| Musings |

Birthday Blessings

If someone asks me what I do all day, I tell them that finding every occasion I can to celebrate is becoming my full-time job.

Birthdays take on a whole new meaning as you get older and face life’s challenges. I’m at the stage where every birthday is a milestone.

I was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic), at the same hour on the same day that Israel was declared a state in the United Nations. (You’re supposed to say I don’t look it….)

Family lore has it that my father came to my mother’s room following my birth and declared in Yiddish, “S’kimt intz tzvei mazel tov. M’hot a tochter un m’hot a medinah — We have two mazel tovs. We have a daughter, and we have a state.” My parents were the sole survivors of their immediate families, forging the next generation of life, and I cannot fathom the import these words had for them.

I’ve always had a difficult time giving birth to decades. The half-decades aren’t that much fun either. It’s not like I feel any older. It’s just the stubborn wrinkles and stray pounds that seem to be multiplying at warp speed. And mirrors are not always my friends.

When we were rewiring our condo, the contractor asked me what color I wanted installed in the recessed lighting  — white (cool) or warm. I made sure he understood that whatever color made me look good was the correct choice.

Turning the calendar page while crossing the great divide and moving on to the digits on the next hand, can be quite the journey. The only luggage one has to pack are the memories. As important as it is to remember those times that spark joy, it’s often more important to forget the ones that don’t.

I’ve learned to rejoice, and I’ve learned to mourn, and more importantly, I’ve learned which of those emotions to actualize, and when. Appreciating these gifts of choice has become much more important than lamenting over what cannot be. I’d rather accrue the victories than mourn the regrets, and the only loss I want to acknowledge is on the scale. Losing a few pounds can lighten the mood, even though I know (with certainty) that they’ll be back.

It’s the loss of people, and their places in my heart, that is gut-wrenching.

If someone asks me what I do all day, I tell them that finding every occasion I can to celebrate is becoming my full-time job.

And so I’m polishing my attitude of gratitude by finding that for which to be grateful.

On Friday night, after singing Shalom Aleichem, we add the phrase “Modeh ani lefanecha… al kol hachesed asher asisah imadi,” excerpted from the tefillah of Ribon Kol Ha’olamim (which we don’t say). We then gratefully enumerate all the blessings that impacted us that week. This tradition has changed our mindset and our focus.

We do this each week, even when we have guests, though then we’re more discreet and speak in generalities. We always end by adding how grateful we are for the lovely company, and it works.

When it’s just the two of us, the conversation is much more personal and, truthfully, quite humbling. We celebrate a new simchah, a positive personal accomplishment, the blessing of independence. I even applaud fitting into a vintage dress, or if I don’t quite make it, I settle for the couture shoes.

Sometimes that stretch is an exercise in wishful thinking.

Another resolution I’ve made at this stage of life is to make my life easier whenever possible. And who’s not for making life easier? I’m a cheap date; here are a few of the things I’ve gifted myself.

I’ve given up on any plastic kitchen food storage bag other than the ones that close with sliders. Call it extravagant, call it decadent — I’m worth it. And I stock them in different sizes.

I do throw out (most of) the plastic containers that I once washed, drained, stacked, and saved. The cabinets are no longer stuffed with them or their warped, mismatched, sticky lids in more sizes than the clothing in my closets. And I may or may not have treated myself to some new containers (it was a special wedding anniversary) for when I cook and freeze.

Last but not least, I toss all the newspapers weekly, whether they’ve been read or not. Every month or so, the magazines that have accumulated find new homes. I’m not always sure where they go to live after I deposit them in the various recycling bins; I just know where they are not living.

And the decluttering that is not tangible? I’m trying to lose the negativity and tension that limits my ability to celebrate the gratitude — which needs that space. Honestly, what better container for that can there be than a filled and overflowing heart?

Happy birthday to me.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 843)

Oops! We could not locate your form.