Celebrating the best birthday gift of all
Today is my birth year birthday. I was born in 1958, and today I turn 58 years old. I was only recently acquainted with this special birthday and decided it was a random reason to do a little thinking. (Apparently there’s also a “golden” birthday, which happens when your birthday falls on the day of your birth [i.e. if you were born on a Thursday, every birthday that falls on Thursday is golden.] I think. If you know it’s different, please comment!) But only the birth year birthday happens once in a lifetime.
I didn’t do my thankful list on Thanksgiving a week ago, though gratitude ran through my mind like a constant electrical current. For the very special time I had with family and friends I rarely get to see; for the fact that my partner was able to have a little time off to join us; for the wonderful food and the opportunity to visit a church community of which I’ve grown so fond.
But today, amid wonderful gifts, food and family, I am going to express gratitude. And it’s for something that matters more than anything. A dear mentor expressed it to me recently as “the gift of the other.” We were talking about one of my close friends–you know, the kind you have a certain bond with, and you may not even know what it is, or why. In recovery programs we’re urged to find happiness and connection by looking for similarities rather than differences, so I described to her some of our similarities, which, taken together, are a unique link. I think of it as a colorful, braided silk cord that is one of a kind. I have this with each of my close friends, and in each case the cord is different colors, because what binds us is different than any other cord.
The braided cord
This particular friend I think of on my birthday because our first connection is that we’re both born under the same sign, Sagittarius. Our birthdays are separated by a couple of weeks. The second is that we’re both adopted. The third is that we’re both left-handed, and the fourth is that we work in the same profession. A fifth is that we’ve both felt like the black sheep in our families at times; rebellious, maybe more out-spoken and less emotionally controlled than others. We carry a lot of similar baggage.
I could also list our many differences, but I see those as the things we can appreciate about each other–
differing skills, talents, experience, attitudes…just our way of being. I think that’s what my kid calls steez, but she’ll be mortified that I tried to use it in a sentence. I can see her grimacing now.
Working on recovery and doing the 4th Step, which I currently am, is perfect timing to think about this. It’s the time to take a “searching and fearless moral inventory” of myself, past and present. The point is to get rid of old baggage and pain, and to face reality about my character defects with a goal of improving myself. But before that, we’re asked to review and enumerate what’s good about us. Strangely, that list can be more difficult and painful to make. It seems weird now that I would’ve always focused on my faults and not my positive traits, but I’m sure I know where that comes from too. Self-critique was taught to me by my parents, consciously or not, and mostly with the best of intentions. Pride is a sin, after all, so making a list of what’s good about yourself…?
An environment of balance
But it’s essential in the creation of balance, which is the environment in which a happy life can be lived. And there is imbalance if you only critique yourself. That’s not what anyone’s version of a Higher Power wants.
Achieving that balance takes daily work. Our lives are full of action and movement and change. What is true one minute may not be the next. So, like the gymnast on the balance beam, we need to be focused, watchful and constantly move our bodies and minds in a way that maintains that balance in response to those changes. And, also like that gymnast, we strive to do it with grace, dignity and beauty. We don’t always achieve that, but the point is to make the effort.
Longing to connect
But back to the other. My mentor said to me, in the same chat, that our souls “long to reconnect with the source, which is love.” I am increasingly aware of what that means. I spend a lot of time in airports. I watch people parting, and greeting. It’s so sweet to watch people’s recognition, the light in their eyes and the joyful smile that erupts when they see a loved one who has come to meet them on their return. Leave-takings also show how strong that connection can be…when we have to say goodbye it can be so painful.
I moved recently from Canada back to the United States where I was born and raised, and it was hard to say goodbye to a number of people that I knew I wouldn’t be able to see in person as frequently as before. But there are people here that I will get to see more frequently, and that I missed when I lived in Canada. Again, the balance beam comes to mind.
My mentor had something beautifully comforting to say about this: “When you have the gift of the other, that person is a mirror to you. There is no leave-taking because they are a part of you, and you of them.”
So today I am profoundly grateful for that gift, above all the others wrapped in paper and tissue. I am blessed to have so many that I feel a strong connection with, that connection of the source, of love. On this once in a lifetime birthday, I am so grateful for the other.
You know who you are.
Ask & you shall receive,