Happy Birthday, Happy Every Day

I had a birthday last week!

I almost forgot about it–which is surprising. I know lots of women my age push birthdays away with both hands, while others wave them away with some self-deprecating comment like, “Oh, please don’t make a fuss.” But I have never, ever been one of those women.

In fact, when I first met my husband, I told him I didn’t believe in birthdays; I believed in birthmonths, whopping 31-day galas celebrating moi. He gamely played along, and proved remarkably good at celebrating in small ways on more days–a variation on traditional birthdays I highly recommend.

But a funny thing happens when you get older. You get smarter. You find work that fulfills you – every day. You amass a collection of friends who love you – all the time. You learn to value your family and treasure your husband – every minute. You learn that most things just aren’t worth fighting about ever, at all. And as you learn all these things, you create a life where every day feels like a celebration.

As a newly minted breast cancer survivor, I’ve had a quick-and-dirty reminder of my mortality that made me step back and look at my life in a new way. I shook it out like a gigantic life-long craft project and scanned its flaws and wrinkles, its dropped stitches and misshapen borders, and was suprisingly happy with the result. My many, many mistakes gave it the raggedy splendor of a Victorian crazy quilt created by a novice who was learning along the way. There are splashes of color in surprising combinations and bits of spontaneous embroidery that burst into flowers in unexpected places. I don’t need a birthday, or even a birthmonth.

I have a birthlife. 

I still enjoy the cake. And who doesn’t adore that heady blend of sulfer and buttercream that rises from the candles on your cake? Who doesn’t love the crinkly sound of tissue paper and the zzzzip of curly ribbon, the secret thrill of wrapped packages and the gay destruction of fat pinatas? But there are similar miracles in the plainest of days. After a while, the birthdays start to blend in with all the rest.

It’s not that the birthdays mean any less. It’s just that every ordinary day means more.

(Thanks to Paul Downey (psd) for the flickr photo – http://www.flickr.com/photos/psd/3149878971/)