What is it about birthdays? They come once a year – just one day but they can hold so much in them – memories, anticipation, sadness, happiness, surprises and shocks sometimes! It’s my birthday today and as ever it’s got me thinking about life – the ups and downs, the uncertainties and the roller coaster of emotions we experience as humans.
Last week I went to a brilliant training day by a guy called Richard Wilkins – his whole ethos is about feeling – getting out of your head and being able to feel the full range of emotions. To be able to really live you need to be able to engage with emotions as well as intellect. Many times we have a feeling about something but our brain or the voices in our head tell us “that’s not a good idea, what would people think”, “who do you think you are to step out and do that” and on and on – you have your own voices stopping you stepping out and doing something new.
On your birthday you tend to think, of course, about getting older. Maybe it’s too late for me to step out? Maybe the best is behind me? I know I’m not THAT old (43) but we think those things at any age don’t we. I have a beautiful friend who is 76 who is looking forward to this next stage of her life – what can she do? how can she influence and effect others in positive ways? What a great attitude to have! To be able to be content in all stages of life, not yearning for the past or for this part to be over so you can truly live. For me to think that I’m restricted by the age of my children and their complex needs at the moment would really hold me back from experiencing the wonders of this time – the innocence and curiosity they have and the uninhibited look on life is wonderful. There’s also loads for me to do in this stage too. The people I am around because of this stage means I can have a positive impact on them and start to build something for all our futures.
Another area I think we look at when we have birthdays is loss – what we don’t have or what we did have and have now lost. My Dad died over three years ago and I’ve been saddened again that he’s not here to share this day with me. That even though I have friends and family there’s one huge hole – something missing that only my Dad could fill. It’s a very small reminder as well to me of what my children may feel about their birth family around their birthdays. They think about them often of course but we tend to focus more on loss around this time, as if it brings it into sharp focus – that around the party table there’s someone missing. I guess all we can do is work through the loss – for me I will try to commemorate what my Dad means to me in some small way – not sure what yet but whenever I think about him I am warmed by who he was and the relationship we had. I hope my children feel like that about me someday!
The final aspect for me about birthdays is the anticipation and expectation they bring. That THIS day will be so much better than any other. That a fairy will have come and washed up and done the housework whilst I’m still in bed, that the kids will be rays of sunlight, grateful for all their Mum does for them and that my husband will be thinking about how to please me every minute of the day – HA. If we really did have those expectations what a downer it would be. It is a special day but it’s also the same as any other day. I’ve come to realise over the years that you have to make it what you want it to be. That as much as possible I try to do something for myself whilst holding it very lightly in my hands, knowing that other peoples lives continue. The challenges we had as a family yesterday are still here today, but you can step out of those challenges for a time – it may only be a few hours or minutes even but to make it your intention to do something for yourself is key.
So when it’s your birthday next remember you are not too old to do new things and to make a difference in your world. Remember those you have lost with love and gratitude, as much as you can and let the emotions come. Finally make sure whatever is happening around you that you carve out some time for yourself to celebrate another year and another milestone in your life. Happy birthday to me!