Birthdays

Photo of me taken in front of the Gateway to India, Bombay 1992

A friend of mine at work said she was dreading her birthday. Why? I asked. Well, I just don’t want to get older, she sighed.

It is better than the alternative! I retorted.

Yesterday was my birthday and I wanted to share my thoughts on birthdays: why they are important, why I feel they deserve to be celebrated with a big pop of champagne.

I woke up yesterday to an outpouring of love from many different corners of the world. People took time to mark the day as a chance to celebrate me and to let me know that I am loved. In this year, more than ever, this was a tonic I really needed. To have that reminder that while I may be far away and remote, the people I love are never far.

Birthdays are important, not just to mark the passage of time but as a way of celebrating you.

Birthdays creep up on you and there it is, you have made another turn around the sun. We are told, from very young, to be very excited about getting older. Every child jumps with glee when they age a year, feeling like they have won a prize. And then somewhere around 39 this feeling of excitement turns to a chill, a dread, a sinking feeling that time is running away from you. We start to worry that we are running out of time, that we haven’t done this or that yet. That our face and body are sinking. That we are losing something instead of gaining wisdom, stories, memories.

The pressure to resist this narrative is hard. Women have an internal clock that ticks, they have a face that ages and a body that droops. We have to fight back against the loud story that tells us we are now past the best date, we are expired, we are invisible.

I recently spent a lot of time diving into old photos for a project. And then spent another few hours reading old diaries.  Some takeaways:

The past is a place of reference not residence.

Looking into the past I realize I wish I had appreciated my beautiful young face and body instead of wishing it smaller, better, firmer. It was just right.

We never know what we are doing but as we get older we get a clearer idea. I am so much better at listening to my intuition now.

The lesson from the past is to keep making memories. We want to live rich lives so we keep putting memories into a treasure chest.

Life is a necklace. We gather perfect memorable impactful moments like pearls. We want to collect as many pearls as we can. Touch them, be tender with them. These are the pearls of your years.

Keep looking forward. How much more do you want to do? To live? To be?

Find your values and live with them and not against them.

Be in the here and now. Taste and smell and touch it all. It stretches time and makes the days longer.

Age gracefully.

Somehow we are taught that it is bad form to celebrate ourselves. Better that we keep quiet and stay in the sidelines.

This year I say:

Happy birthday to me.

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