How My Lockdown Birthday Fostered Reflection and Gratitude
I had a biggish birthday recently. It wasn’t a milestone birthday, but rather – as one of the cards a friend sent me put it – “Somewhere between 29 and ‘none of your business’.”
Because we are in lockdown here in the UK, I couldn’t do anything special to mark the occasion. The upscale Mexican restaurant my husband had booked us into was closed, so he made homemade pasta sauce instead. I had a bunch of work on my plate, so I needed to get that done.
And yet, despite the ordinariness of the day, it was one of the best birthdays I’ve had in recent years. Here’s how my lockdown birthday helped me take stock of my life:
Appreciating Friends and Family
On a normal birthday, you get so caught up in the bustle of “doing,” you often fail to appreciate the flood of birthday wishes coming your way. Not so this year, when there was nowhere to go!
I’m normally pretty rigid about my work day and tend to only look at my phone at scheduled intervals. But in a real break from my normal schedule, I kept my phone near my desk.
I savored each message as it came in – by text, by What’s App, by Facebook, by phone. I thought about all the different people I heard from over the course of the day – how I knew them and where they fit in my lives.
Sure, because of Facebook and What’s App, it’s a heckuva lot easier to say “Happy Birthday” to someone now than it was 15 years ago. But that didn’t diminish the joy I experienced receiving the birthday tidings.
I felt loved and – dare I say it – special. Which is precisely how you’re meant to feel on your birthday.
Reflecting on Change and Growth
During dinner with my immediate family, my husband asked me to reflect on how things had changed since my last big birthday five years ago.
When I did it, I realized how far I’d come. Five years ago, I was still working in a job that I knew wasn’t really for me. I’d not yet decided on my next path, I just knew that something more meaningful and authentic awaited me.
I distinctly remember making my way to a small dinner party my husband had organized with some close friends. “Are we having fun yet?” was the question that rang through my head at the time. Not because I didn’t love and appreciate all those assembled in my honor. But because, in my heart of hearts, I didn’t feel like I’d found myself yet.
And that triggered a great sadness in my heart. As if I should be happier but wasn’t. I had let myself down.
This year, I reflected instead on how far I’ve come. Since that last birthday, I took time out to sort out what I wanted to do with my life. I launched my own business, which, I’m pleased to report, is thriving, even during lockdown. And slowly, very slowly, I’ve inched my way towards my ideal day.
Being Comfortable with Yourself
The greatest gift of the last five years has been getting comfortable with who I am and embracing that self. I was listening to an interview recently with the great British actress, Helena Bonham Carter, herself now of a certain age.
Here’s how she explained her newfound happiness in later life: “As you get older, even though you’re falling apart on the outside, inside it’s much more enjoyable and comfy.”
I couldn’t have put it better myself. There is a certain comfort to that stage of life when you finally stop striving and start accepting – and even perhaps loving – yourself.
Lordy, what a journey that is. But I’m so glad I’m on my way. There are still more hills to climb. But I’m getting there, inch by inch. I can’t wait to see what the next milestone birthday holds.
How did you spend your first lockdown birthday? What did you discover about yourself in this latest year of your life? How have you changed? What realities about your true self can you share with our community?