Occasionally, we may experience the bliss of being fully recognized for who we really are and, furthermore, totally welcomed as such. How delicious, rare and precious such occurrences are!
After my divorce, I was hostess in a restaurant for a couple of months, right during the Christmas season. My most unusual visitor and encounter there was a child of perhaps four years of age. Before I even saw her and her mother approaching the restaurant entrance--there were so many people walking the mall--the girl, at the sight of me, screeched with joy, tore loose of her mother's hand and raced toward me. I don't know how I noticed what she was going to do or how I got on my knees, right in time to receive this stormy little bundle who threw herself into my open arms. She hit me with such force that I almost fell over backwards as she clung her little arms around my neck and pressed her hot cheek against mine, her face beaming with happiness. It was the most spontaneous and most cordial embrace I have ever received, and never before did I feel so welcome and appreciated by another human being. It was awesome!
The feelings this experience evoked in me were actually those I always long for, on every birthday. However, this realization did not gel until my next birthday--the anniversary of my physical entry into this life which, in 1998, happened to fall on Easter Sunday (incidentally, I was born on a Sunday). I spent Easter alone, sitting by the Chesapeake waterfront in the blazing sun, amidst hundreds of people in Easter-Sunday garments and fancy hosiery. I was sipping club soda and coffee, trying to decipher the lonesome feeling of emptiness and disappointment inside, interspersed by hope and anticipation for ... for what? I remembered that I experienced this very feeling of constantly waiting for this special something on every birthday of my life and that, every time, I buried it for yet another year. I wondered if it was the expectation of
being special to someone
that was the cause for my gnawing disappointment: "Oh, how silly, how selfish, how grandiose," I scolded myself. Why would such an acknowledgement be so enormously important on every birthday, again and again? Like so many people who identify with the subtle woe in the middle of the heart, interspersed with the hope: "But wait, the day isn't over yet. I just know something extraordinary is going to happen," I reasoned that the expectation was to blame. If only I stopped expecting, I'd never be disappointed, right? Not so simple, because we never really win this fight when it concerns our birthday. We are only trying to fool ourselves. We may conquer many emotional outcomes simply by altering our expectations. Yet, I believe, this will consistently fail as far as our special day is concerned, the day we chose to enter this physical space and time, following the invitation and promise of our present parents, the stars and earth, with the consent of the entire universe (else it couldn't have happened). Then the realization hit me: If we cannot kill a desire/expectation, no matter how hard we try and pray, then we are dealing with an instinctual, innate "bigger" force, a rightful sentiment, an expectation we are supposed to have, by design. If acknowledged, instead of suppressed, it will lead us to some deeper insight or truth about ourselves and, with it, about life itself. I finally had to admit to myself that, on my birthday, I do feel special (I myself remember that I am special) and only hope that others--especially those who invited me into their lives--would notice and remember it, too.
Of course, quite naturally, we expect to be confirmed in our decision to having arrived here! Such confirmation, on just one day a year, during the same star constellation as upon our original arrival, is vital to our own re-decision to wanting to be here. I spent most of my younger years near suicide simply because this confirmation was withheld from me by the significant people in my life! Without it, we question this most fundamental, existential of all decisions; we wonder if our life--perhaps all life--may be a big mistake. We tend to withdraw from life and become self-destructive to the extent our surroundings fail to acknowledge and confirm our specialness, our gifts, beauty and significance in this world. This confirmation must be true and sincere, from the bottom of their hearts. Make no mistake: On birthdays, like on no other day of the year, we know exactly how heartfelt gifts and congratulations really are! Who does not know the subtle disappointment just after having read a greeting card, for example, and then arguing with our own intuition, against ourselves: "How dare I feel this way in the face of people being 'so nice' to me?" Is it just possible that we keenly sense (but do not want to realize fully, in order to avoid more disappointment or overt friction) who is sincerely happy what we are here and in their lives, and who is not? How many people am I really grateful for, honestly, simply for knowing them because, at some time or another, they have enriched my life with perhaps no more than their presence, a kind word or a mere smile, just at the right time, as this little girl did for me in the mall that Christmas? How many of those do I acknowledge and celebrate, especially on their birthdays? Did I ever devote a whole day to such a someone, making myself wholly available, to selflessly reflect this person's beauty back to them, the very beauty that has enriched me before? Do I understand and embrace my own sentiment of disappointment in the face of a fleeting greeting card and, perhaps, a dutifully telephone-ordered flower delivery...and then it's all "business as usual" again? You bet I do! On our birthday, we need to know we are special to people, that we have had a positive impact, so that our physical existence may not have been in vain.
Theoretically, the longer we live, the more people should celebrate us and cradle us with grateful, loving thoughts and feelings throughout that day. Ironically, all to often, this number diminishes with age. Some of us may not even be particularly welcome in our families of origin. Why is it that so many people don't ever inquire about birthdays or don't keep track of them once they know, not even those of the--allegedly--most significant people in their lives? Have you noticed, as I have, that the very people who insist that birthdays mean nothing to them, that they don't celebrate them or expect any recognition, are frequently dropping the hint as to when exactly this birthday is? For example, they may show us "their picture" on a driver's license and other documents. When this happens, I know that I am dealing with a frustrated soul who has not been deeply appreciated by people for a long time. This is a person's soul talking to us as directly as it can while it has to bypass that person's denial of a genuine need and birthright. To stop the disappointment, this person decided to "blame the day" by rejecting birthdays altogether, instead of blaming people's negligence or downright lovelessness.
Folks, dare celebrate someone else. We do not forfeit any significance or honor of our own when we truly honor someone else. Quite to the contrary: Any time spent in grateful remembrance of another person increases our own beauty. This is so because, what we are really grateful for is that that person has seen and responded to our beauty. This is what makes them beautiful and important to us, in turn. In other words,
Naturally loving, unadulterated beauty recognizes itself in others.
This has nothing to do with "feeding someone's ego" or with self-aggrandizing. Rather, it's like walking through nature and feeling good. We feel the ever-pleasant influence of oceans, forests, live flowers and starry skies, because they whisper constantly: "I am glad you are here." In turn, our feeling good in response is like saying: "I am glad you are here, too." And then life is happy to be alive; joy return to life, naturally.
While we know or sense somehow that nature, earth and the universe continue to welcome us, human appreciation is often not forthcoming. It is withheld as a matter of free will and choice--the choice to be un-natural. This choice is counter-life and counter-love. On birthdays, we must receive the human vote, yes or no, to our existence. And we need it again and again: All parties involved have an opportunity to reconsider last year's stance. The answer had better be "Yes," because, for beauty's beauty to remain, it simply musts be honored--it is the only force which sustains it. Dare miss the people you hold or once held dear, and those you invited into your life. Your grateful thoughts and the candle you burn on their behalf will be received and carry the recipient through an otherwise lonesome, discouraging day, year or unappreciated rest of their life. Dare add hope to someone's earthly life, instead of carelessly diminishing it and their significance along with it. Else, in the end, there will be no one and no beauty left to celebrate. Do it, for the sake of beauty on earth. Do it, for it is natural. Celebrate birthdays, because every Birth Day is Earth Day for a very special someone.
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My most special gift this past birthday was a greeting card signed by a gathering of my German relatives, celebrating "birthdays" together!