Whether or not a day is filled with sunshine or the weather is dreary, whether it’s during the short, darker days of winter or the longer brighter days of summer, we can all find reasons to feel depressed or happy, engaged or wanting solitude.
I’ve never understood, though, why some people prefer not to acknowledge and/or celebrate birthdays or any special occasion but do, instead, whatever they can to avoid celebrating and discourage others from participating in celebrations for them. Such a choice no doubt reflects in part on whether they were taught to value and enjoy such days or were encouraged instead to discount them as being frivolous, paying homage only to Hallmark.
The reason for my desire and need to celebrate may seem obvious to some, but I believe I would feel the same way if I had not experienced all that I had experienced throughout my childhood.
For those of you who have read my memoir, FOUR ROOMS, UPSTAIRS, you know that I grew up with a mother whose health was always precarious. Consequently, I remember having only 2 birthday parties prior to my Sweet Sixteen: one when I was about 3 years old (because I distinctly recall being awakened from an afternoon nap to get into a party dress before our relatives arrived) and another when I was 10 and some school friends were invited over for birthday cake. We sat in a semi-circle on folding chairs, all rather formal, not particularly child-friendly nor happy-making.
Yet, once I became a mother, it gave me immeasurable pleasure to plan and design elaborate birthday parties for each of our daughters. I suppose Freud would say that I tried to make up for all that I missed during my formative years … but, in truth, I never resented my mother for not doing more. I knew that she did her best and never having known life to be otherwise, I’m not sure I missed what I didn’t have.
With the ability to do more for my girls, though, I made the choice to celebrate each of them on each of their birth-days.
Some of us are, of course, more resilient than others and DO manage to handle life’s inevitable curve balls with greater ease and equanimity. To the degree that we do, we are, of course, influenced by genetics – all that we’ve inherited – as well as our environment, and the individually acquired attitudes that we have chosen to adopt in order to best live our lives.
However, we don’t have to have a psychiatric disorder to feel up one day and down another. That’s life. Things happen. We are not robots and we are entitled to feel joyful or sad, as the situation warrants. So, if celebrating only makes a person feel sad, I guess that person will do whatever is necessary to avoid days that mark special occasions.
In our family, we celebrated several birthdays last month, not least of which was that of our grandson. This week we’ll be toasting our granddaughter. During May we’ll have our youngest daughter’s birthday, my nephew’s birthday and mine, and we’ll celebrate my husband’s birthday in June. Though I undoubtedly relate differently to the birthdays of others than I do to my own, each will be a reminder of time passing.
Yet, since the passing of time does not in and of itself depress me, I welcome birthdays and all occasions. My attitude toward aging, along with my acceptance of life’s challenges, colors such days for me in ways that I truly treasure.
I know how easy it is for some to fall into the trap of relating to the construct of TIME (which I devoted an entire blog to months ago) not with gleeful anticipation but with reluctance and a fear of getting older.
It’s a choice.
While it may not be possible for others, I, for one, heartily recommend celebrating. With the current level of unrest in the world, it seems only sensible to give ourselves reasons to celebrate, to find the energy and have the spirit to enjoy the wonders of existence, and to hope that all the insanity that surrounds us on any given day – most of which is out of our control – will not rob us of the choice to rejoice!
So, to all of you who have a birthday, anniversary, or any other reason to celebrate, I hope you will do so, realizing that though time is indeed passing, we who are here are lucky to be alive and to have reasons to celebrate!
Have a great week.