Updated: Oct 14
Celebrate yourself and the people who enrich your life
My maternal grandmother was a beautiful woman, but even as a kid, I would get frustrated with Nanny because she put her beauty above her common sense. She refused to tell anyone how old she was. She snipped at people who implied anything about her age at all, and ‘Heaven Forbid’ if anyone asked how old she was. Frequently and fervently, she announced that she wasn’t having any more birthdays.
I didn’t understand it.
“What’s wrong with you, Nanny? Who doesn’t want to celebrate? And besides, if you didn’t have birthdays, you’d be dead.”
Didn’t she understand that having birthdays was a privilege? That they weren’t something to be ignored or scoffed at? As a kid, I wanted her to party. As an adult, I wanted her to proclaim her life and to acknowledge her years of experience as a reason to celebrate! I wanted her to feel gratitude for the length of her life instead of being annoyed by the addition of a year to the sum of her age.
I didn’t convince her, but I thoroughly convinced myself.
Today is my 62nd birthday, and I have no qualms about admitting my age. I wear them proudly, like battle scars, like tally marks of accumulated knowledge, like signs of survival. My life has been mellowed like aged wine and patinaed by trials and triumphs like fine wood. I’m surviving and thriving, not just existing. I’m older and wiser, for sure, still smiling when my birthday rolls around.
It could have been much different.
My mother had three miscarriages between my older sister and me. I was born premature, jaundiced, with some kind of infection. The doctors weren’t certain I would make it. I was puny — but a fighter, nonetheless. I fought for 17 days, warmed by an incubator, and pricked with needles, before being released to two very grateful parents.
All these years later, I’m alive and grateful to have another birthday. I’m well. I’m happy, productive, and watching the world turn green again after a dreary Midwestern winter, thinking about how birthday celebrations are backward.
Birthdays are backward
The anniversary of my birthdate isn’t a reason for people to celebrate me. I should celebrate them. They’re the ones who shower me with love, affection, attention, time, and effort to make me what I am. Other people are what make my life so rich and full. They are the cause for celebration.
If you feel that way, too, consider these three unexpected ways to celebrate your birthday
1. Pick a family member or a friend and acknowledge them on your birthday:
If my mother was still living, I’d write her a letter, send her flowers, or buy her a little gift on my birthday. Granted, I was lucky enough to do this anyway, since Mother’s Day was at the same time, but if it were on a different day, I would do the same thing. She deserved my thanks.
Mother, sister, daughter, son, father, aunt, best friend, cousin, or colleague. Take someone who has been influential in your life and use your birthday as a way to celebrate them. Thank them with a phone call, a lunch date, or a card. Tell them how they’ve enriched your life this year, and every year.
Use your birthday to celebrate the positive impact others have had on your life.
2. Surprise an acquaintance with your celebration.
Bake your favorite cake and take it to someone who isn’t expecting it.
Make your birthday an unexpected pleasure for people who are connected to your life but not closely associated with it.
One small gesture will create dozens of smiles. “Let them eat cake” at your doctor’s office, the local animal shelter, the veterinarian’s, a retirement village, your favorite shop, or an office where you used to work.
They’ll be delighted, and you’ll feel a warm glow — much better than the heat of the candles — when you give of yourself on your birthday.
3. Share your joy with your partner.
Turn the tables this year. Instead of making gift suggestions for your loved one to purchase for you, consider surprising them with a present. It’s like saying, “I may have been born on this day all those years ago, but it’s you who has made my life special.”
Thank them for wanting to celebrate you, for being a part of who you are, and for making you a better person year after year. (Hopefully, that’s all true.)
Walt Whitman encouraged us to “celebrate” ourselves, but he also wanted us to celebrate ourselves and our connection to those we love. He said,
I celebrate myself, and sing myself, And what I assume you shall assume, For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
Celebrate yourself and others on your birthday
My vow is to celebrate — today and every day of my life — because I’m glad to be alive and enjoying this earth for another year. I’m celebrating my birthday by appreciating others, by smiling and acknowledging my age, by being grateful and dancing around to what I call “the Birthday Song” by Tim McGraw:
I think I’ll take a moment to celebrate my age End of an era and the turning of a page Now it’s time to focus in on where I go from here Lord have mercy on my next thirty years
You bet, I’m celebrating. (Take that, Nanny!)
I don’t care how old I get or how many others know my true age. I’m celebrating NOW because living is a privilege, people are precious, and birthdays aren’t guaranteed.
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