“Cheerful Birthday to Me:” a ballad sung solo

My birthday is this month.

In two weeks, to be exact. August 19.

Just about 39 times, I’ve grown older on August 19 and it still feels off.

Why?

I’m a numbers girl and 19 has never quite fit me.

Not now, not when I was 19, not ever.

First of all, in general, I prefer even numbers to odd.

And second of all, nine sounds harsh, and nineteen harsher.

The 20th seems like a good day to be born. Or the 4th. Or the 16th even.

But not the 19th.

Of course, it doesn’t help that my birthday lands in the worst part of the summer, when school is out but camp is over and everyone is away on vacation or hiding in their houses praying for Labor Day to arrive quickly or not to arrive at all. No one is around or above ground to notice that it’s August 19, the day of my birth that never quite feels like my birthday.

Maybe the 19th is better when it arrives in June.

Whenever my birthday week comes and goes, I feel as if I was headed for a honeymoon in Vegas but ended up stranded in Cleveland.

Long ago, I stopped expecting my birthday to be special.

Sad, huh?

But I’m taking my birthday back this year. Because it is special, I realize. It’s my birth day. The day my soul came alive.

Fortuitously, I read this post by Waylon Lewis this morning, which helped me make a decision to transform my birthday this year from a not-quite-right kinda day of  awkward moderate celebration into a meaningful experience. Even if that meaningful experience lasts an hour, not all day long.

Waylon, who was born and raised in an American Buddhist family, suggests:

“Meditate for a few minutes, then contemplate—a focused, deliberate sort of thinking—your life. Think about what it’s for, and where it’s been, and where you might have gone off the path of being genuine and trying to be helpful to yourself, to others, and to our fragile planet. Don’t waste much time in regret, which Trungpa Rinpoche said was a valuable emotion but one that you ‘should only spend three seconds on’ after making a mistake. Think about where you’re going, how short your life is and what it is for (‘benefiting all sentient beings, including oneself’ is a good place to start if you’re coming up empty).

Then, celebrate the day with your community—genuine friends and close family. Presents, cake, it’s all to the good.”

Yes, it is all to the good.

It will be especially this year because I’ll be on vacation during my birthday. And since I’ve made a conscious decision to disconnect during my vacation, meditating and deliberate thinking for an hour should come reasonably easy.

Yes, this is to the good.

August 19 was, according to my parents and a hospital clerk in Philadelphia, the day I was born. The day my soul made a conscious decision to enter into human life.

And while, for some unexplainable reason, the 19th has never felt quite like mine, perhaps this is just something to notice.

Allow the idea to simmer, to be there without judgement.

To just accept August 19 as my birth day and be grateful that it has come again, and my life is mine to create. Each year. Each day.

Waylon finishes his post with this note:

Chogyam Trungpa always had everyone sing “Cheerful Birthday,” not “Happy Birthday,” saying that Happiness was a state of mind that had Sadness or Unhappiness on its flip side. Cheerfulness, he said, better described a fundamental way or attitude of being. So, growing up in the Buddhist tradition, we always sang Cheerful Birthday to you… Either way is great, as long as you consider that you’re not wishing a temporary state of being based on circumstances—but rather that the you may truly continue to become friends with oneself.

If you wish for me something this birthday, wish for me health, cheer, and the strength to continue becoming friends with myself.

I’ll be offline for a while — meditating on me, and enjoying life.  Please consider reading some older posts and commenting on them in the meantime.

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12 thoughts on ““Cheerful Birthday to Me:” a ballad sung solo

  1. I will sing ‘Cheerful Birthday to You’ on Aug. 19. Yours will not be a ‘Ballad Sung Solo’.
    Way to go, by the way – great title to draw the reader in, me anyway. Loved its sad note, but knew it would end inspirationally.
    I may re-blog your re-blog in my inknpetals.com. Fabulous. I will never say Happy Birthday again. It never felt right to me – too presumptuous or something. Now I know why.
    Enjoy your vacation!

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  2. No mention of the fact that you could chosen any even day between July 29th & August 19th to make your appearance. Can’t wait to celebrate your birthday together this year. xoxo.

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  3. I managed to keep my birthday for myself, I erased it from FB, I do not publicize it, and just enjoy it my way with my closest family… somehow I never liked the idea to congratulate or be congratulated… but always felt like giving myself a break and have fun… last year I went to Canada Center in Metula and we were swimming, skating on ice, bowling, and swimming again and I will probably repeat this year as well…

    On the other hand I knew of few people who loves to receive messages that specific day so I do for them every single year and knowing that you will be meditating and meeting your self is very moving… I wish you a deep meditation and that you will find place for new close friends in your 39th and over, an age where very rarely we make new friends, and hopefully one will be me. 😉

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  4. Jen, thank you for sharing your aliyah experience (and all the other experiences that go with it) with us. I love following your blog. Because of this and so many other great posts on your site, I’ve nominated your “and yadda yadda yadda… I made aliyah” blog for a Sunshine Award. I genuinely enjoy reading your work and feel that it embodies the spirit of the Sunshine Awards. You truly are “lighting up the dark corners of our minds”.

    To learn more about the Sunshine Award and your fellow nominees, please visit:

    http://coffeeshoprabbi.com/2013/08/09/sunshine/

    And, thank you for all you’re doing to make our world a kinder, more compassionate one. The warmth and beauty in your posts brings Israel close to the heart.

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  5. Happy belated birthday! I’m interested in what you ended up doing to “come to terms” with your birthday this year? Six years ago, I started making birthday shrines for myself, mostly to commemorate where I was in life at the time….but I’m a big fan of rituals!

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