“Happy BIRTHday TO you… Happy Birthday TO you! Happy BIRTHday TO YOUuuu….”
Think about that… we almost try to will someone into happiness. It’s like we need to make a declaration over them inspiring them to be happy on the anniversary of the day the came forth screaming from their mothers warm body.
Today marks yet another anniversary since the day of my birth. It’s impossible to avoid this day. I will admit, I have been feeling a slight sense of trepidation the last few birthdays.
What ever happened to the days where your birthday was of such monumental importance that you actually counted down the days… “I’m twelve and a half, then I’ll be a teenager!” or “Yep, I just turned fifteen and a half… now, fifteen and three quarters then I’ll be able to get my driver’s license!” On it goes until you are about… oh, say twenty-one when you can legally drink alcoholic beverages in public. After that, I began counting the days to get senior discount prices at the Cinema on Monday evenings. (Actually, I’ve done that a few times but don’t tell the pimpled face kid taking the tickets who is always too distracted by the bouncy teenyboppers to care to check my ID. Wait, did I just say, “Teenybopper”? Ugh)
The birthdays keep coming like the cars of a freight train at the crossing as you watch with a mesmerizing stare. Unrelenting, they keep rolling by. I find myself trying to avoid acknowledging how many birthdays have passed. Like maybe, I can prevent aging by not fully accepting it’s a birthday. As I mentioned earlier, we repetitively sing, “HAPPY Birthday… to YOU” over and over, as if we are trying to will one into the pursuit of birthday bliss. Don’t worry, be happy! Then there are all the aging jokes that follow. There is always the cynic who begins with the chorus, “How OLD are You?” Ugh, stop already. I feel I try to hold off aging as diligently as Kevin McCallister warding off the villains from robbing his house in the movie, “Home Alone.” I’m trying all the tricks. So far, so good. But then again, Denial is more than a river in Egypt, it’s a gift.
Just about the time you’ve made peace with a certain age, Facebook reminds the whole world that you’ve clicked another year off being alive on this planet. Click. Click. Like the turnstile at an amusement park, the numbers keep adding up and you can’t return the way you came. Interesting enough, a turnstile is also known as a “baffle gate.” I am baffled at my resistance to aging yet at the same time, I am curiously at peace about it.
I am grateful however, that I’ve had the privilege of being alive all these years. More than merely existing, I have been, for the most part, FULLY alive. Like a virtual magic carpet ride, my memories drift to surreal images to years now faded like old photographs. I drift past moments of my past that I wish I had the power to make time stand still. In the words of Simone Weil, “There are only two things that pierce the human heart: beauty and affliction. Moments we wish would last forever and moments we wish had never begun.” I’ve had my share of both within which, carry a secret to the life we prize. I linger there in my thoughts, circling like a humming bird, savoring sweet nectar. I smile at the moments realizing I had no idea they would eventually become known as, “The-Good-Old-Days.”
Birthdays are times to pause, and to reflect. They give both measure and meaning to our years. We reflect on our growth, experiences and the people who have been players in our life’s story. Some, have been seasonal, and others, have been with us for what seems a life time. But all, for the most part have been with some significance. I am reminded how my dad collected travel stickers from the places we visited during our summer vacations. The memories pasted, like badges of honor, to the side windows of his wood panelled Chevy Caprice station wagon. I have many “stickers” carried deep in my soul from the places I’ve been and the people met along the way. For all of that, I am grateful.
I am trying to feel where this blog should go but alas, I have a birthday to celebrate. Let these words from John Eldredge’s book, The Journey of Desire, sum up my thoughts: “The meaning of our lives is revealed through experiences that at first seem at odds with each other – moments we wish would never end and moments we wish had never begun. Those timeless experiences we want to last forever whisper to us that they were meant to. We were made to live in a world of beauty and wonder, intimacy and adventure all of our days. Nathaniel Hawthorne insisted, “Our Creator would never have made such lovely days, and given us the deep hearts to enjoy them, above and beyond all thought, unless we were meant to be immortal.”
At the end of the day, happiness is stirring deep within my heart. The love expressed by a good woman, my children and friends refreshes my soul like emotional oxygen. The contemplation of one’s birth and the significance of our lives for a “time such as this” recalibrates the soul. What if we had never been born? My Dad battled against his aging body and affects of cancer often said, “Jeff, don’t get old.” I understood why he said that. He was fearless however, as he faced the dying embers of a well-lived life. Yet, what is the alternative to growing old? Well, I’m not satisfied with dying young. There is so much more to experience. I want many more Happy Birthdays!