Birthdays come but once a year. Today just so happens to be mine. And with it comes the obligatory question, What should I do for my birthday?
Some birthdays seem bigger than others. When I was a child, my birthday ranked right behind Christmas as the most important day of the year. I’d look forward to March 7th each and every year because it meant parties and cake and presents. I mean, what child doesn’t like to have those things on Christmas or their birthday or on any given day of the year?
Now, at 43, there is not so much gifting. There are fewer parties. Sometimes there is cake or perhaps a night out – if a babysitter can be found. More than likely though, the kids just come along on said night out.
The decade birthdays draw a bit more attention like when I turned 40. But for the most part I’m finding birthdays in middle age pass quietly without much fanfare.
And I’m OK with that.
A few months ago I spent some time with my grandfather, just a few weeks before his 102nd birthday. As we sat down to dinner one night, the conversation turned to a discussion about things that had occurred during the last year that we were thankful for. I’ll never forget his response when it came time for him to answer.
What Should I Do For My Birthday?
At the table that night, my grandfather quietly looked at all who were present and simply said, “I’m just happy to be alive. I’m glad I still have the chance to do things I enjoy.”
I thought at the time – and am thinking again today – that his answer speaks to what we should all be doing on our birthday. Yes, birthdays can be fun, filled with presents and friends and adventures. But when it comes to answering the What should I do for my birthday question, the answer is simple.
I should appreciate it…appreciate my life that is. And each year I live should mean more to me than the year before.
I know not everyone probably thinks this way. It’s hard to when life is tough. When you are sick or all alone. When you have little to no money. When it feels like everyone has deserted you. Or when it feels like the future looks bleak.
In those times it’s hard to appreciate life. A birthday just serves as a reminder of all that’s wrong.
But whether you choose to see it or not, know this…your life is a precious gift. It was given to you to enjoy and appreciate. It isn’t something to throw away or waste. And what I’m finding is that the older I get the more I understand this. Each year that ticks by now brings with it a greater appreciate for those moments I’ve already lived.
But at the same time there is a greater sense of urgency for the moments ahead. While the experiences of the past year continue to shape my understanding of my life and the world around me, they’ve also helped enhance my view of the future – what it looks like and where I’m going with it. So for me, a birthday serves as a hinge that swings both ways – looking with appreciation into the past and looking forward with anticipation at the future.
So what should I do for my birthday? Well, I could go crazy and spend wildly on any number of practical ways to celebrate a birthday that might make the day fun. There is nothing wrong with that if you’ve financially planned for it. Maybe I’ll do that from time to time on certain milestone birthdays.
But right now for this year, I just don’t feel the need. Being thankful and grateful for the life I’ve been given is present enough.
Questions: What do you typically do on your birthday? Do you spend a lot of money on your birthday? Do you look forward to birthdays are are they a reminder of all that’s wrong with your life? What’s the best birthday celebration you’ve ever had?