“… it’s my birthday too, yeah!”
My 40th birthday is next week. Friends and family have been asking me how I want to celebrate for awhile now, and inevitably, my response is surprising or disappointing, even to those who know me.
I don’t care about celebrating my birthday.
I don’t mean this in a, “Oh, we’ll figure it out when the time comes” kind of way. I mean this in a, “No, really. I don’t want to go to dinner/brunch/have a party/travel” kind of way.
In the past, my birthdays have been letdowns for me. Sometimes, they were just “Oh, Jane can’t come to my birthday party” letdowns that weren’t serious letdowns at all. Then they grew bigger. “Oh, my college roommates are fighting about their dogs just as my friends are arriving for my 21st birthday party and now no one is even speaking, let alone wanting to go out” kind of letdown. And then there were the Dipshit letdowns. Instead of going into the individual stories, I’ll just sum it up with: when we were in the middle of our separation/divorce, Dipshit gave me a really awesome birthday present. It was the first time in six years he’d done so. When I asked him why this birthday was the one he chose to be nice, he admitted it was because we were already getting divorce and now he didn’t have to do something to try and get me to leave him.
There is also the being the center of attention freakout that comes along with birthdays for me. I abhor having to sit through people singing Happy Birthday to me. Every time people sing Happy Birthday to me, I stare at the dessert, pretend I can’t hear anything and then I blow the candle out and get on with the day. But those thirty seconds are torture for me.
Finally, there’s another reason I’m not big on celebrating my birthday. I’m still here to celebrate birthdays and my brother’s not. There. I said it.
But here’s my question for you, and the point of my entire post: why do we choose to celebrate people only on their birthdays?
Now I’m not saying that you should drag out a fancy pink boa-trimmed cowgirl hats with a light up tiara on the front each and every time you see your friends (although you have to admit, it might be kind of fun). Nor should you send flowers each and every time you think of a friend you don’t see on a regular basis.
What I AM saying is this.
Why does it take a looming birthday to inspire you to call someone and ask them to dinner? Why are we sending cards and notes to someone only on their birthday to let the recipient know how much they mean to you, how great they are? Is there a law somewhere that says we can only go out with friends if, and only if, one of them has a birthday?
How many times have you run into someone at a child’s soccer game or a fundraiser or a party and said, “Hey, we should get together soon and talk, catch up?” Now, how many times have you made the effort to get together to talk and catch up? How many friends have issued invitations that you needed to “take a rain check on” only to never redeem the rain check? How many times have friends made an effort to reach out, let you know that they’re thinking of you, say wonderful things and you read it, and you feel awesome, and you completely drop the ball on responding, even if it’s just to say, “Thank you for the kind words. They meant so much to me!”?
I am just as guilty as anyone of all of these, but I am especially guilty of the last one.
I’m going to digress a bit now, but it all ties together in the end.
This Curmudgeon In Grand Rapids whom I know (who shall henceforth be known as CIGR) and I were texting about how society is beginning to lose the art of personal communication. CIGR summed it up best with “I believe it’s a skill (personal communication) that people in a first world nation have chosen not to develop or encourage…. We are allowed, even encouraged, to be alone and not interact with others.” I was at a women’s networking breakfast a few weeks ago, and the amount of women, myself included who were on their cell phones was overwhelming. We were all completely missing the point of the networking event because we valued our already established network (our phones that give us access to texts, Facebook, Instagram, email, etc.) far more than the new network we could create right there.
And it’s for this reason, and for so many, many others, that I think it’s time to start putting the phones aside. We need to go back to personal interaction and engagement. Send a card to your best friend that will make her laugh, make her smile, or let her know how awesome you already think she is. If someone you know has been having a difficult time, send her flowers. Carve out some time time to have dinner or brunch with a group of girlfriends for no other reason than to enjoy one another’s company. Before leaving the kids’ soccer game, fundraiser, whatever, make concrete plans (Tuesday at five) to talk and catch up. That woman sitting across from you at a networking event could be your new best friend.
And truthfully? We need to realize that every day is a birthday… yours, mine, his, hers; doesn’t matter. Our friends and family should be celebrated every day, and living to see another birthday is never guaranteed.