I’ve written a few blog posts about taking time to celebrate. I can’t stress enough that I feel we should do more of it. Here’s one thing I (and apparently many others) love to celebrate: Birthday Eves!*
I don’t know how it officially came about, but I personally remember joking with my family about the day before our birthday being our “Birthday Eve.” (Yes, I’m giving it capitalization!) The whole concept made logical sense in my young mind. We had Christmas Eve, and frankly, it could be a lot of fun. Why not have more eves on the calendar?
And now that I’m older, and I hope to pour into the lives of my friends and family, I really enjoy sending them a “Happy Birthday Eve” message the day before their birthday. I’m not talking anything over the top: it can be a cute little picture, a gif, or even a recorded message. The purpose is to reach out.
I’m not sharing this to make myself look like a great friend. In fact, I know some people will think my celebrating is a little out of control, and I won’t be winning any favors. I’m sharing this because I hope you will at least consider joining me in recognizing Birthday Eves. I believe in the simple gestures that make someone feel loved. To me, such actions show others I am thinking of them and not just because Facebook sent me a notice.
Life is tough as it is. And 2020 has been incredibly hard for many of us. I think we could all benefit from feeling special…especially around our birthdays.
If you experience anxiety, you may have seen how it has a cruel way of creating a whirlwind of emotions that come and go throughout the day. It can get to the point where you are tired of ALL THE FEELS. You crave peace. Simplicity.
A port in the storm for me has been to boldly take a step toward the emotion I want to have, not the one that just happens to be present. In essence, I’m learning to get ahead of my emotions and dictate to myself how I will feel. I call it “framing the situation." (Note: there is probably a more professional term.) Because I believe we can be storytellers of our own life. We don’t have to be so darn passive. It’s basically self-talk, and it goes something like this:
“Once I clean up after dinner, I will feel so good having a fresh kitchen.”
I find it’s even more effective to take this a step further and voice your narration to someone. Speak positive:
“It will be so relaxing to curl up in bed tonight.”
“The commute from work might be rough, but I’ll be so relieved when I get home.”
Even mundane comments about the weather can work. I had a friend who delighted in walking into work, dripping from the rain. He’d smile at us serenely while saying, “What a lovely day it is.” And he meant it.
Did I agree? Well, to be honest, no, I didn’t. I’m just not that smitten with rainy days where I can’t stay inside with my tea. But just his positive narration lifted the atmosphere in our workplace. It was, at the very least, nice to know someone found the climate enjoyable.
I would like to leave you with three helpful reminders:
I was in Stratford-Upon-Avon with a friend, doing the whole Shakespeare experience. (Don’t you love that England is rich with towns that have more than one name, proudly hyphenated?) Anway, I’ve studied and read my share of Shakespeare, and I was ready to dive into his world. I took a tour around the city that showed me the main areas where his noble feet had trod. He made such an impact on that city – of course expanding out to his entire country and the world. He is timeless, classic, and I was thrilled to learn more about him.
After my day out, I browsed through my photos on my phone, and I noticed something really funny. I had actually taken more pictures of my teacup at lunch than Shakespeare’s birthplace.
In my defense, I’m a tea connoisseur, and not only was this tea delicious, it looked beautiful too. I had taken shots from many angles, trying to capture the essence of the amazing beverage. Apparently, there was no shame in my admiration.
But I have no regrets. Because there is something really fun about taking a step away from doing what you are supposed to do when touring and finding what truly gives you enjoyment. Just as we shouldn’t hold ourselves to society’s expectations of say, our career path or the type of home we have, we shouldn’t in the “smaller” things either.
And as I’ve aged, I’ve found that when I’m proudly true to my own tastes, I’m in good company. I find other like-minded people. I mean, there are clubs and online groups for almost any hobby you can think of. Just like dancing – it’s freeing to just be yourself. And it multiplies the fun to have others join you: laughing, sharing, and treasuring the moments with you, just like you do. Yes, it’s totally worth it to be yourself.
“To thine own self be true.” William Shakespeare (Hamlet)
When I was living in Turkey, I would have custom clothing made. In the city of Ankara, you can visit giant fabric markets and select a piece of cloth, then visit a tailor who will sew it into a clothing piece for you. It was an incredible experience, and I felt like some sort of designer. (Yes, I’m far from it! Haha! I created some awful pieces!)
The whole design process reminded me of my late Grandma, who sewed special dresses for me growing up. I wished above all else I could tell her about my experience…to the point it almost hurt. Do you know what I mean? She would have loved hearing about the bolts of fabric and the talented Turkish men and women sewing and designing and measuring with great precision.
Since I couldn’t tell my Grandma, I did the next best thing I could think to do. I told her daughter, my Mom. I told her how much Grandma would have enjoyed my style adventures. My Mom agreed, and we sighed together, and there was a moment of wistfulness. But love was present. It was like we brought Grandma back to life for just an instant.
And that’s when I realized I was helping myself cope with my grief – even years after my Grandma’s death. I know a therapist or book could have suggested this strategy, but I’m not sure I would have listened. Some things just have to come naturally.
No, I wasn’t actually speaking with my Grandma, which is what I really wanted. But telling my thoughts to someone who knew and appreciated my Grandma helped soothe that desire. And so, I make a point to continue to do so.
I think Maya Angelou was right when she said, “A great soul never dies. It brings us together again and again.” And I believe it’s often in togetherness that we find a bit of healing and comfort; at least this has been the case for me.
So I share my story, with hope that similar actions will soothe your grieving heart, too.
Years ago, I read an autobiography written by a woman who grew up in a cult. It was eye-opening to say the least, but she shared a particular situation that really stood out to me.
She and other cult members were once in an airport waiting on a flight. Based on her clothing and overall demeaner, she said she knew they looked different from the rest of the crowd at the terminal. But she didn’t care. She firmly believed in her heart that she was part of a special, chosen group. In fact, she noted that while she was looking around at others, she felt sorry for them.
That really boggled my mind.
Because I’m in the group of “others” that she felt sympathy for. And if I had been sharing that airport space, I would have in turn felt pity for her. I would have believed she didn’t have a choice and wanted to leave the situation she was in.
Humility check: We cannot assume we know what other people are thinking and experiencing.
This is especially critical during a time when COVID is still at large, and people are responding to this horrible situation in different ways. I find it’s so easy to judge. It’s so easy to get angry. It’s so easy to think we know what is best for others.
When we do, I think we start into a path we don’t want to go down. Because how can we effectively communicate and peacefully live alongside others when we act on assumption? When we hastily determine what someone is thinking? When we have created “truth” about them that isn’t true?
But back to my book: the woman’s story was above all, to me, a vivid reminder that even if we are often correct about people we encounter, it’s always best to slow down. To wait. To let ourselves carefully learn more before we decide to open our mouths and interact* with those around us.
I think by doing so, we show wisdom. We also make ourselves a little more approachable, a little more sympathetic, and a little more relaxed. Something that is much needed in 2020.
*Especially if the interaction is likely to become negative.
Now I understand why people older than me would often say, “I guess they will have to learn the hard way.” That phrase used to really bother me. I would fervently encourage my friends and loved ones to follow the “right” way in dealing with a situation, i.e., to learn from my mistakes. Not make their own.
But it doesn’t matter how passionate my attempts, people typically did (and still do) what they want.
I can’t be too upset. Looking back over the years, I realize how I’ve learned the hard way, and it’s been quite effective.
Here’s an example: third grade. I was at a birthday party. We were playing some version of hide-and-go-seek, and my friend – who was also the birthday girl – CHEATED. Righteous indignation welled up within me. So, I resorted to what I thought would take care of the situation: I put my angry arms out and pushed her.
Do you think she wept with remorse before all the other little girls, apologizing for being the cheat that she was and promising a changed life?
Heck no. She pushed me back.
Let’s just say I learned that day that violence is not the way to handle my anger. My parents taught me this for years; but that didn’t keep me from testing the waters when justice needed to be served. I had to learn ye olde hard way and see for myself that my physical fighting probably won’t right the wrong. As a result, I’ve steered clear of violent anger ever since.
I think as we age, it’s important to STILL encourage others to learn from our mistakes and not make their own. But we should also realize that it is sometimes the ONLY way people learn and to keep the “I told you so” stuff to ourselves and give them compassion*. Since we’ve all been in their shoes.
*Thankfully, that’s exactly what the Moms at the birthday party did. They scooped me and my friend up and loved on us and listened and worked out a solution to the problem.
I come from a tribe of people who love crispy bacon. (I think we just love breakfast food in general, like Ron Swanson on Parks and Recreation.) Anyway, My Mom would always serve her Dad the crunchy slices at breakfast when she was little, as a sort of way to show him love…until years later when he mentioned to her how much he disliked bacon crispy!
Oh the horror! My Mom laughed about it when she told me this. She thought about how she could have been eating those bacon pieces herself and enjoying them all those years.
Lesson learned: ask people what they like.
I know I don’t always do this. I’ve bought gifts and given in ways that reflected my own personal taste. Have you ever played a song for a friend, a beautiful song that completely captivates you, and they just don’t get it? The whole moment falls awkwardly flat. They may listen politely and smile weakly and say, “That was nice.” BUT you KNOW they just didn’t receive from the song what you received?
As I navigate adulthood, I should know better than assume because I need/want something, other people will too. I’ve found others are pretty honest about what they want, especially when asked. Then I get two wonderful results:
I read this quote by Lantham Thomas on Instagram: “Release your attachment to wanting things for people that they don’t want for themselves.” By doing so, you can them fill their hearts with their own personal “song moment" and their own “crispy bacon.”
Creator of Love, Auntie.
About LOVE, AUNTIE
Welcome! My blog is a journal of sorts as I seek what makes "older" worth celebrating in a world that tends to glorify "younger." I hope it's a place you will find encouragement and positive words.