I almost didn’t make it to celebrate this year.
In the past, my birthday hasn’t been a very big deal. I mean, as an adult, celebrating birthdays just never seemed like the thing to do in our family. In fact, I recall hearing about how one of my sisters threatened to walk out of a restaurant when her co-workers were going to bring out a cake and sing Happy Birthday to her. And, I, myself, once threatened a Joe’s Crab Shack waiter with a broken arm if he tried to get me to stand up and sing on my birthday. It’s just how I roll.
But, I’m forty.
Four decades of life. Forty laps around the Sun.
And, this year, I’m going to do things differently. I’ve take the day off, for instance. If, as an adult, I ever managed to not be working on my actual birthday, it was pure chance. But, today, I’ve deliberately taken the day off. Last night two friends, who happen to be married to each other, took me out to dinner. They took me a day early because, as with most people, they have other obligations tonight. In fact, I think that may be one of the reasons I just found it easier to not celebrate my birthday. Often, coming as it does in the middle of the holiday season, there are just too many things going on to be bothered to remember. Hell, last year, I forgot that it was my birthday at all!
But, this year is different.
This year that I never thought I’d live to see. This year, I’m choosing to celebrate life, because that almost wasn’t an option. I have a lot of ideas about who I’m supposed to be and how I supposed to live. And, I have a lot of ideas what people think about that. The thing is, I tend to live in such a way as to be unobtrusive. I guess I was in the way a lot as a kid or something. And, I have some issues about my own worth, my intrinsic value, as a person and a friend. When I really get going on myself, I’m sure that no one would really miss me for very long if I were to just disappear.
But, I know that’s not really true.
After last year, it’d be hard for me to deny that my life has had an effect on a lot of people. People who would miss me if the cancer had taken me. And, not just because of what I can do for them, which is the other lie I tend to tell myself. That I only have value for what I can do for other people. But, really, I’m not quite that useful that the people who surround me and care about me are only in it for the free computer advice and network support. Granted, that’s a nice perk for them, I’m sure, but, honestly, there are other people who do that just as well or better than I.
So, today, I’ll do something different. Today, I’m meeting some friends for lunch. Later, after running a few errands, I’ll be meeting some other friends for dinner and a movie. No idea what movie and I’m not sure where we’ll end up eating, but that’s not the point. And, really, these folks may not even all know that it’s my birthday and that I’m quietly celebrating in my own way. None of that is why I want to go do these things. No, the point is just to not be alone, closed up, closed off, and hidden on my birthday. For a change, I’m going to do something different on my birthday and celebrate.
I’ll also be starting Flickr365 later today. For those of you not familiar with it, the idea behind Flickr365 is to take a creative self-portrait every day for a year and post it to Flickr, the photo sharing website. My intention is to use that to both get myself taking pictures regularly and to get past hating to have my picture taken. Also, it might be interesting to look back and see what a year of changes look like, a year of different shades of me.
In any case, toward that end, I’ll be buying a wireless remote for my camera today, sometime, too. To make it easier to take those self portraits.
And, of course, my birthday wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention all the other famous people who had the good luck to be born on this particular day. Famous people like Frank “Chairman of the Board” Sinatra, Bob Barker, Gustave Flaubert, author of Madame Bovary, Edvard Munch, and Wells Fargo founder, Henry Wells. Not to mention, Mike Pinder of the Moody Blues, Tim Hauser of Manhattan Transfer, Dickey Betts of the Allman Bros, jazz musician Grover Washington Jr, and former mayor of New York City, Ed Koch.
All heady company to be sure, but for whatever reason, it tickles me the most that I share a birthday with Frank Sinatra. I guess it’s because he was such a unique and original character who really fought against and beat some long odds to become an amazingly famous, generally well thought of character. I can only hope to do the same, one day.
So, here we go. I’ve survived one more lap around the sun, one more year, and I’ve beaten some long odds to do so. But, that year is done, now it’s time to start the next one and make it better than the last.
Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"It's nothing against you to fall down flat, but to lie there--that's disgrace."
--Edmund Vance Cooke