I just celebrated my 49th birthday. It was low key, unrehearsed, no parties. Mel was away so the kids took it upon themselves to pamper me. Now that they are bordering on grown proficient adults, the service was quite lovely.
I’ve never been a huge birthday guy – it has never really occurred to me to celebrate the birth of myself. I think there are many who discount their own birthdays’ as pomp and circumstance and fall into the habit of reacting to how others celebrate our day. As a kid, it was always mum who did all the work – cakes, decorations, invites, clean up…. Teenage years - school mates take over the details. And in our later years, a smattering of neighborhood, family, and work friends might come out to cheer us on and up (to our next year).
I think my indifference to birthday celebrations is probably because I don’t prefer being in the spotlight and these events tend to flip on that bright light, albeit for only 24 hours once a year. I even recall my family enjoying birthday celebrations and the heightened interest in birthday cakes (the more designed and decorated the better). This might explain why the Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food ice cream cake recently designed and presented by my kids actually may have gone down in the record books.
Sunday, January 6 passed by slowly and I felt very loved and taken care of by my children. While this was all going on, I did try to do two things: I stopped to pay attention to my children – like really pay attention. Not watching to judge or critique or worry or correct, but simply to be in the mind space of observing – actually seeing, without any construct. It was cool. I also took a moment to consider this notion that the chances of each of us being alive are statistically something like 1:4,000,000,000 – proving to some degree that you really are a miracle. From this vantage point, you actually do deserve a celebration – at a minimum for yourself, by yourself, because why not. Plus our own life expectancy might only get us a max of 75+/- celebrations in a long lifetime.
In other words, I got briefly present to the ‘why’ most people make a big deal out of birthdays – to stop and take stock of all that you have, to celebrate life and all of it’s colors, sights, sounds, people, experiences. I went to bed that night having felt (in a tiny way) I stopped to take all this in.
Tuesday January 8 – I sit down at my desk and the first phone call I receive is from the school informing me that a friend of Oakley’s (in his class) suddenly and unexpectedly lost his father to a brain aneurysm. Just like that. This news knocked me hard. I felt this numb sensation immediately after hearing sharp and stark information that shatters us with a reminder of how fragile we are, how quickly life can flash.
I hung up the phone and sat motionless at my desk. The long list of to-do’s in front of me faded into the distance taking on immediate insignificance. What then came into focus was today, this morning, this moment, the remnants of cold on my ear having just pulled the phone off it, the crushing visual of a heartbroken family, the tree-filled view out my window, the feeling of my breath, the steam coming off the hot coffee, the timelessness of it all.
Forget once a year, it’s time to celebrate the micro moments right now.