"If we didn’t have birthdays, you wouldn’t be you. If you’d never been born, well then what would you do? If you’d never been born, well then what would you be? You might be a fish! Or a toad in a tree! You might be a doorknob! Or three baked potatoes! You might be a bag full of hard green tomatoes."
"Or worse than all that…Why, you might be a WASN’T! A Wasn’t has no fun at all. No, he doesn’t. A Wasn’t just isn’t. He just isn’t present. But you…You ARE YOU! And, now isn’t that pleasant!"
"Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive...
...who is you-er than you!
Shout loud, “I am lucky to be what I am!
Thank goodness I’m not just a clam or a ham
Or a dusty old jar of sour gooseberry jam!
I am what I am! That’s a great thing to be!
If I say so myself, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!” Dr. Seuss
Last Saturday was my birthday. So was the day before. It’s not that I was born twice or any thing esoteric. I was born in New Zealand on August 11th. It’s August 11th on the 10th in New Zealand. So I celebrate a trans Pacific birthday. It’s not that I do anything terribly wild or even wonderful. There comes a point where birthdays are low-key affairs. But, I definitely celebrate myself. I’d hate to be “a doorknob” or “a dusty old jar of gooseberry jam” or, God forbid, a “WASN”T!”
In truth, I use any excuse in August to celebrate myself. I buy myself presents, take myself out to dinner with friends and sometimes without, get a massage, go to the beach, and am generally very kind to myself. I like birthdays. I don’t mind getting older except for the aches and pains that come creeping in the door and end up staying as permanent guests.
This year I bought myself a sky blue sun hat and a print of a wonderful painting by Damon Pla called “Stillness of August.” Stillness is the greatest gift I give myself these days. I allow extra time in bed if that is what my body asks for. I spend time in my meditation room, candles lit, prayer shawl on, allowing time for my mind to become still.
It’s a restless mind. It likes to wander to the day’s activities or tomorrow’s concerns or yesterday’s fears but generally after a time, it will come to a point of brief rest. In those brief moments of rest I am aware of an immense gratitude for all the small things that make up my life, a small but comfortable home, my tiny abundant garden, the welcome of friends, the health of my children, this cracked body laptop, the stack of unread books, the job about which I complain. I can’t imagine my life without gratitude but I know there was a time when it eluded me. I can’t imagine my life without birthdays either.
I’m a bit of a news junkie. Yesterday as I tuned in to my favorite morning news show I was dismayed to see that Mitt Romney had selected Paul Ryan as his running mate. It told me even more bad news about Mitt Romney and the Republican party. I couldn’t watch the speeches and back slapping or endure the layers of propaganda. I had to turn it all off and take myself to place of stillness and quiet.
A friend and former colleague of mine who is a member of the LDS church told me that they don’t celebrate birthdays. So, there was no cake for her on her birthday. It seemed a very sad omission from religious life. Apparently, not all Mormons adhere to the omission of birthday celebrations; there are conflicting reports of how these celebrations happen if and when they occur. Perhaps Mr. Romney does not celebrate. Perhaps that’s why he seems such a “wasn’t,” a person who is not really here, present to his own life and the lives of others. I feel as if I were to get close enough to him to tap on his arm or torso, there would be a sort of hollow echo instead of the pulse of a heart.
For my part, cake is a must whether it is a reflection of the old Pagan ritual of honoring the moon or not. I prefer chocolate cake. In deference to my increasing cholesterol numbers, I bought a $3.25 “designer” chocolate raspberry cupcake. I ate half on each of my birthdays.