Reflections on My Birthday

My friend Ibrahima does not know which day or year he was born.

He came into this world in Guinea, West Africa, where his native language N’Ko had no written form until very recently.  To obtain a passport, he had to approximate how old he was and select a day that felt right to him.  (Ibrahima’s amazing account is here.)

I find his story so refreshing.  When he first told me, we were sitting in the playground on a warm afternoon watching our children run and climb.  It got me wondering how artificial dates can be and how much we allow them to rule our lives, right from the start.

Try as we may, it’s hard not to attach meaning to holidays like New Years Eve and Mother’s Day.  The list goes on: the year we graduated from college, the age at which we hope to marry, the year we will retire.   We even vaguely anticipate how long we’ll live by examining the life expectancy statistics of men and women in our country.

All of these dates contribute to a feeling that we’re almost entitled to something, to the idea that life will work out just so, in an organized manner and time-frame.

Today is my birthday and I’m feeling a sense of rawness in the quotidian.  I’m amazed by the avocado plant flourishing in our window which we have tended since it was a pit.   I’m in awe of the parent in my son’s first grade class who taught the kids how to bind little hard cover books, complete with pop ups and secret compartments.  I’m grateful that a little bird picked our ledge on which to build her nest, of all the ledges in New York City that she had to choose from.

That’s not to say that there’s nothing special about being awakened by my three serenading guys dressed in crazy birthday hats.  Or that I’m not looking forward to a birthday date with Dave.

But I’m pretty convinced that there’s a simple beauty in every day.  And it’s ours for the noticing.

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4 Responses to “Reflections on My Birthday”

  1. Lana says:

    I am a friend of Leslie’s and was reading your comments on her blog, and was eager to read your blog. I applaud you on your courageous journey, and look forward to continuing to share your words and wisdom along the way.
    Lana Dunn

  2. Daniela says:

    Barbara, Shuchi introduced me to your blog recently. I have just gone back to read some of the posts I missed and I must thank you especially for your “Reflections on my Birthday” post. As a milestone birthday looms near for me, I will remember Ibrahima during those moments when I lose sense of reality, remembering also that dates and timelines are often a manifestation of self-imposing limitations. It won’t be a perfect exercise and I will slip in and out of insanity about it all … but it will still be very helpful. It seems inappropriate in light of the subject matter to wish you a happy belated birthday (in fact, I’m not sure that wishing my loved ones a happy birthday will ever feel quite the same; I will have to work through that …) so I will instead deliver a heartfelt message of thanks!

  3. Barbara says:

    Thanks so much for the comment, Daniela! And a pre-Happy Birthday to you! My 93 year old friend always said, “You’re only as old as you think you are.” That always made me chuckle, especially as I watched him fly off to India on several occasions in his late 80s. He really seemed like a 20 year old. He was my total inspiration.

    Thanks for following along!
    Barbara

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