It’s my birthday today! The great thing about birthdays is that even if the sheer excitement of presents and parties tends to wane with the years, what doesn’t change is that feeling deep inside that somehow it’s your day. It feels as though the moment of your birth caused such an outburst of joy from everyone near and dear to you, that the echoes of it keep reverberating down the years, so you feel buoyed up by it again on every birthday.
Of course the reverse is also true. I know that on the anniversary of my father’s death, I’m hit again by a wall of grief, as the memory of that day rings in my ears. Births and deaths are particular punctuation points in a life that will be full of ups and downs. And the danger is that a life of more downs than ups will sap the joy out of existence, and make everything grey.
We know from psychology that one of our greatest fears is that we’re somehow not really here – that we’re detached from the world, or that we’re insignificant and don’t really matter. But people reaching out, noticing us, and connecting can really help counter that feeling. So the remembering of birthdays is important to our collective mental health. Just writing on someone’s Facebook Wall may not feel like a big deal to you, but it reminds them that they have an audience – a network of concerned individuals who take an interest in them, and notice their life. Even better if you keep a diary and can send out cards.
Regardless of your day-to-day relationships or situation, a birthday is like a mini-jubilee – an opportunity to ignore everything else that might be going on in your relationship with a person and just to let them know that their existence is important to you.
And really we could do that every day, not just on birthdays. But when it is your birthday, don’t be afraid to ask for special treatment wherever you go. After all, if not on your birthday, then when?
I have been delivering “Thought For The Day” pieces on BBC Radio Scotland since November 2016. By kind permission these pieces are reproduced in blog posts here on my website. To find my other pieces click here go to my Thought For The Day index page.