So, okay, first my confession: for all of my adult life I chose to keep my birthday a sort of elusive secret. Sure, my family knew when it was, and girlfriends would find out, and potential employers would have to have a record of it, but otherwise my response to kind inquiries about the day would be, “Sure, it’s on February 31st” and we would have a good laugh together.
I think the issue for me was just one of not wanting to bother with it or for people to make a fuss. I absolutely didn’t want a party or any cards or presents or any acknowledgment at all. I also came from a spiritual tradition that frowned on focusing on the individual, and part of my interpretation of this stance was that one should not be special or stand out in any way. So, the 30th birthday came and went, then the 40th and the 50th and all the birthdays in between, and the same routine of keeping quiet would remain intact.
Then something interesting happened. Two years ago, very innocently, someone who had access to my personal records kindly wished me “Happy Birthday” on a conference call, and the cat, as they say, was out of the bag. Because the actual birthday date was not mentioned, some friends who were on the call emailed me to find out the exact day, so I just thought, “Well, what the hell, I will post the date on Facebook, and then those folks will know.”
Now we come to the point where a grand discovery was made. People started to write in to wish me a Happy Birthday—mostly people whom I knew directly, but then old friends from high school, and then friends from my years in Germany, and then others and more others. I thought, “Wow, look, because of this I get to be in touch with these incredible folks! They are such a rich part of my life, and many of them I hardly get to see at all.” I was so touched by the notes they wrote, and it seemed entirely fitting and proper to write them right back with my own thanks. In the same way that they appreciated the opportunity to offer their gratitude to me, I felt such a joy to be able to offer it right back to them.
And this is how I discovered why it is actually a good idea to celebrate your birthday. It isn’t an excuse to fixate on oneself. No, not that at all. It is about being with the people we love in this way and having that opportunity to share our loving affection for one another. If they wanted to express their gratitude to me, that felt so natural, because I so much wanted to express my incredible gratitude for them. What better way for people to come together? Really, what better way for people to come together than in dear, sweet love.
So, yes, today happens to be my birthday, and the day has been such an absolute joy. Each time I receive a new notification of a message on Facebook, it is a total touching-in between friends, which is then naturally shared with many other friends. I get the chance to bask in the love that is provided so generously and to wish it right back to the generous giver.
Over the next 365 days, all of us will have a birthday, and what I know now from finally becoming open to the idea of acknowledging birthdays is that it is a marvelous time to be aware of one’s many, many blessings and to experience the thanksgiving for the people we have in our lives. Yes, there it is: I feel such gratitude for all of you and the lives we are leading together and for what is possible for us. Pondering that graceful blessing once a year for myself, and with all of you on your birthdays throughout the year, has now become a joyous occasion which I will look forward to for many more years to come. Thank you all.