“The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.”
Birthday (noun): [burth-dey]; 1. An anniversary of a birth.
(Verb) 2. The act of celebrating the day of birth.
Yes, a birthday… a day that is ingrained in our minds from the time we were little when balloons are held, cake is indulged in, friends and family come to visit and presents are given. As a child we anticipate this celebration with a list of things we have longed for. Yes, our excitement grows and surprises are planned for the big event and then in a flash it is over and we are left to wait for another year. That is how it all started in my life… Until one day, my Birthday became a day to be forgotten. The candles, like a light in my life, were extinguished, and I never wanted them lit again.
I was born some many years ago and it happened that I arrived on my Grandmother’s birthday. Yes, my Grandmother, a truly gracious, fun and wise woman. I thought it to be quite an honor to celebrate her birthday. She would take the time to bake a homemade cake for the both of us. Our celebration was in the true European tradition and a bit low-key. I never did have a birthday party with friends, but that never bothered me as I didn’t know what I was missing! We would spend the day relaxing and then have cake, coffee and a couple presents. Make no mistake, my parents always tried to give me the very one gift I always longed for. And at the end of the day, my Grandmother would go home and I would go to sleep. This repeated itself until I was 15, which was the last time a birthday occurred….
My Grandmother was why those Birthdays were celebrated. She was a truly remarkable woman and I never even really thought that the celebration was about me… That is, I always wanted to be near her. I would kiss her cheek incessantly. I wanted to be close to her. I wanted any moment to be a part of her life. Her energy was my energy. Her smile was contagious, magnetic, and authentic. Her eyes were true, honest, and relaxing. Her heart was big… oh so big! She was patient and loving… She was fun and always full of laughter. She was daring and fearless… She was generous, giving and gentle…. She listened and heard every word. She deserved every Birthday celebration without any hesitation or doubt. And so, as I grew up, I understood the celebration was to be about her life…as she so deserved! I never really viewed my Birthday as a reason to celebrate. I simply saw this incredible woman and in my mind, the celebration was about her life. It just happened that I would get a couple of gifts from being born on that particular day. It may sound a little odd, but when you have someone so important in your life, it is never about you… That’s not to say, I didn’t enjoy receiving the gifts. Unfortunately the greatest gift I had in my life at the time was quickly taken away, changing EVERYTHING.
The year my Grandmother passed, was a very difficult one. The compass was left uncalibrated, leading many in my family to fall into sadness. Alas, we picked ourselves up and had to move on with life. My birthdays came and went…. came and went… until it really felt like any other day. I didn’t have the desire or understanding of what to really celebrate or be happy about. My family would present some sort of cake and gift. But the essence of what I remember from celebrating my Grandmother’s Birthday, was long-lost and forgotten. So, moving forward, I adopted the continued pattern of not acknowledging the day. Sure, later in life, I have had many close to me make valiant attempts to try to celebrate this particular day, but I was always able to institute those well-honed avoidance skills in trying to thwart their attempts… How can one expect to be celebrated by others when they find no reason to celebrate themselves?
Then this year, I decided it was time… time to understand what is the true significance of a birthday and what would it feel like to celebrate “My” birthday… To really open myself up to understanding why we celebrate. This is where this Quest begins, with the celebration of my Life…
The weekend before my birthday, my friends had texted and said they wanted to go to dinner and celebrate my Birthday. I had the typical reaction when I heard this, as I cringed and thought, “Why?” And that question was quickly replaced with, “Oh, just make them happy…” And so I replied with acceptance, all the while thinking this is just another reason to get together. But then, I quickly had this thought… my friends… my dear friends have taken the time to offer up their night to go with me to celebrate the day I was born. Could this be genuine or was it simply a well-disguised obligation?
My heart wanted to believe that I was really of some importance in their lives… but my mind struggled with the thought that it was just another day…another reason to go to dinner. As I sat at my desk and thought about my response, I looked over at the picture of my Grandmother and thought, “What would she want me to do?” And her contagious smile had me reminding myself that life was meant to be celebrated! So, as quickly as could be, I responded with “Sounds perfect!” Yes, I had actually committed myself to this endeavor and with enthusiasm nonetheless!!! Part of me was excited and the other part not really anticipating what the night would bring! Would I be left feeling like an obligation or would I learn what it means to celebrate my birthday?
It was the night of my Birthday dinner, a few days before the actual date, and I arrived at my friend’s house to find decorations carefully hung and she greeted me with a warm and loving hug. Not unusual for her to do, but today, she made me feel truly appreciated with her greeting. She handed me a glass of champagne and we toasted to my life… Yes, my life, although I wasn’t sure why or what was so significant to celebrate… I toasted and enjoyed the bubbly beverage. One after another my friends arrived with a loving hug to share and bringing a genuine excitement about celebrating my birthday… I was starting to feel something I hadn’t felt in quite some time. I was feeling “Loved” on this day from people who took time out of their lives to be here with me, but more importantly ‘for me’”. Could this be so, or was the champagne playing tricks with my mind?
We arrived to dinner and sat, drank and ate. I looked around the table and saw friends in a way I hadn’t before. I saw them as selfless, giving, loving, caring… genuine, authentic, fun, true friends… We had an incredible time conversing and laughing and I suddenly felt as if I needed something… from them… and so I felt compelled to ask… “What advice could you give to me moving forward from this birthday on?” Their eyes widened and I could hear the heavy sighs as if they were all caught a little off guard. Then they smiled and one by one, they opened their hearts and shared priceless words of wisdom…we started with my good friend to my right. Her response was very simply, “Slow down… enjoy life… all that it has to offer.” Yes, “Slow down”, I thought… she knows me so well. Then my next girlfriend, said, “Focus on what makes you happy because life is too short to not be doing what makes us happy…”, Yes, happiness is the energy that allows us to enjoy life…. Valuable words and she knows just how to say them. My newer friend next to her offered, “Make plans for later in life and plan for the future, because it will arrive sooner than you think.” Yes, the future, of which I never want to think about, or plan for, as I never want to be disappointed that it may never come. Perhaps I should start to think that there will be a future… He hasn’t known me long, but perhaps he sees my oversight. Then my friend next to him offered this, “You have grown so much and have truly lived over the past many months… continue to do that, don’t change, Eat, live and enjoy and have plenty of #3 (an inside joke for enjoying every sexual desire :)” I couldn’t help but smile as that is exactly what I needed to hear… exactly what a good friend would know about me! A newer, but wise friend next to him offered her advice, “Trust in your path and find happiness…” Did I mention she was wise? Yes, I needed to hear that… trust my path and find my happiness… I doubt most of what I see and hear, maybe taking too much time to understand and evaluate if it is genuine, in lieu of trusting and enjoying life. And then a very good friend next to me, offered more of a compliment than advice and he said this, “You really have come far this past year in living and loving life… please don’t stop sharing your journey with the rest of us… we love you and want to see you at your happiest!” Heavy sigh as the tears began to flow… tears of amazement at the wise and loving words I was gifted.
We raised a glass in celebration of my life and the journey that I am on. I looked around at the table and all I could see was love. I was feeling blessed and honored to be with people who wanted to celebrate my day.
The night finally ended after many drinks, good food and fabulous conversations. As I arrived home for the evening I had so many thoughts in my head about all that had transpired, but the one thing that continued to resonate with me was generosity. All of my friends were so generous with their time, their words and the giving of genuine, not obligatory, signs of love. Some I had known for years and others just a short time. But there was no difference in their capacity to give, love and celebrate. It was as if they were directed by their hearts to shower me with such priceless gifts and it flowed without an ounce of hesitation or from a place of obligation. No, they came together out of their own free will and let me know that I had value. I could hear in their words and see in the windows to their souls that they meant every kind thought and action… I can’t remember the last time I felt such outpouring of true love.
It was time to close my eyes for the night and even though it wasn’t my official birthday, it was an important step along this path… I came to the conclusion that every day we should acknowledge others as if it were their birthday… people should be treated kindly, lovingly without obligation or a sense of responsibility. Those feelings should come from our heart and be gifted to the ones we love and care for, whether we have known them for years or days… because we really never know when our last birthday will be celebrated. We never really know whether others are celebrated. My official birthday will now be celebrated…and that is what I am left to wonder… What will my birthday bring?