's an expectation that we talk about first. Because if you don't know the person, you could think that they want to party. Or you could think that then that person's miserable all day.


So clearly we did that to Allison once. Yeah, the assumptions make an ass out of yourumption. It's like that rote. Like, what would a good friend do? And then you do that thing without regard to what the actual person would want. And so one year, we gave Allison a surprise birthday party.


God, have you ever met Allison?


Exactly. I don't know what it was. Thoughtlessly, apparently. I don't know. It was the stupidest thing one could possibly do. And she was miserable and hated every minute of it. And if the question is, am I known?




Am I seen and am I loved? She undoubtedly was like, well, that's a no on all three of those, because why did you throw me a surprise birthday party? So there isn't just a birthday party. It's like that person's birthday. What would that person want? Some people want to be left alone so they can have a bath. And some people probably want a big thing. I do think there is something to this question of if you are getting the assurance throughout the year that you are known and loved and seen and that you matter, then maybe it does take off the pressure of the birthday. And so my feeling about how to make birthdays less miserable is try to make sure that you're getting that more throughout the year, that it isn't like, famine, famine, famine. And you're expecting a feast on your birthday. But try to say what you want and need and do things that you want and need more often throughout the year rather than waiting for the inevitable birthday letdown, because that's too much pressure on a birthday and it also is never going to satisfy you. And then that takes this huge magical need on a birthday down a notch.


And then I think also just like, be aware that the spirits are and the angst are with you and that the tyranny of time has its spotlight on you during that time. And that's a very tricky time. I mean, we now say happy birthday and expect everyone to be happy. I mean, the ancient Greeks were like, there is a demon coming to get you on this day and so we have to come around and protect you from the demon. I think maybe it's what the expectation is.


Good point. We say happy birthday. That is aggressive. That is, you must be happy on your birthday. We have tied happy and birthday together inextricably with that one song. I don't know. Now I'm side eyeing Mildred.


Yeah, but hold on.


Mildred did not write happy birthday.


She wrote good morning to all.




That's what you start saying on people's birthday, good morning to all or birthday.


Birthday to you.


Or you say, I'm going to take a shift to protect you from the demons. That's what she said.


That's so interesting to me. It goes back to all of our holiday talks. Like Christmas, like, is Christmas merry? I don't know, it's just like Christmas to you. It's a complicated.


But isn't the hope that when you wish somebody a happy birthday, isn't that like hope it's a good happy birthday?


Yes, it could be, yeah.


But we're having this conversation because so many people wrote to us and say, why do I keep crying on my birthday? And we're having this conversation because so many people said, I don't know why birthdays are so depressing and anxiety provoking to me. And because the Greeks thought that the demons were coming to get you. So all I'm saying is maybe when we have this idea that your day will be full of celebration, maybe we should switch it to this day is going to be intense and complicated and you're going to have a lot of feelings.


Protect yourself to you.


Protect yourself to you.


That's good.


Maybe a lot of the other days are for celebrating. And then maybe it's just thinking of how can I make people know that they are seen and loved and matter throughout the year? And maybe especially on this day where they're going to be asking themselves that.


Question, am I loved? Am I loved? Am I loved? When we started this podcast, it was all about that idea that the thing that screws us up is the picture in our heads of how things are supposed to be. It's not that your birthday is a lot that's the problem or that you have big feelings. It's that you have big feelings on your birthday and you have this picture in your head of how a birthday is supposed to be, and the distance between those two is the problem.


That's good.


So I think what we're doing is what we're always doing on this podcast is just examining the picture in our head of how it's supposed to be so that we can at least let go of the shame that we're experiencing the day differently than the picture that everyone puts in front of us. That it is a lot for all of us. We just didn't know that it was because of the closeness of the spirits, which now we do. Let's hear from Laura.


Hi, my name is Laura. Today is my 27th birthday, and I'm filling it with all of my favorite things. So far, we've gotten coffee, breakfast, sandwiches, watched James Fonda movies, and, of course, listened to the new week and do hard things episode. I hate phone calls almost as much as Glenn hates texting and leaving a voicemail. Seems so embarrassing. But I told myself this was the year I'm going to do all the things if they make me uncomfortable. So here I am. I want to express gratitude to all three of you. Life is really fucking hard and beautiful and confusing, but you three bring me, along with countless others, so much joy and comfort. I relate to each of you in so many ways, and there are truly no words to express how thankful I am to be invited into your conversations every week. This is such a weird age, and I literally have no clue what I'm doing. But I think that's okay. Just thank you for making being alone feel a little less lonely. I'm sending all three of you so much love, and thank you for creating such a safe space to land every week.


I love you so much.


Oh, Laura, come on with that. 27 is a tough birthday.


They all are, because you just don't.


Know what the fuck you're doing. Nobody knows.


Laura might know, you guys. She started with, it's my birthday, and I'm filling it with all of my favorite things.


So good.


She didn't say, I'm waiting for somebody to come fill it with my favorite things, right?




And then she's doing gratitude. She's making goals for herself. She said she doesn't know what the hell she's doing, but she thinks that's okay. I think Laura knows everything and she understands that being lonely and being alone are two different.


Ah, such a weird age. And I literally have no clue what I'm doing. Evergreen ditto all the ages forevermore.




We are just going to try to find something we're grateful for and put down our expectations and.


Love ourselves.


Put ourselves more in the way of people who show us that we are loved and that we matter more throughout the year. And then on our birthdays, we're going to light a bunch of candles and protect ourselves.


Chant and shit. And if nobody's told you today, listen to me. You are loved. You are loved. We will see you next week.


Between the time we recorded this episode and when it aired, we lost wendy. Her life was a blessing to everyone she touched, and her 47th birthday party celebrated with everyone she loved at the Indigo Girls concert at Wolftrap. Belting out our anthems of joy and grief was the best birthday party and most sacred celebration of life that I've ever been a part of. I will never again mark my own birthday without remembering that night and Wendy's gratitude for life and without remembering how lucky I am to be alive. Because it's only life, after all.


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