Well today is my birthday. As I was writing this blog in my head yesterday and today I was fully prepared to have it be a blog full of whit and humor… centering around my first ever nude sun bathing session at a nude beach. I had all these funny little pun’s that I was going to throw out things like: well since I came into this world naked, I figured I may as well wear my birthday suit again (not sure if that is really a pun). Anyways, trust me, it was going to be funny.
Then, something amazing happened…
Probably between age 8 – 10 I began to hate my birthday. My family grew up poor and we never had “enough” money. Talk of having to borrow money to buy groceries, pay rent, etc… was as common as the weather. As an adult I can look back at things with a different set of eyes, however, as a kid, it was devastating and as a result, I began to associate an immense amount of guilt with my date of birth to the situation my family was in. In my adolescent mind I saw my parents struggling to get by and so when my birthday and even Christmas would come around, I felt terrible receiving gifts from them because I knew they didn’t have the money to buy them. I equated my couple of moments of happiness I got from receiving my presents to hours and days of stress and struggle for my parents (I felt selfish for receiving them). In my mind I would punish myself, telling myself I was a mistake and the world would be better off without me. I won’t get into the extremes of mental torment I took myself too… that is another story, but the above is neccessary to paint the picture of the magic of today.
So as an adult when my birthday has drawn closer I find myself shying away from people… withdrawing into my own mini depressed state – pity party, party of 1. Friends, family, ex-girlfriends have all tried to do nice things for me and every time I have fled. I do whatever I can to try and spend the day as alone as possible only then to feel sorry for myself for continually feeling this way. I’m aware of the issue, causes, triggers, etc… I just won’t let myself let go (trust me I am working on that). As I shy away and run, I leave the people who love and care about me hurt and saddened that I will not allow them to celebrate my birthday with me.
One of the challenges for this year was to experience a moment of pure, SOBER, happiness on my birthday. Something I can never recall doing as an adult. There have been brief moments of happiness, but always because I am forcing myself to be happy for someone else who is trying to do something nice for my birthday, or alcohol induced ones.
I believed this to be almost impossible. I was stressed and sad yesterday, I could not sleep this am, and re-scheduled many of my appointments so I could avoid being around people. I was off to a great start to repeat birthday’s of the past.
I survived the morning and went for a run around 9:30am fighting back tears the whole time… tears that I was running away again, tears that I was being sad when I have so much to be happy for and then tears over the previous two. I decided to take myself out to a late breakfast at my favorite breakfast spot, it’s called “Shoreline Cafe.” I love this place because you can actually go sit in the sand. I have been going there for years and the staff all knows me and greats me with a warm smile every time I come in. And, best of all, know one there know’s it is my birthday.
I eat my meal and am sitting in the sand watching the ocean, enjoying the perfect summer day in the middle of January. I ask the waiter for my bill and he brings it over smiling as always. I open it up and see nothing but a blank receipt and the words “thank you” written along with a smiley face. I turn to the waiter to tell him the receipt is blank and he is smiling and he says, “no, no my friend, it is on us today.” Then the manager, a great guy named Enrique, comes out smiling and shakes my hand and tells me they had a busy weekend because of the holiday and great weather… they just wanted to do something nice for me. They had no idea it was my birthday or what was going through my head at that time. I will tell them one day.
I left there over come with a mix of emotions. In my coaching business, I work with clients about the importance of acts of kindness, simple things such as a smile to a stranger – you never know what kind of difference it can make in their day. And yet I had never really experienced one in such a powerful way at such a significant time in my life. I have tears in my eyes as I type this, for words cannot describe what this moment meant to me, another wonderful discovery that has been brought about because of this challenge. On a normal birthday I would have not dared to go in public, I would have hid and sulked. On this birthday, (only because I promised myself to step out of my comfort zone and to no longer just settle for things being as they are), I tired. And because I tried, I was treated to the greatest birthday gift I have ever been given – a genuine act of human kindness which lead to me experiencing what I thought was impossible, a genuine moment of SOBER happiness on my birthday.
I felt a shift in me today. While I am still not ready to break out the pinata’s and birthday hats just yet, I have found myself smiling and laughing more on this birthday than any birthday in recent memory.
Never underestimate the power a simple act of kindness can have on another human – on the world.
I hope you enjoy the pictures.