Birthdays. I’ve always felt having a birthday is a privilege, even if it’s a rough day. When people complain about getting older, I think (and sometimes say) “And the alternative?”
One year, a friend and I got together for my birthday. We walked the botanic gardens with the evening holiday lights. It was a rare, stormy night in San Diego but no rain fell while we were in the gardens. Then, we then got in my car and drove to dinner. On the way there, I shared I was feeling a bit down. I’d had a good year; I see a birthday as celebration, not something to dread. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but there was a heavy felling I hadn’t been able to shake that week.
We talked then drove in the silence. In our silence, the rain began to absolutely pour down. I was paying very close attention to the road and cars around me. There were three lanes heading west. I was in the middle lane. A truck came from behind me to the lane on my left, then got in front of me—only to get in the lane on the right—and immediately take the freeway exit north!
When the truck got in front of us, I burst out laughing. On the back window of the truck in thick colorful paint: HAPPY BIRTHDAY! YOU ARE LOVED!! We then sat in silence again, before my friend said, “Do you get that, Claudia?” My energy shifted. I got it real clear.
I have a dear friend who avoided birthdays for years. He wouldn’t answer the phone, or tell anyone at work it was his birthday. He wouldn’t celebrate at all. Very few people knew when his birthday was.
One year I was so mad at his attitude, I sent him a plant (I knew he’d love this) from a florist — to arrive while he was at work on his birthday. I called him the following day. He said, “It was incredible timing.” I thought he meant it arrived on his birthday (duh!) No. It arrived when he was the only one in the office, and he hid it under his desk until leaving late that night, after everyone else had left.
Along came my cancer. We were both keenly aware that his girlfriend before me, and his girlfriend after me had both died. Neither of us wanted door number three. I don’t think I was the reason, but he now does allow his day to come and go without resistance.
Birthdays. If we’re lucky, we have them. Celebrate your life. Celebrate those who love you.
Do you think of your birthday differently after cancer? Do you have new rituals such as meditation, or giving thanks for your life as you reflect? I just light another candle. As usual, I thank my parents—for life, love, and all the support they’ve each given me in so many ways. I’m blessed with wonderful neighbors and friends who honor me with cards, dinner, flowers, and reminding me who I am. Life takes twists and turns. Heartache happens. So does incredible good. Open to the good. Embrace life as if everyday is your birth-day (because it is!)