Holy crap. It’s my birthday.
That used to mean something. I used to wake up expecting miracles- gained knowledge, growth spurts and special treatment. I went to sleep the night before thinking of all the fabulous things I dreamed of and praying that every wish would be granted. Birthdays were to be held to high standards of greatness with me as the princess. I looked forward to gifts wrapped up in bows and big slices of ice cream cake.
And now. Now, all I want is the day to pass without catastrophe. That, along with time for quiet reflection, strong tea, bare feet and family. Add to that wish a day that feels leisurely with sunshine that covers my face and sunscreen that works. Gifts be damned. I want the miracle of peace and the wonder of family. I want moments of clarity where I notice the sounds and smells that surround me and a day that goes by with me being present for every single moment.
Mostly, I want to be alive in the bounty of the earth (as sappy as that sounds).
Yesterday I started the day by reading Walt Whitman’s poem Song of Myself. In its entirety. I started by looking for the part about containing multitudes, and ended up eating up every line the way I devour a bag of popcorn before the movie even starts. I read the poem as though it was advice I needed to memorize. From the beautiful parts to the sexy parts to the challenging parts to the parts that left me tilting my head and furrowing my brow in confusion. Like it was the wisdom this birthday contained and Whitman was handing it to me in the pages of this very second hand book. The book that sat on the bedroom shelf for years, ripening for this very day.
And then I stepped out into the world, running the usual Saturday errands. All of Whitman’s words fell away as I busied myself with distractions and became overwhelmed by all of my self-imposed chores. I found myself thinking in the old pattered princess ways: I deserve to be celebrated; I shouldn’t have responsibilities during my birthday weekend; It’s my (insert whiny voice) birthday…
Oh, how easy it is to slip into old patterns.
When I was around 8 years old, I had a little book about a witch, a ghost, and a ghoul (or something like that) that lived deep in the woods. They looked like little children dressed up like these things, but they had no parents and they relied on each other to get through the day. I never questioned the oddity of that, because I loved the stories. One that stands out is the one where the witch was having a birthday. She expected to wake up wiser and with more witch powers than she had the day before. She not only expected it, but she knew it. In her smugness, she prepared to be this wise and powerful witch. I think she also expected to be taller, but that’s beside the point…the point is, she didn’t wake up with anything she expected. She woke up to a day like any other day, at least in her mind. And yet her friends offered their sweetly wrapped gifts and supported her in her disappointment, even though she was downright nasty to them and spent the day stomping around and sulking.
I can’t remember the exact ending of this particular book, or whether there was a moral or not (of course there was). What I remember learning from reading the book, though, is that birthdays aren’t about becoming something we didn’t work to become or about receiving anything outrageously fancy (I’m still learning this). Birthdays are about noticing and celebrating the multitudes that make up our individual selves and honoring the world in which we live.
Yes, I still have princess tendencies. And I still want to be celebrated from time to time. But the gifts I want are the gifts that come from the heart- those sweet moments that happen when there isn’t an agenda or an expectation for an outcome. Time with people I love and some time for myself. Moments to reflect on what I am grateful for and opportunities to step into nature. Because that’s what really matters. Well, all of those things…and cake.