Celebrating a Birthday

by Simon Goland, February 15, 2017

A person close to you has a birthday coming up. Usually, it will mean “all the usual,” from flowers to a dinner to a massage to a gift to, perhaps a weekend getaway, to… many options and ideas. Some love their birthdays and are looking forward to “something special.” Others can’t be bothered. And anything in-between.

When we celebrate someone’s birthday, what are we really celebrating?

Those who love you are not fooled by mistakes you have made or dark images you hold about yourself. They remember your beauty when you feel ugly; your wholeness when you are broken; your innocence when you feel guilty; and your purpose when you feel confused. ~ African saying

My beloved had her birthday a few days ago, while I am away teaching in India. Bad timing (on my behalf, not hers). Yes, I planned a few things in advance of me leaving, and more will be happening when I am back. Her actual birthday day has passed by now, yet it is an opportunity to reflect on what am I really celebrating when I celebrate her. Remotely or in-person.

We are coming up on six years of being together. It has been… how shall I put it? “Not boring at all” perhaps. Beautiful and rich, with tremendous learning and growth, and not without its share of turbulence and hard moments. There were a few times when we were close to walking away from each other. Luckily, we did not. Instead, we got external help, and worked through our challenges of ego, of communication, of presence, and of vulnerability. We still keep working through our sh…tuff, because as we peel some layers, we discover more. The difference is that now it is getting infinitely better, faster, easier, and with more joy and humour. When we can laugh at our own gremlins and demons, it is definitely a sign of progress.

There is something special about being with a person who knows you. Intimately. Someone who truly sees you, and does not try to manipulate or abuse the core of who I am. Because of my upbringing experiences, I have held a deeply hidden essential mistrust of people. Whether with friends or other relationships, I would open up. To a point. Beyond that point, there was a vault door with a big sign of “No Entry.” This is the first time I am really opening up and allowing her to see what is behind these vault doors.

I celebrate you, my beloved, for staying by my side when I was stuck, stubborn, and caught in my demons and stories. I cherish the fact that you are able to see deeply into who I am, and hold it dear and safe. I celebrate another year of your presence in my life and by my side, as we grow, play, love, create, and laugh.

Let your love be like the misty rain, coming softly, but flooding the river. – African proverb

Birthday, however, is not only about things personalized. Among many other amazing and impactful things my beloved is involved with, professionally, she is also with me when we conduct the Right Livelihood Quest. There, I get to witness the rich, deep, and transformative difference she makes with others. Whether a conversation, a deep inquiry, a moment of shared joy or tears, or a moment of pure presence – her magic expresses itself, touching and transforming others. I celebrate you, love, and the impact you have on those around you.

Love is a temporary madness. It erupts like an earthquake and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have become so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion. That is just being “in love” which any of us can convince ourselves we are. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Your mother and I had it, we had roots that grew towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossoms had fallen from our branches we found that we were one tree and not two. – St. Augustine

What do we REALLY celebrate on one’s birthday? And, perhaps, there is also room to wonder – why only one day a year?