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Happy Birthday. Is It?


I just got off the phone with a new and already dear friend who reluctantly divulged with a definite change in the tone of her voice that her birthday is next week, and that she may take the day off to stay in bed with her head under the covers. This might have been an exaggeration, but I heard sadness and angst. In her voice I heard the voice of many who hold regret about a day that should be celebrated. Another one of mine is just around the corner, number 55 I dare say, so I have been giving it considerable thought.

The truth is, no one gets out alive! We all eventually decline, and no matter what we do, as far as we know, life and death are the things that we share in common with every other person walking the face of the earth. We all are born, we all age, and we all die. Period. Now, it seems that its what we do along the way is what matters. Why use our precious time trying to change the inevitable. Making this moment right here and right now something memorable is where we should place our focus if our true intention is to be happy.

I think our culture has been particularly cruel to women. Media and advertising has bombarded us with unrealistic expectations and myths about what our bodies are to do and look like to be appealing and accepted, even lovable. How sad that we are still dominated by that spell, rather than free to enjoy the process of change and accept that there is beauty and joy to be experiences with each milestone.

Don’t get me wrong. It would be wonderful to have a body that today had the energy and maneuverability that mine did in my 20’s and 30’s. I sure wish I didn’t ache and that I wasn’t as stiff when I get out of bed in the morning, but the degree of our joy is measured by where we choose to place our focus. Life is a journey and I savor the perspective I have now that I didn’t have when my body was agile. Through these eyes I now marvel at the smooth hands of my grandbabies when they are cradled in mine that now have all their wrinkles, veins and age spots. The mystery of life continues. Why miss the moment before me being transfixed by the past I cannot return to or change?

We are not meant to be today who we were a decade or two ago, or even yesterday. This moment right now has transitioned to another before I even finish this sentence. As far as I can tell, such is the nature of life. It unfolds. Each day and every new moment brings added experience and new opportunities that create the patina of wisdom. When I hang on too tight or resist the unknown, it comes anyway, and usually the road has more bumps. Like it or not, dragging my feet attached to what I think life should be or what it was then only causes me to miss out of the joy that comes with surrendering to and embracing the wonders of the adventure right now.

Without understanding and embracing life, which includes aging and eventually death, we habitually fight the process to the point we forget there is an alternative called ‘now’. Have you noticed that resisting age does not prevent us from growing older? Matter of fact, it wears us out even faster and drains us of the authentic life force that allows us to drink in simple pleasures.

We are blinded by our culture’s marketing program and come to believe that happiness must be bought, or defined by what we wear, or dictated by how we look. The list goes on and on. We fail to notice our true worth and don’t value the simple joys and our innate magic that get shrouded by our manufactured shortcomings and self-criticism.

It’s a trap. Such fears create the very worry lines we run from and pave the way to poor health and dark depression. Authentic happiness expands by present moment living rich with gratitude for what we have right now and feeling valued and connected is the best anti-aging cream you can apply.

Creating a life of joy is an inside job. Being able to control life and the aging process is only an illusion. It flows and has its own rhythm with new insights at each stage and phase. That doesn’t mean that we are not to honor and care for our body along the way. Self-care and building a foundation of security is a form of self-love that is essential to happy living that are accessible but not dependent on the shape of our body, our health, what we own, or our bank account. We can best love another when we dare to love our self, first, and teach others how to love us by how we treat our self.

Vintage cars grow in value over time. They hold their value when they are cared for, but regardless, they wear out, demand more attention to run smoothly, and eventually just stop! My dad, who was a car guy, always said, “Rust never sleeps!”

We eventually wear around the edges, too. But, our journey of aging holds the history of our legacy and gives meaning to all the memories that we created along the way. Our life is ours to live, to learn, to love, and to leave a meaningful mark by living with grace and gratitude, forgiveness and love, not only for others but also for our self. The imprint we leave is authentic and lasting when we embrace and appreciate the magnificence of who we were, who we are now, and who we are evolving to become. We change and age, but our shining essence doesn’t. It gets added to this incredible brew we call life, and this common and creative energy is whole and ageless.

Breathe. Be still for just a moment and consider how your life would be different if you got up each day and said, “Good Morning, God,” rather than, “Good God, it’s morning,” even on your birthday. Especially on your birthday!

As a former doula/labor coach I have had the profound opportunity to be present at the magical moment of first breath. With the passing of my mother I had the profound opportunity to be at that magical moment of last breath. The power and perfection offered by those first and last moments of life are the same in a way that is beyond description, and offer us a glimpse of all that is beyond our understanding. A birthday calls for celebration and acts as a reminder for us to get on with it, get on with life, and get on with living it fully.

For all who discount your value when story lines adorn you face, when you body reshapes it self, and your knees sound like popcorn when ascending the stairs, I invite you instead to welcome it as a signal of a life well lived as best you know how and to celebrate your birthday even more boldly. Let the number of years spent here roll off your tongue with ease and honor. Wear your wrinkles like jewelry gifted to you for your many gifts and contributions to the circle of life.

With the turning of another year, appreciate yourself for more than one day. Let the song of your life linger. Celebrate the entire journey of your life. Savor all the highs and lows for they are what make its unique texture. They hone your knowing and insights into diamonds. Even tip your hat to toast the rough abrasions felt on you journey, for with the right attitude, each bump offers a richer story and a gift hidden inside the outer package.

You have touched more lives than you can ever imagine in big and simple ways. You make a meaningful difference with every random act of kindness and every smile you offer. We forget this, but it’s true. One of your casual smiles will land on someone at just the right moment inspiring him or her to travel a bit more smoothly on their path without you even being aware of it. I guarantee that without even knowing it you have changed someone’s life for the better. You have. All of this while you were busy worrying about a few gray hairs and an arbitrary day on the calendar.

So, imagine what would happen if we all truly valued the wisdom that comes with age. Who would we be if we honored the elder that we are becoming? How might life be different if we let go of the grip fear has on us, fully opened to the stages and phases of life, and accepted ours self, warts and all? Let the dissatisfaction you feel in your gut as you repel the thought of aging be the very nudge you need to ask your self, “What am I called to do and who am I called to be to fully live on purpose right here and right now?

This moment is yours. The choice is yours. Happy Birthday. Happy Birthday to you.

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