Some people ignore their birthdays. Some people celebrate them. Some celebrate in grand fashion. Some do not. I usually have been one who did not really celebrate, but secretly wanted someone to make all the arrangements for a big party.
With my birthday in the middle of the summer, getting people together for a celebration often has been tricky. Numerous times growing up, we were out of town visiting my dad for summer birthdays. In college, and then in my summer seasonal work as an environmental educator, I often have not been around the people I knew best. Usually my birthdays are fairly quiet affairs, shared with family members. When my younger sister and I lived together for several years as adults, she was always wonderful at making the small moments beautiful and epic. She still does.
Two years ago, on the night before my birthday, she came home really late and exhausted from a long day at work, but she opened the door with a grin on her face and her cloth shopping bag full of my favorites: a chilled bottle of cheap champagne, a carton of strawberries, and an angel food cake. We ate, drank, and giggled, relishing the moment and sharing birthday stories from our childhoods and also from the years when we lived far apart. We knew it would be one of our last sister roommate moments, as I moved to New Mexico later that summer.
This year, I decided to keep up with my tradition of a low-key and quiet birthday. This week happens to be the midsummer point at work, and so I have enjoyed a week off from my summer job. I am also house-sitting and getting to hang out with two dogs I love. I still wanted to celebrate, though, and I was trying to think of something fun, something economical, and something easy.
Yesterday, I ran a couple of errands and then drove to the grocery store. I already felt celebratory, because I was wearing my favorite summer outfit: a black t-shirt dress that is comfy and cute and cool with my freshly-painted turquoise toenails (last week’s splurge at the local beauty school) peeking out from my black leather sandals. I quickly made my way through the aisles and found exactly what I wanted for a solo birthday celebration. I grabbed a box of fresh summer strawberries and found an angel food cake nearby. Late, local asparagus was on sale and I plucked a bunch under my arm. In the floral department, I found a beautiful and cheap $4 bouquet. I wandered back to the butcher and discovered “Mediterranean-crusted” salmon fillets which seemed perfect, a little different and low effort. Then I headed back to grab a half gallon of orange juice, this itself felt extravagant since I rarely drink juice anymore, and a glass bottle of cheap champagne. I juggled the packages in my arms, and even with an impromptu purchase of a couple of scratch lottery tickets (lucky 7s to go with my birthdate), I left the store having spent less than $25, but felt extravagant with my purchases. My grocery store run reminded me of stocking up before a storm or before a friend came to visit, but it was all for me and for a Friday to just chill. Sometimes it’s the little things and letting oneself enjoy those little things. That in itself is a big thing.
This Friday my birthday marks the beginning of a three-day weekend. I woke up and made a mimosa and ate angel food cake and strawberries for breakfast. I stretched out and worked on some writing. Later I brewed coffee and answered birthday texts and phone calls from friends. Now, I’m indulging in a little “spa” time with a home face mask and an oil treatment for my hair. As I type this, I’m tucked into a corner of the couch with my favorite movie playing in the background. The dogs I love are curled up at my feet and it’s absolutely heaven to hear their sighs and snores.
Tonight and tomorrow, I will do some journaling and setting some intentions and goals for this new year in my life. I have a couple of other rituals that have to do with my spiritual and inner work. I also am writing a gratitude list for the past year. I will go for a run on my favorite route and enjoy a nice long bike ride and a session in the pool swimming laps. I am slowly getting back into shape and the movement feels amazing.
I am grateful for the resplendent and quiet day. I am grateful for carving out the time and choosing to be quiet and hunker down alone. Next week, I’ll join a couple of work friends for a happy hour and make plans for dinner with a dear friend, but today feels good to be silent and solo. There are thoughts and plans and next steps that are incubating right now. Silence seems appropriate.
I look back over the years, and particularly over this past year. I look forward to tomorrow and possibilities, but mostly I look at the here and now.
I set intentions, say prayers, meditate, relax, say thank you. It’s all in a year, in a day, in a moment. I celebrate.