Why does any given day matter more than any other? How can we imagine one day will feel different just because it is the day on which we were born? How can we expect people to act differently toward us on one particular day than they do on any other day? Why do we even make a big deal about birthdays? It’s just a day. So here are some tidbits written the week of my birthday.
Truthfully, I cannot remember really liking my birthday and as an adult I’ve tried to understand why. Coming at the end of May, it often coincides with Memorial Day celebrations and other end of school year or start of summer activities. Somehow it feels rushed or overlooked. It does not help when I look at it through the lens of social media or Hollywood where birthdays are celebrated with laughing family and friends gathered in gardens wrapped in twinkle light filled trees arching over tables adorned with creative food and drink accompanied by the soundtrack of acoustic guitar. No, that’s not “reality” no matter how much the celebrity host claims it to be. Reality is carpool, AA meetings and grocery shopping.
I must have liked my birthday as a child, though, didn’t I?
In my mind’s eye I can see pictures of childhood birthday parties, 1970’s style, with friends in party dresses all sitting around the dining room table as my mother, with her bouffant hair and apron, carries in an angel food cake covered in candles. In all the years of getting gifts on my birthday, I vividly remember one in particular from my childhood. At the end of first or second grade I was given a transistor radio by the only boy to ever attend one of my birthday parties, Jeff. His family moved away that summer, but he was my first “boyfriend” and I never forgot him, or that gift.
It was the friendship the gift represented that was important to me. I was a child and my friend Jeff was leaving my life. Although we would become pen-pals, I would not see him again. But, he had given me a gift that would remind me of him every time I used it. Now as an adult with more blessings that she deserves, receiving tangible gifts is not important to me. I value time spent with loved ones and a genuine hug that says, I see and appreciate you.
This year, the week of my birthday is also the week I mark 90 days of not drinking. Instead of joy, I feel scattered, unfocused, and adrift. For some reason, I am not feeling the euphoria or the clear headed focus that so many people write about experiencing after 3 months without alcohol. Instead I feel fuzzy, tired, and even a little sad.
Maybe it is related to what’s going on around me – the health challenges of various family members, a child racing toward leaving the nest, the burdens of first-world responsibilities we create for ourselves through consumerism.
However, it is unlike me to dwell in the dark corners of life and I don’t want to stay there. I need to refocus my attention on the sound of the bird outside my kitchen window. I need to be thankful for the blessings of every day. When I look back on my birthday this year, I will remember the loving gift offered to me by the 90 year old angel, 35 years sober, sitting across from me in an AA meeting. In the middle of the meeting, as someone was sharing, and at a moment when I was feeling particularly low, she gazed into my eyes and winked. That tiny gift, too small to wrap with a bow, meant more to me than she could know. That small gesture said, “I see you and I’m proud of you.” No one in the room knew it was my birthday, but her wink was God telling me, I know and you are loved.
NOTE: to the Angels in my life reading this now who know me beyond my writing, thank you for your unconditional love and support. I feel it every day, birthday or not.