Recently I celebrated my 39th birthday and it gifted me with an epiphany about giving. As far back as I remember, I’ve treasured my birthday as an untouchably happy day. No matter what happens on that day, I’m immune to unhappiness. I resolve: This is my day; nothing can bring me down. I’m buoyant, enjoying each moment, projecting smiles in all directions. Usually my cheerfulness is fed by the good wishes, hugs, and gifts showered upon me by family and friends.
But this year felt different. Even though friends festooned me with happy birthday songs and flowers, even though I kept feeding myself the feel-good phrase, It’s my birthday!, something didn’t feel right. There was an edge. I started paying attention – what was making me feel good, and what made me uneasy?
At the acupuncture office where I work, a client brought a dozen red roses and a butterfly balloon, and when I departed for the day, I left most of the roses for the ladies who would be there the next day. That felt good. I brought a few roses to my dear friend who was making dinner for me. That felt good. Later, driving out of a parking lot, I saw a woman and girl biking toward me on the sidewalk, and I backed up so they’d have room to pass. That felt good too. A-ha! It dawned on me. Kindness was the way to happiness. Being the center of attention didn’t feel good at all. I used to love my birthday because it was All About Me. This year, self-centeredness felt passé and generosity gave me a high.
In some cultures it’s a tradition for people to give gifts to others on their birthday. What a sweet idea. (If you know about those cultures, add a comment here!) Let’s start a new tradition. Birthday girl, make yourself a fount of kindness. Birthday boy, how many good deeds can you do today? Instead of aging you’ll feel years younger….