Wishing The Years Away
Last night, we celebrated my great niece’s birthday. She is two.
While watching her approach the festivities with joyful abandon, I couldn’t help but compare her reactions to those of most adults. She squealed with delight over the new fairy costume (wings and all!), the pint-sized hockey equipment, the hop-n-pop blow up whale that spews plastic balls out of its blowhole. (The giant rainbow-hued gorilla that we gave her made her a little nervous, but I think she will come around. ) She grinned ear-to-ear as we sang “Happy Birthday” and clapped her hands when we finished. She dove into the pudding-filled cake and licked frosting off her fingers. She enjoyed being the center of attention for her big day and celebrated with two-year-old spontaneity.
Now contemplate how most adults approach the concept of birthdays. Yes, we do enjoy the presents, but the singing embarrasses us. We don’t like people to make a fuss. Hell, I hate being the center of attention. Most women I know have started counting backwards when it comes to birthdays by the time they reach 40 if not before. They dread the passing years and refuse to mark them with anything but a grudging bite of cake and maybe a bottle or two of wine.
With kids, we celebrate every milestone – first tooth, first words, first steps, learning to tie shoes, graduation from kindergarten, every picture they draw goes on display and we ooh and aah over every story they tell. Yet by the time we are adults, we aren’t celebrating or even acknowledging our accomplishments. We get so caught up in the stress of our jobs and the dramas playing out around us with our friends and families. Months can pass and we see no reason to treat ourselves to a special indulgence. Years go by and we find ourselves living for the next day off, the new job, the next big thing.
The sad thing is that we miss out on all the ordinary moments in between. The mundane day-to-day living that actually makes a life.
We should celebrate each day, each sunrise, each rainstorm. We should treat ourselves to a cookie or a movie or a nice meal when we accomplish something – even if it doesn’t seem like a huge deal, even if it is something that we have taken for granted in years past.
A small raise? Woo hoo!
Aced a new recipe? Salut!
Found your missing car keys? Awesome!
Finished painting the bathroom? Congratulations!
Time is going to pass whether we acknowledge it or not. If we spend our years, wishing them away, always planning the next big thing and then jumping to the next without enjoying the one we are in, we will miss everything. Because life is not about milestones. It is about moments.
That being said, I think we all need to agree right here and now that we will no longer dread birthdays. We will embrace each added candle and shout our new age for all to hear! No more counting backwards. No more telling people not to make a fuss. It is your birthday, darn it! It is not to be looked at as a year closer to death (something that I think a lot of people do subconsciously – why else do they dread birthdays?) It is a celebration of a year well-lived and a launching pad for another year of adventure.
I am not saying you have to age gracefully. Personally, I am not about to stop dying my grays! But, we get what we put into this universe. And if we greet each birthday with quiet dread instead of unrestrained joy, I fear we will face a year of the same.
Most of all, I think we all need to eat cake – big gooey slabs of it – as often as possible, but definitely on our birthdays. Diets be damned! Life is too short!