“Happy” being the keyword here. I think about many of the birthday jokes I’ve heard over the years and even decades…”another year older… another birthday…too many candles on the cake…” I even know of people who don’t want to be reminded about their birthday. To those, it’s anything but a celebration. In fact, I recently conveyed some birthday greetings to someone I know for her husband’s birthday, to which was replied, “He says doesn’t want anymore birthdays!” Really? Then what’s the alternative?
So what if birthdays were also understood by each and every one of us as “Lifedays”? Would we find a difference in celebrating that? I have found that the people most grateful for birthdays – another one, and yes, another one – are cancer survivors, or survivors of other life-threatening illnesses or circumstances. They know with every fiber of their being that birthdays are lifedays!
I of course realize that growing older and aging after mid-life is something to be reckoned with by most of us. We may not feel it in our heads, but definitely our bodies have a way of reminding us otherwise. And even though we may say about age that, “it’s just a number”, well yes it is! It’s the number of years commemorating the time we’ve been here on this earth, making our marks and touching lives, as well has having our lives touched – and we should celebrate that! So for these reasons, as far as birthdays are concerned, we greet each other with “many happy returns of the day” and “many more happy ones to come”. We Jewish people also have a birthday greeting that goes, “from now to 120+!” Not because these are mere traditional greetings, but because we know that our life and being another year older are to be rejoiced.
This also goes hand-in-hand with complaints about getting old. While I understand the hardships that many go through coming to terms with “things no longer working as well”, as well we hang on to our youth as we seek to avoid our own mortality. I often wonder how and why we pray for long lives, simultaneously not wanting to grow old. I somehow don’t think we can have one without the other. We can do our best in preserving our youthful mentality, appearance and overall attitude to life. We can decide to be happy no matter what – and this of course, we now know will keep producing the happy brain chemistry, along with dopamine and endorphins, the neuro-transmitters that in turn keep us young. We can metaphorically have our cake and eat it too!
So here’s the thing: if we hope to have our prayers for longevity answered, then we must embrace our years and the prospect of future years. The thing is to keep filling the years with what fulfills us. When we celebrate life, we can celebrate milestones, not just in our age-number, but in how we gauge what we’ve experienced, what we’ve learned and how far we’ve come since we arrived. So Happy Lifeday! Celebrate many more happy returns and l’chaim, to Life!