Thursday, December 4, 2008

December 4th

It’s my birthday ! 43 years ago today, my mom and I met for the first time. I get a wonderful picture when I think of that image ! In any case, I happen to love birthdays. Please don’t misunderstand: I have rarely had perfect birthdays. Several milestones were spent alone in my dorm rooms. I was very ill for another. My husband, who is a truly good man, is simply missing the “holiday gene” in his personality. But, despite rotten days, and disappointments, I still get giddy over the fact that December 4th has rolled around again. I think that, even on the forgotten years, it’s still given me an opportunity to think “I’m here ! I’m alive !” with a new sense of appreciation at the blessing of life itself. It breaks my heart that birthdays are the one of the leading days to commit suicide, second only to Christmas. I truly believe that, no matter what, we have been gifted with the honor of our very selves, and to be able to internally appreciate that, is the biggest blessing a birthday can bring. Yes, it’s nice to receive a card or some flowers, and it’s definitely a joy to not have to cook for an evening. I do like to feel appreciated, of course. But, waking up this morning, knowing that I’d completed 43 years on this planet gave me a sense of awe and thankfulness to just be ‘here’, right now. Being alone on a birthday isn’t the worst thing in the world. Not “being” at all would be far worse.

I look at birthdays the way many people feel on New Year’s: as a chance to begin again, to start fresh, to release bad habits and pick up new ones. I think it’s much more fitting, on a birthday, to begin anew because, after all, it’s our own personal ‘new year’. Every December 4th, I take stock in what I’ve done well in the past year…and honestly look at where I’ve made mistakes. I try to look back without judgment and figure out ways in which I can improve. This reflection may include everything from keeping track of finances to organization to the vast amounts of coffee I consume. And, while this year, my level of organization doesn’t seem to have improved, and my coffee habit seems to be worse, I can look at the methods I tried and remind myself not to repeat them. Thomas Edison once wrote “I haven’t failed. I’ve simply found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” I love that philosophy, and I am inspired by that sentiment. I can look at different ways to try to achieve my goals, and stop wasting time berating myself over not having done so sooner. By taking time to reflect on what I’ve done well, and where I can improve, I can make my birthday not only meaningful to myself, but to those I live with, as well. I try to take time out of my day to build a bridge, mentally, between my past year, and the year ahead, setting my goals as I go.

An excellent Yoga asana along these lines is Bridge Pose. Bridge brings you up onto your shoulders, placing all your weight balanced between your feet and shoulders. Bridge is excellent for clearing the mind and maintaining focus. It also happens to be a fantastic shoulder strengthener. I offer Bridge Pose in my classes towards the end of the class, after we’ve worked very hard, but before our relaxation time. Metaphorically, the asana offers yoginis time to reflect and allow their bodies and minds to wind down. Physically, it has many of the same attributes. When I teach my Restorative Yoga class this evening, I’ll be inviting my students to use this asana to help slow down the breath, quiet the mind, and gain strength in both.

While I wish I could offer pearls of wisdom on being 43 years old, I can only offer up my own confusion that I simply don’t feel like a grown up yet. I realize how very much I have yet to learn, to do and to experience. I also realize how incredibly blessed I’ve been…not only in the good things that have happened along the way, but in the lessons I’ve learned from the trying times most of all. We don’t learn in ease, but in overcoming adversity, according to Helen Keller. I hope that I have many years in which to learn !

And, just one final tip: send your mom flowers your birthday. Thank her for getting you here safely !

"Man's main task in life is to give birth to himself, to become what he potentially is. The most important product of his effort is his own personality. " Erich Fromm


Marcia said...

Happy birthday! I love the Edison quote and I like the idea of reflection on your birthday. Oh also, my mom was just telling me yesterday that she doesn't yet feel grown up. I may give up on hope for that one LOL!

TulipGirl said...

Happy birthday! I consider you to be a gift in my life.