Sara hates her birthday. Not just for the obvious, cliched reasons that people often say they hate their birthdays like getting older or anything like that. No, for Sara it is much more of an emotional distaste for that day, the mere mention of it is a trigger for her anxiety to swell up.
We were out having a drink before seeing a movie a few months ago and the topic came up and almost as soon as I'd mentioned her birthday I knew it was a mistake as I could see her shrinking into herself. I've got pretty good at spotting the signs of Sara having a tough time and I'd like to think I'm getting better at helping her through it but I couldn't help but want to kick myself for inadvertently causing it to flare up on that occasion.
Since we've been together Sara's birthday has been quite a mixed bag. More often than not we've just spent it together, just the two of us, and it has been really nice. One year we went to Bournemouth, had some good food, some good drinks, went to the aquarium to look at the cute animals and then ended up at the bar she used to work at. We didn't tell anyone down there what we were doing, there was no plan or agenda, if we saw people; great, but if we didn't it was just as good.
One of the biggest causes of Sara's unpleasant feelings toward her birthday is the inevitable phone call from her dad. They don't have the best relationship in the world and the awkward, somewhat forced conversation isn't something she ever looks forward to. The fact that her birthday is always very close to fathers day doesn't really help that either.
The year that should have been the best birthday was almost ruined entirely by that phone call.
We were on holiday at the house my mum and Paul had in the south of France, having a great relaxing week in the sun and had visited the historical city of Caracassone. It was there that I proposed to Sara and, obviously, she said yes. Sure we had to sprint through the town back to the car while getting absolutely soaked but it was great, nothing was getting us down.
Nothing that is until her dad called later on in the afternoon.
When Sara told him about the day there wasn't any congrats or anything, just a poor taste (what I can only assume was intended as a) joke about wether or not he should congratulate or commiserate. Bare in mind that I'd never even met the guy.
Sara let loose on him, I was very proud of her to be honest, normally she would internalise and let it eat at her and there was still some of that, but she let him have it and I think it landed. While they haven't had a magically all fixed relationship since it does appear to me that there has been a slight bit more effort made. Slightly.
But it still niggles at her around this time of year every year.
Another reason that Sara gets anxious as the day approaches is the simple fact that for years she used to make plans to go out and meet up with friends only for most, if not all, to not be able to make it or say they will and then no show.
The first group, while sucky, at least they've let her know. It is right in the middle of festival season and a lot of her friends go away for those every year. The others though, the no shows, I have no good words to say about. Especially the repeat offenders.
Last year I planned for us to go away to London for the weekend and we had a lovely time. I had also planned for some of her closest friends, who were available, to come out for drinks with us in town. She caught on to this when it was getting toward time for us to head out and that's what she got anxious and really upset. It was tough, but eventually she did come out and while it took a little while for her to feel like herself her friends who were there were all great and we all had a lot of fun and ended up dancing the night away to early 2000's pop punk.
So this year, I've got her presents already sorted and am working on her actual birthday so the weekend leading into it I've got plans but only involving us and nothing that is pre-booked, just ideas for things to do that we can do if we feel like it but don't have to if she's not feeling it and just wants to cuddle up on the sofa.
I think that will be the best plan. I've also got her a great present so ya know, it think it'll be good regardless!