You get a present. I get a present. Everybody gets a present!
I celebrate another birthday this week
So, enough of July 4th weekend, not that it’s been such a big deal this year unless you count the Trumpian travesty at Mt. Rushmore. He’s not invited to my party, but you are. Yes, you. Even if you live on the other side of the world. Even if you and I disagree on lots and lots of things.
As long as you’re not a super spreader of hate and division, you’re welcome in my birthday party tent. Which is metaphorical, not real, so you don’t need to fret about social distancing.
In a time of virtual-only gatherings, we can do things like this. And no, I’m not proposing a colossal video conference. Most of us are already suffering from Zoom-induced twitchiness and crunchy-dry eyeballs. I’m simply inviting you to adopt a party mentality, if not for a day, then for at least an hour or two.
Anytime this week will do just fine, since I have arrived at an age when the exact date, like the count of years, is better regarded as a fluid concept. Therefore, no worries about the RSVP, and whatever you’ve got on is (probably) fine. And please, no gifts. I have enough tchotchkes already.
But we could all use a break, right?
From bad news, from cabin fever, from Sturm und Drang, from every facet of life being commandeered as a backdrop for political strife, from the mindless, generalized hostility that percolates through our national discourse. Enough already.
We might not like these times we’re living through, but it’s time we’re not going to get back. So any excuse we can find to make happy is to be exploited, IM (never H)O.
If you need a reason to turn off the dismal news, let the overdue bills sit another day, and do something — pretty much anything, assuming it’s not illegal, irresponsible, or in wretched taste — that makes you happy, I offer up my birthday.
Certainly, if you are a pro-social person, your concern for your health and that of others precludes many activities you would otherwise enjoy at this time of year. Even my birthday does not have the power to change that.
But you can, for instance, announce to your kids, your partner, your cat, or your mirror, “Hey! Drop everything! We’re having a (choose any that appeal to you) video game tournament/water balloon fight/pie-eating contest/melon-seed-spitting challenge/all-night film fest/whatever, followed by cake and ice cream!”
Delighted, your invitees (with the exception of your cat), will pause only long enough to inquire as to what occasions such hilarity. To which you will reply, “It’s Jan’s birthday!”
“Who?” they will ask, unless they know someone named Jan, unlikely as it’s one of those names that is apparently being phased out. Your answer is, “Who cares!”
And then, laissez le bon temps rouler.
And that’s not all
Besides granting you an excuse to indulge in some life-affirming silliness, your invitation to my virtual party includes a virtual goody bag, full of items that are one-size-fits-all, have no expiration date, and while not returnable, may be re-gifted without limit. They are my birthday wishes for you, namely:
And by health, I mean physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. May you be free from suffering, and may the frightful specter of COVID pass by your door, and the door of all those you love.
You should move through the world as though it is your birthright —because it is — without fear of persecution or inequitable treatment because of your race, gender, age, belief system, religion, income, size, employment status, physical or mental condition, and anything else about you. May no person construe the unique characteristics that set you apart as a reason to exclude you from the human family.
May you be seen by your fellow humans and appreciated for who you are, because there is nobody else like you and the world needs you, or you wouldn’t be here.
My wish for you includes enough and a little more of everything you need at any given time: food, shelter, income, companionship, rewarding work, restorative rest, excitement, peace. May your cup runneth over to the point where you observe your neighbor’s bounty without envy.
I don’t mean you should be happy all the time. In this world, that would require callousness, idiocy, or madness, and maybe all three combined. Happiness is great, and for my birthday I hope you enjoy a big, sweet slice of it. But it’s transitory. Joy is lasting, and doesn’t depend on circumstances. Like a spring, it bubbles up from within, life-giving and mysterious. Enjoy.
I want all this for you because I’m selfish
But I’m not stupid. I have been around the sun enough times to have accumulated some wisdom, and while there is a whole lot I don’t know, I do know this: we are connected. Whether you and I know one another or not, whether we will ever share the same room or town or train, the same language or culture or history, whether we like it or not, we are threads woven into the same tapestry.
It stands to reason: the better off the whole, the better off its components. Your happiness, health, security, and the rest create the same for me. Life is a positive-sum game, so I’m cheering for you to win.
So, Happy Birthday to me. Pass the cake.