I had a pretty good birthday. My youngest said to me, “the rest of us are only a day older than yesterday, but you’re a whole YEAR older!”
When my children asked me what I wanted for my birthday, and I answered, “A quiet house, with no bickering, no screaming, and no whining!” they begged me to come up with something easier, like a new wardrobe or a plane ticket to Italy.
In the morning, I had a job interview for senior home care, and I put my birth year in for the present date. We had a good laugh; am I sure I am not the one in need of dementia monitoring? Then I noticed I was the only one laughing…
For me, birthdays are just another day for washing laundry, running errands, cooking dinner, and all the other things that the house and children need. However, some good things that don’t happen every day happened on my birthday.
I got a new sofa! Well, it was a sofa someone else was giving away, but it is the newest sofa I have ever had. It complements the exposed plywood subfloor beautifully. My finesse for ‘late American poverty’ design really came through with this combination.
I was able to rid my kitchen of radiation! In other words, my microwave broke. So there will be no more warming up coffee in the midmorning. This won’t be an issue anyway since the coffee pot also broke. With the heart palpitations increasing, I should probably cut back and that stuff anyway. M
Thank the Lord there was no birthday cake because this pre-menopausal body does not need that, right? No way. Lucky escape there.
Okay, it wasn’t all a joking matter; I did have a delicious meal shared with a beautiful friend who treated me like someone special. During our short visit, I shared with her my feelings about a heartbreak I had experienced somewhat recently, and she summed up for me what many years of experience taught her about being independent and strong, and moving forward. And now, if I can get my tongue out of my cheek, I can tell you what this birthday truly meant to me.
Many years before I had children and grew my hair grey, a young man said to me after I dismissed his request to court me—quoting Tennyson- “It is better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all.” I could not understand how he could be content with that. I could not see how it was better to have his heart broken than to keep it safely tucked away, intact. I subscribed more to the poet Jon Anderson when he sang, an “owner of a lonely heart [is] better than an owner of a broken heart.” Being lonely, I thought, gives me a better chance for happiness than having my heart broken [again].
With birthdays, however, come feelings of nostalgia, and as I pondered the advice of my lunch date, I remembered the words of Tennyson channeled through my dear old friend of my youth. And, as though I truly had aged an entire year in one day, what he was saying to me finally made sense.
He understood something I didn’t. He understood that the ability to give the gift of love- as with any gift- brings joy to the giver as much, if not more, than to the one who receives. I didn’t have my heart broken- I willingly gave a piece of it away. I trusted someone enough to say, “Here; this is a piece of my heart, a part of me- my gift to you.” That was my choice. As with any gift, I need to learn to let go when I give it away. And, as with any gift given freely, I must not look for a gift in return.
My gift to myself on my birthday is a willingness to focus on myself for a while. I am not suggesting that I look only to my own needs, or turn inward and be self-centered, but embrace more of what is within my reach and be content. I have a new job caring for elderly people in their homes and taking care of hospice patients. I have a home in need of my personal touch and my own sweat. I have a plate full of responsibilities, possibilities, and opportunities to love. I have plenty to keep me focused and busy.
For the time being, I won’t need that piece of my heart that I gave away.