It was my birthday. A special day, all about me. I woke up to the joyous sounds of my three children playing downstairs. I rolled over and saw my peacefully sleeping husband beside me. Most mornings I am grateful, but today I was annoyed. My annoyance triggered an internal conversation that went something like this: “It’s my birthday. I can’t believe I am the one who has to get up. My two-year-old can’t feed herself!”. . . pause, pause, fester, fester . . . “If he’s lying here, he must have prepared something last night, a beautifully set table or something, because this is what you do when you love someone.” Fester, fester . . .
I chose not to wake him. I walked downstairs and was greeted with loving happy birthday wishes from my three faves. I was loved. My feeling of being loved stopped suddenly as I walked into the kitchen. No beautifully set table. No trace of birthday anywhere, except for what I concluded was Shoppers Drug Mart’s midnight help-my-wife’s-birthday-is-tomorrow-and-I’ve-done-nothing-about-it box of chocolates and a card.
I was disappointed. With a flick of a switch my feelings changed and I was back to being annoyed and angry. I was very committed to telling myself stories about how unthoughtful my husband was, and that this was a demonstration of him taking me for granted. I would never be so uncaring. Breakfast in bed or a morning celebration is what you do for someone when you love them.
He eventually strolled into the kitchen and his timing was perfect. I had already served the kids and had put things away—on MY birthday morning! He was smiling and wished me a loving and affectionate birthday wish. He sat down to eat his breakfast and to read the paper. Watching him fuelled the fire of resentment and negative thoughts thundering through my head.
Wow, was I angry! The overall theme of my stories rolling through my mind was that he doesn’t appreciate or value me. This was evident by his sleep-in, the last minute chocolates, and the card laying on the table. All of this anger before 8 a.m. What a way to start my birthday.
I was consumed by my annoyance! Then I stopped. I woke up to the fact that I had a choice. I actually have the power to choose.
I absolutely could have shared my evidence-based and angry stories with him. But why? To feel validated that I am the more caring partner? That I am a better person? This wouldn’t rewind time and enable him to read my mind and do things differently. Nor would it add any value to the flow of the morning. My family’s morning would have been affected by an angry spewing of resentment.
Instead, I took a breath and chose another story. The new story I chose was grounded in what I do know. I know that my husband loves me. I know he’s a deep sleeper. I know he wasn’t aware that I was awake (let alone stewing in my own venom). I know he truly is a thoughtful person, and that he values and appreciates and loves me.
We get to choose the story we are telling ourselves. How we choose to respond. On my birthday, I chose to see the morning from a different perspective—not the angry one, but one that served me and my day. The next time you are annoyed, I challenge you to do the same. Let me know how it goes!