Birthdays and passages

I have a friend who has a birthday approaching this month and he is not too keen on celebrating it. 41 is not, to most people, considered over the hill or old but for some reason it is not sitting well with him…Got me to thinking about age and the negative way that we view the process of growing and maturing and experiencing life.
Personally, I turned 40 last November. The year before that birthday I was very open with everyone that I was going to spend the whole year leading up to my birthday celebrating it – you only turn 40 once! I had “private” pictures done to mark the year of my 40th birthday; a gift to myself to remind me to love myself, as I am, physically – a lifelong issue for me. I talked about going away somewhere for a little trip…somewhere warm, with beaches and fun drinks with umbrellas in them….maybe taking a plane to get there! My closest friends know I don’t travel by plane, scared to death of them! And I never go anywhere…always some reason not to; money, time off work, kids, responsibilities…the list goes on and on, as it does for all of us.
So in the midst of all this chatter about my fast approaching leap into another decade the hammer fell in my family life and Willie became tormented with mental illness.
My 40th birthday was memorable…the day was spent doing intake interviews and sessions with psychiatrists and social workers and care nurses for my son at the Adolescent Psychiatric Unit; a locked ward we had him committed to the day before. Not a mention was made of my birthday and to be honest it would have passed for me without notice had it not been for the love of my sweetie who had come to visit and help me through the ordeal of that week. He was there, sitting in the chairs in the hallway of the hospital when the day was done and I stumbled out, exhausted and drained and despondant that I was leaving my son behind. He was there to take me out for a “celebratory” dinner and spent the entire time holding me in the booth while I cried too hard to even eat…he was there to tuck me in at home and hold me while I wept again and eventually cried myself to sleep.
I now have a very different view on birthdays and the passage of time in general…the day we were born is significant but it’s just another day in our incredible lives…every day needs to be celebrated and given the same reverence and honour as the date of our entry to this life. A very dear friend at work who is now well into his 70’s remarks that “every day on this side of the dirt is a great one”! Truer words were never spoken.
We hear all the time the saying that we aren’t promised tomorrow, that we don’t know how much time we have….and it’s true…sometimes it takes losing someone so close it hurts like you have died yourself to realize the truth in those words.
I know people who are chronologically young but old souls and brimming with insight and maturity… and we all know the flip side to be true as well! May we all find the balance between maturity and wisdom with a dash of childish giggles and wonder and joy!
Age doesn’t make us old…fixating on the number and the years behind us piling up take our focus off the fact that, with luck, we still have years AHEAD to live….
As we all start to process and deal with the grief and mourn Willie’s decision, it is becoming increasingly clear that his death has struck a nerve with so many that we need to wake up and stop going through life on auto-pilot.
For Willie, his birthdays end at 16. For the rest of us, we get the chance to celebrate every day that we wake up as the blessing it is. Experience the joy that we deserve and enrich someone else’s day every chance we get.
Never mind waiting for a celebratory “Happy Birthday”… make the best of every day you’re on this side of the dirt 😉


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