Around it came again.
Last year as it was fast approaching the end of the year, most were starting the wind down to the Christmas and New Year period: the beginning of December, where Christmas carols are played and decorations put up on display to celebrate the upcoming festive season. “It’s a terrible time of year to have a birthday,” a family member said one day whilst on the subject of going through the timing of birthdays and where everyone in the family fitted in.
As I reflected on this, I realised most of my friends and family who had birthdays at the end of the year would say that birthdays at that time were really unfortunate as everyone else was focused on the end of the year celebrations rather than on their birthday. Then looking at my own experience of having a birthday at the end of the year, I felt a similar feeling of missing out. For as long as I could remember, I had approached my birthday wanting it to look and be a certain way, but it would never match up to the expectations I had placed on it. This caused a great deal of anxiety as the gap between the picture of how I wanted it to be and how it would turn out was so wide. I would fill it with doubt and regret, putting myself down to the point where I would approach my birthday with dread as I knew it would be another year of failed dreams, where how I wanted the day to play out never matched how it would actually unfold.
As I approached last year’s celebration, similar feelings arose. I could sense these feelings coming up again, observing them as they did, and recognising what they were: they were expectations I had placed on how I wanted my birthday to look. By looking at this one event in the year, it also enabled me to piece together that there were other situations in life such as relationships with family members and others, and in work situations where I had wanted things to be a certain way yet felt the disappointment when my ideal of the situation didn’t match what was happening.
As last year’s birthday approached, something shifted in me. There was a realisation that yes, my birthday is a great marker to celebrate the day I was born, but if all the pressure was placed on this one day to unfold how I wanted it to be, then there would be a deflation when the expectation was not met. Furthermore, I realised that instead of leaving it for others to celebrate me, what if I could celebrate myself and all I am? And rather than needing gifts, see myself as a gift to the world and to feel the depth and beauty of who I am and celebrate this fact with all those around me. As the day came, I woke with the feeling that I was the gift to share on my birthday. There were no fancy gifts or a massive party. It was a day of connecting with friends and family, enjoying and appreciating how much grander life is when it comes from the appreciation within.
Rather than save up our celebration for one day, what if every day was a celebration of us, our connection to the true nature of what we are and the lived outward expression of this? How beautiful would life be?
By Chris Vale, Chris Vale, Mechanical fitter, Father, Dog Owner and Observer of Life, Perth, Western Australia