Friday, February 25, 2011
Today is my birthday :-)
But for the past month, it didn’t feel like my 38th year on Earth was approaching. Normally, as soon as February 1st hits, I’m in a celebratory mood. I look forward to celebrating with friends and family the entire month.
But this month was different. My cat, who is like a child to me, was getting sicker and sicker. And then I caught what seems to be El Diablo of colds….probably a flu…and I’ve been trying to shake it for weeks now. Coughing, wheezing and trying to love up my cat as much as I can - that’s all I was focused on. At the start of this week, someone asked me what I was doing on Friday and I said, “Going home, why?” I didn’t even remember what day it was. My special day didn’t seem like it was going to be special at all.
Until 7:05 this morning when my cell phone rang. In a sleepy haze, I reached around for my phone and couldn’t even open my eyes wide enough to read the display to see who was calling. I answered a groggy “hello”….and then…
“Happy birthday to youuuu, happy birthday to youoooo, happy birthday dear Auntieeeee! Happy birthday day to youooooo!”
I felt my spirit rise and a smile stretched across my face. My gorgeous, amazing nephews were the first to serenade me with birthday wishes….and my birthday suddenly became the special day it’s always been.
I said my “thank you’s” and “love you’s” as they argued over where to throw my birthday party when I came home to Philly – the “bowling place” or Chuck E. Cheese. My sister broke up the fight by saying that “Auntie can choose when she gets here.”
“We can have my party at both places. Bowling on a Saturday, Chuck E. Cheese on the following Sunday,” I reassured them.
“Yay!!!!” they yelled in unison. It occurred to me right then and there that birthdays aren’t just for you – they’re for everyone that loves you as well.
Whether you’re sick, or some challenge or issue is keeping you in a funky mood, there is always a reason to celebrate life. As my dad reminded me this morning, every day is a birthday…a chance to begin anew. The actual birth date is just the milestone we celebrate to remind us to be thankful for all of God’s blessings…and His grace to see us through to another year under His mercy.
I was going to “skip out” on this birthday…sit it out. I thought to myself, “Maybe I’ll celebrate next year when I’m feeling better. Or when I’m not sad over Cole.” But then I realized that next year isn’t promised. I shouldn’t hold back on this year because of a cough or because of sadness, because there’s no telling what I’ll miss if I’m not fully present right now, and there may not be another go-around.
At first I felt guilty, like…”how can I be happy and celebrate my birthday when I’m so sad over my cat’s illness?” It didn’t seem right. To those without pets or a love for animals, this may sound a bit silly to you. But anyone who knows me knows that this is heavy on my heart, because my pet is my family.
After I hung up with my sister and nephews while still lying in bed, my cat walked into the bedroom, meowing. He barely makes a peep nowadays, but he walked into the room as if he was singing a “good morning” to me. I watched him slide over to the side of the bed and I reached out my hand to pet him. He stopped just short of my hand and looked up at the bed. For weeks now, he’s been too weak to jump up on the sofa, let alone the bed. I saw in his eyes that he was going to attempt…so I made room to catch him so he wouldn’t fall back to the floor if he couldn’t make it. But to my surprise, he made it! – jumped with full strength…and then cuddled up to me and licked my hand and rubbed his face against mine. Tears streamed down my face because it was like he knew it was my birthday, and he wanted to be near me. I was late for work this morning because I laid with him for another half hour, just petting him and loving him.
Those moments are the ones you wish you had more of. I’ve never wished to spend more time at work, but I know one day I’ll wish I had more time with Cole. Work isn’t going anywhere. They can wait.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, sad and to try to shut everything out. No one is promised complete immunity from the discords of living a human life. Problems, sickness and sadness inevitably arise, but they can only lead to blessings because through the discord we rise higher in consciousness…and this ultimately brings harmony. To move through darkness into the light, we have to empower ourselves by discovering resources of joy, peace and wisdom. This gives us the strength to withstand being overpowered, either by outside forces, or from within ourselves - and to feel, live and love life first hand, to exist fully.
Birthdays remind us that every experience that we have, year to year, is a positive lesson in our lives that invite us to learn and grow. This year, my lesson is to receive and accept each lesson with gratitude, even before I know what the benefits might be. I rejoice and give thanks when difficulties occur, not because of the suffering involved, but because of what will come of it. Faith produces courage and prepares you to meet any obstacles that come your way, as well as prepares you to expect only the best that God has to offer. I can’t wait to see what this year brings, and I’m thankful God has seen me through and given me the celebratory spirit I need to live a full life now. I hope you all come celebrate with me!