Your birthday is approaching. Do you feel excited? Anxious? Melancholy? Sad? Grateful? All of the above?
My birthday occurred recently, and it was a good reminder for me of how one’s feelings about the day can change rather dramatically over time. From the little-kid anticipation of cake and presents, to the young adult excitement of being able to drive and then to drink (but never at the same time!), to those big milestone birthdays: 30 and 40. And then, if we’re lucky, a more mellow and wise appreciation of a birthday and what it represents: a celebration of a life well lived, and a reminder of how precious every new day is.
Wherever you may be on this spectrum, we here at Dandelion Chandelier encourage you to view every single birthday as a luxury experience in the making. Sure, your friends, family and even co-workers may do things to fete you throughout the day. But ultimately, the day you have is up to you. Transitions can be painful, and birthdays are deeply personal transitions. So take charge of the situation, and you can turn it into a day of pleasure, reflection, discovery, and optimism. Even if you have to work that day.
Here’s our list of 10 suggestions for making any birthday – even one when you’re away from home, or not with the person or people you’d really like to be with – the best it can possibly be:
1. Wake up early. It’s your day! Take the quiet early-morning moments to reflect on all that you’ve done and experienced since your last birthday. The promise and optimism of dawn is a fine way to set the tone for the rest of the day.
2. Look in the mirror. Sure, you do this every day, but on your birthday, really LOOK at your own face for a moment or two. And focus on what you feel great about. Your face in many ways tells the story of your life – on your birthday, you deserve to celebrate that, no matter how many wrinkles, grey hairs or scars you have – you’ve earned them, so acknowledge them with pride.
3. Talk to your parents, your siblings, or an old friend. Birthdays are a great time to remember the most fun parts of your childhood, so take a minute and chat with someone who knew you when you were a kid. Or in high school. Or in college. If there’s someone around who was present, ask them to tell you the story of the day you were born – there will inevitably be some kind of drama, some kind of humor, and some kind of family legend that resulted from it. A little reminiscing will remind you of who you were, and who you’ve become. And maybe who you still hope to be.
4. Get a check-up. OK, not on your actual birthday. That would be a drag. But it’s a good time to be sure that you’re paying sufficient attention to your health. If you haven’t already, make appointments for your annual physical, mammogram, dental visit and/or eye exam. No one really enjoys these things, but this is how we maximize the number of birthdays we have to look forward to!
5. Buy yourself a present. Why wait around hoping that your loved ones will intuit what you want when you can gift yourself what your heart really desires? You could take yourself out to lunch. Buy yourself a drink. Or a great pair of shoes (my personal choice). Even if it’s just booking a future trip to someplace wonderful, or window-shopping for something to save up for, choose something that will make you happy, and either buy it or make an actionable plan to do so. It’s your birthday!
6. Really read and absorb your birthday cards and greetings. Whether it’s an old-school card, an email or a goofy SnapChat message, don’t just skim over the nice notes that you’ll get on your day from people who really care about you. Personal connections are precious, and these messages are usually not just pro-forma rote birthday wishes – they’re sincere gestures of regard and appreciation, and not to be taken for granted. Revel in them. And don’t forget to respond to each and every one of them, even if it’s just a line saying “thank you.”
7. Have cake! And also whatever your favorite foods are, all day long. Wherever you are, whatever you’re up to, you’ve got to have something sweet that you really enjoy. I’ve never met a piece of cake I didn’t like, but if cake’s not your thing, make it pie, or ice cream, profiteroles or macaroons. Or if salt’s your thing, have as many French fries as you want. Have wine at lunch, or a glass of champagne at 3:00P. Just make it a joyful experience, and remember: there are no calories on your birthday. You can resume your diet tomorrow.
8. Make plans. New Year’s resolutions are all well and good, but a birthday is a fine time to take stock, to make plans for the coming year in your life, and to think hard about how you’re currently spending your time. Set 3 goals and commit to making them happen over the next 12 months.
9. Go to church. Or to the synagogue, mosque, or any other house of worship that appeals to you. Or mediate. Or pray. Or commune in whatever way is best for you with whatever spiritual higher power you acknowledge. Do it at the beach, on a hike, beside a lake, at the top of a mountain, or in your own bedroom. Just take a moment at some point during the day and express gratitude. A birthday is a gift. It’s important to say thank you.
10. Stay up late. It’s your day! One year I flew home from Europe on my oldest child’s birthday and walked through the front door at 11:30P on his special day. We had cake, presents and lots of laughs straight on through midnight, and it has since become one of our favorite family memories: the Midnight Birthday Party. You’ve got 24 hours to celebrate, and we say you should claim all of them!
Ultimately, of course, you should follow your instincts about what itinerary is best for you on your birthday. Your soul knows what it needs, so let it guide you. There’s no wrong way for you to celebrate your own birthday. For us, a combination of time alone and time with loved ones is ideal, even if we have to squeeze them into a packed and busy agenda full of meetings and professional obligations.
Whatever you do, we hope this helps you find meaning and joy on all of your birthdays. And on behalf of everyone here at Dandelion Chandelier, whenever your next one arrives: Happy Birthday! You’re officially another year wiser. Now go forth, and choose to shine.