same time, same place
dear bufffy help line,
my friends just missed my birthday. seriously – no one remembered. i live away from my family, so i spent the whole day alone half expecting everyone to jump out from behind the couch shouting ‘surprise!’ i feel terrible and unloved. and kind of invisible. what should i do? what would buffy do?
So you’re many miles away from the people who have known you since you were very small? Firstly, let me congratulate you on your courage to take the step away from the familiar, and into a new space where people don’t have all that history with you. It’s great, isn’t it? It means you get the chance to be more fully the person you’ve wanted to be – to tell people who you really are, or want to be, and have them respond to you – the real you. Unfortunately this works both ways… And here’s where we might find Buffy helpful.
Let me just plunge into this one, and suggest you have a look at episode 3, Same Time, Same Place in Season 7 where Willow finally returns from her time in England, in order to help Buffy and the rest of the crew fight the final big bad. She’s not sure she’s ready, and has a lot of fear around returning that focuses on how her friends might respond to her. And Buffy, Xander and Dawn are trying to be honest with themselves about it – they have a lot of ambivalence themselves.
So, she gets off the plane, and they’re not there. They wait for the plane, and she never disembarks. But as it turns out, they’re on some kind of split-reality, where each of them is unable to see the other. It also sets up some awkward proof-of-insanity moments for the tortured Spike, who tries to talk to both groups, but enough of that.
The point of this is that it’s not until Willow is in genuine trouble, and fearing for her life, that she reaches out to someone less involved – Anya – for what she needs. Anya realises what’s happened, and everyone focuses on the important stuff – the demon who paralyses and eats skin – in order to save Willow.
Okay, here’s the thing – you’re Willow. You’ve had the chance to re-write yourself, but it’s not always going to be non-stop positive experiences. Sometimes these people in your life aren’t going to see you, or what you need from them, because you’ve hidden yourself.
It’s your birthday. And when people haven’t seen you through every birthday you’ve had, they don’t always know what you want. Birthdays can be an awkward time, full of ambivalence, and often clouded with negative experiences. And there’s a good chance the people you love have picked up on your ambivalence. And they’re trying to respect it, by responding with their own, with allowing you to ignore it.
If you want a celebration, you need to ask for it. Why not have your own post-birthday drinks / dinner / picnic? Tell these people, without chastising them, that you all misunderstood one another, and this is the time for birthday love. After all, a birthday is really just an excuse to celebrate you. And that can only happen if you show them who you are, and what you want.
Have a wonderful un-birthday!