For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower thereof falls away.” 1 Peter 1:24
Man is like a breath; his days are like a fleeting shadow. Psalm 144:4
I was recently interviewed by a co-worker for our monthly newsletter. During our session, she posed the question: Name something that you’ve always wanted to do but have put off for years. “You mean, like a bucket list?” I asked. “Yes,” she responded. I thought about it for a few moments and then realized – I don’t really have a list of unfulfilled desires anymore. I usually get to clear out my “to do” list during my Birthday Year. That’s when I give myself permission to pursue anything and everything.
Every so often I get the urge to celebrate beyond my actual birthday. It’s not a specific year, like say, every five years or years ending in zero or even multiples of ten. I just have to feel the need. I may feel antsy or decide it’s time to challenge myself. That’s when I declare my Birthday Year and pledge to celebrate all year long. The funny thing is, I don’t usually do anything BIG or over-the-top (like bungee jumping – I’ll never understand THAT), or very expensive. I just try my hand at anything I have a mind to do. Maybe it’s because I try the silly things that I find the nerve to do bigger things.
My mom is a woman who always challenged herself. Where her family was concerned, she was always thinking about how she could be a better mother and be more of what we needed her to be. She always wanted more for her children than she had. She didn’t get hugs and kisses or encouragement growing up, so she made sure that we got plenty to break that cycle. Even into her eighties, she was a woman who instigated change in our family relationships. “Talk to me,” she’d say. She wanted to continue to grow and keep up with us and our needs as our world changed. I still cringe when I remember the time she watched Oprah and decided we needed to have a conversation about me and my biological clock! She was not a woman set in her ways but ever evolving.
I, too, found my inspiration in Oprah. I haven’t watched her show in years but I have kept up with her transformation and how she continues to reinvent herself. I watched with the nation as she exercised and punished her body until she declared herself to be in the best condition ever. I watched while she trained for marathons and her body morphed until you could bounce a quarter on her stomach. I sighed, “One day…” I remember thinking and looking forward to the day when I could pursue my own desires and interests. But then my birthday came and it dawned on me: Half of my life could be already gone. One day is here! Although I’m still in my prime, how long that will last? I’d spent potentially half of my life waiting for “One Day” to arrive. I thought about my own mortality and recognized the need for a metamorphosis of my own.
That was my very first Birthday Year – in it, I did everything I ever wanted to do, not putting it off any longer. That was the year I lost 60 pounds through exercise, alone. I took up roller skating with my children – hadn’t been on them since I was a kid but I’d always wanted to try it again. (I was afraid that if I fell I wouldn’t be able to get back up!) I decided I wanted to learn Spanish so I went to the library and picked up some tapes on conversational Spanish, practicing with a helpful co-worker. Anything that popped into my head that year was as good as done. Just because. I felt the need to indulge myself instead of denying myself. “Just do it!” became my motto.
The year I spent celebrating my birthday yielded some wonderful results. Instead of worrying about the time I had left, I began to live. I rediscovered me, becoming more than just wife, mother, church attendee and employee. I became more ME. I enjoyed it so much that whenever my birthday comes now, I re-evaluate my life and see if it needs shaking up. Usually by the time the year is over, I’m ready to get off the ride. Birthday Years are hard work! It’s exhausting to keep challenging myself. I rise to each occasion and I learn something about myself in the process. I come out of the experience exuberant and triumphant.
I found that roller skating didn’t lead to broken limbs and although I never did learn how to dance on skates, I did make my way around the rink without doing major bodily damage. Even when I fell, I found I was able to get back up. Every time I did, I felt a little less breakable and more resilient. I found my mind was just as capable of learning as it ever has been. I picked up enough Spanish to converse with my co-worker on a basic level but all I remember now is, “palomitas quemadas” because she used to burn her microwave popcorn. And I found out, like Oprah, it is impossible to sustain that kind of weight loss unless you spend hours at the gym AND change your eating habits.
My birthday is also a special time because I choose that day to reflect on my life, the past year and my accomplishments. This month marks the one year anniversary of “The Word in My Life.” Five years ago, this month, I purchased my first home on my own and I’m still there. That, in itself, is cause for celebration. Four years ago, I began a new job – since then, I’ve gained recognition and created my very own job title. This is the time I hold myself accountable because I know one day, God will.
Tomorrow is my birthday and once again, I find myself in the position of starting all over. I am, as I was in the beginning, alone. But this time, it thrills and excites me. It feels like it deserves something “a little more extraordinary” ala Bridget Jones Diary. It calls out to me; murmuring, Birthday Year. I’ve tried to fight the urge but I feel it bubbling up inside of me, crying out for release. The suggestion dances in my head because it knows the time is near. It rises to a crescendo – Birthday Year! I can no longer resist the pull; I finally give in – BIRTHDAY YEAR! YEAH!!!!!!! Let the celebration begin! Toot the horns! Toss the confetti! Once more with feeling: HAPPY BIRTHDAY YEAR TO ME!!!!!!