What’s the best birthday gift for you? How do you feel when you get it?
I turned 46 last week; I am now officially in my late 40s, YAY! It feels pretty awesome—what a great age! I am a seasoned clinician, at a point in my career where I have earned some respect and status, and still have plenty yet to accomplish. My kids are maturing, getting wise; we have fun and deep conversations. I am, finally, understanding how to do this complex thing called marriage. I know what I will tolerate from others and what I will not, and I stand up for myself better than ever. I know who I am.
Apparently others know, too, and they showed me this week in the most loving celebrations.
I used to wear the most boring socks. I worried whether they matched my outfit or my shoes. Then one day my manager gleefully wore the loudest, brightest striped socks to work. Suddenly hosiery became the easiest mode of self-expression that I could exercise daily, with abandon! Soon I discovered mismatched sock trios, launching my sock loving life to the next level. Thereafter my socks did not match; they coordinated (but I did it less expensively by just mixing regular pairs). These days I wear compression socks, but even they come in fun styles (I have no financial interests in any of the businesses linked here)! It just brings me that little bit of joy each morning pulling them on, and then seeing them all day—a splash of color, a flourish of design. On Thursday, in honor of my birthday, colleagues came to work sporting fun socks of their own. We gathered briefly and bonded with exuberance, took a picture, hugged, and went, a little more joyfully, back to work.
The next day, at the other office, I was greeted with a big printed sign, shiny streamers, and a delicate, hand-decorated, washi tape banner. My newest colleague brought a huge box of assorted donuts. Hugs abounded from all over. And one friend wrote me a lovely birthday note—on one of a stack of washi tape cards I had made and left in the office for folks to use on each other.
I have a friend who always feeds me when I go to her house—whatever she has around, often that she has made—and she always has something awesome… It’s usually sweet. This day she went to special trouble to make a perfect dessert, which we enjoyed with coconut green tea while catching up on work, relationships, life. We sat in her beautiful front room, afternoon sun streaming in, surrounded by books, leather, and special papers—all of my favorite things.
It was the best birthday yet, I must say.
I wrote recently that we have 5 fundamental needs: To feel seen, heard, understood, accepted, and loved. Over these two days and in the past week, so many people in my life have not only met these needs for me, but fulfilled them in the deepest, most touching and poignant ways. Simple gestures. Heartfelt words. Slow, quality time. They may seem small. But make no mistake, their impact and resonance cannot be adequately measured. I felt absolutely lifted, and my heart was—is still—warmed, through and through. “Gratitude”, even rendered by the eloquent and wise David Whyte, just doesn’t quite capture the whole experience.
Gifts like these—conceived from an intimate knowing, presented joyfully, and shared in generosity and love—make birthdays, both mine and my friends’, some of my favorite days of the year.