Birthday Reflections

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Today's my birthday.

For a long time, my birthdays have been a volatile mix of emotions.

I'm an only child, so I remember the Batman cake, and I remember inviting my whole class to a party in the park, and I remember Showbiz Pizza (before the Chuck E. Cheese rebranding) with my best friend in 4th grade...which was a big deal, because the nearest Showbiz Pizza was an hour away.

I remember that year in college when all of my friends graduated on my birthday.

My parents wished me a Happy Birthday, no one else did. I mean, I have a birthday every year...they were only graduating once. Still...

I remember the year my partner (not my current partner) surprised me by taking me to her favorite restaurant. At least my best friend and her husband were there to celebrate with me. My best friend gave me a CD of Buddhist chants. Very cool gift...we were music majors together in college.

I remember the year that my oldest daughter was almost born on my birthday. Got back home in the middle of the night after the hospital told us we weren't achieving parenthood that night. Had a small corner bite of birthday cake.

You see, I think birthdays are important. From a spiritual perspective, it's a celebration of the day that our soul became incarnate in this life. That is a pretty big deal.

We all want to be special, right? Well, we ARE all special. No one born into this world has ever had the gifts that we have, in just the right combination, and just the right dose to be able to do what we do. It's like the Collective Consciousness said, "Okay kid! Here's what we got for you! Now go out there and see what you can do with it!"

Birthdays are a reminder that each of us (and for that voice of self-doubt, let me say again EACH of us) have gifts to share with the world, those gifts make a difference, and if we don't share them, the whole of human history will miss out.

A couple of the gifts I bring are the gifts of humor, and community building. Not long after I started working at a small hospital as a music therapist, I started playing the ukulele. Staff members began asking me to sing Happy Birthday to fellow co-workers. As happens in many restaurants, we'd gather a group of people together around the birthday boy or girl, sing, and I'd accompany on ukulele.

I was inspired to create a culture of celebration amongst the staff. I thought that we could get party decoration leis (to go with the ukulele vibe) for birthday honorees to wear and the rest of staff would know when it was someone's birthday.

Here's the (slightly off-color) humor part: I would quietly say to trusted colleagues, "Because everyone should get lei-ed on their birthday!"

Ultimately, Human Resources decided that not everyone would want their birthday so publically recognized, and the idea was declined.

To my knowledge, no one in HR heard the "get lei-ed" joke, so I don't believe that influenced the decision.

To sum up my point, here's a poem by Walt Whitman (popularized by Dead Poets Society):

O Me! O Life!

Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,

Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,

Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)

Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,

Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,

Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,

The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?


That you are here—that life exists and identity,

That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

For me, that last line of the poem, the one Robin Williams's character emphasizes express what birthdays are to me now.

A time to remember that the powerful play goes on, and to celebrate that I may contribute a verse.

How's your verse shaping up?