Many Happy Returns on the Day

Being grateful for whatever comes your way on your special day

I gained another year the other day. It wasn’t by choice; I had little say in the matter. But I did choose to make it a bit special, even if I was the only attendee at my birthday bash.

I’ve been isolating because COVID is raging in these parts, and after a scare at Christmas, I wasn’t about to let this birthday be my last. But that doesn’t mean it had to be a gloomy affair.

These days, it’s so easy to be depressed and sad. I know. I feel this way often. My sister is my only pod person and she lives two hours away. So she tried to come up on the weekend before my birthday. It snowed. She tried to come up on the weekend after my birthday. It snowed. She’s trying to come up next weekend…and it better not snow.

Still, I could linger in a chair and weep that yet another year has gone by and I’ve nothing to show for it. One year closer to the Pearly Gates. Kicking the bucket. And all that. So easy to do. And misery has a calming, comforting effect – because it’s so easy to accept, it’s easy to give up. With no one to celebrate my birthday with, I could’ve celebrated a pity party full stop.

This year, I chose differently. I celebrated myself, in every interpretation of the phrase.

At my weekly trip to the grocery store, I picked out a nice bouquet of flowers. Something bright and cheerful to bring a smile in my living room. Next, I decided to make a nice dinner, so I picked out pricier ingredients than I ordinarily would’ve. Sure, I’d have plenty of leftovers but isn’t that also a birthday present – no cooking for 3-4 days? Oh, and dessert. Must have that.

Mr. Instant Pot obliged and created this wonderful goulash. Instead of cake, I baked a strawberry-blueberry pie. So what if neither are in season really and they come from Florida and Chile? Whipped cream swirled in a generous peak on its crust. Of course, chocolate had a place at the table. Most of all, it was lovely to enjoy a restaurant-quality meal, even if I didn’t do takeout.

Treating myself right shouldn’t feel like a guilt trip. Just because there isn’t anyone around to join my party is no excuse to cheat myself out of what I rightly deserve on this once-a-year me-day.

Another goal for the days leading into my birthday: I actually finished my book, synopsis and blurb and sent it off to my agent the day before my birthday. That was my Mt. Everest. Though I know full well it’s coming back to me with edits, having a few days off from struggling over that manuscript also was a gift. It’s the first one in a series, so in the meantime there’s a plot to be hashed out in the second book. That’ll give me something to do in the meantime.

Indulging yourself in birthday presents doesn’t mean you have to shop and spend. These, too, are gifts:

  1. If the house seems a little dirty, it’s probably cleaner than you think. Never mind all those housecleaning videos on YouTube.
  2. Getting up in the morning to greet the sunrise is inspiring. Watching the sky transition from night to day, especially with every shade of pink and red thrown on the clouds, is amazing.
  3. The same goes for the setting sun.
  4. Losing yourself in a good book and going on an adventure within its pages.
  5. Watching a really great classic movie on TCM and noticing how little things have really changed with people.
  6. Catching up with an old friend on FaceTime, Facebook Live or just a regular phone. You really do miss each other. Say so.
  7. Going for a nice walk, even if it’s only a short distance. Fresh air circulating in your lungs really does wonders.
  8. Challenging yourself to do something different.
  9. Allowing your imagination to guide you.
  10. Forgiving yourself for dumb, stupid things. They’re all in the past anyway. They’re only as important as you make them.
  11. Drink that bottle of wine, wear that dress, eat that chocolate or whatever else it is that you’ve been saving for a special occasion that never seems to come. That special occasion is the day you make it so.
  12. Breathe. Spend a moment or two just focusing on your breath, blocking out anything else that might interfere with calmness.
  13. You will never be anyone else other than yourself. So be the best you can be! To thine own self be true.

May all of you have a wonderful birthday year, whenever it happens.

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