In the early morning of August 26th (going on twenty or so years now), I read Gyo Fujikawa's Betty Bear's Birthday.
Oh, Betty Bear. Your ensembles are stylish without being fussy. You love your friends and family very, very much. You are sweet as can be. But for most of your birthday, you are sad and perplexed because every friend you meet in the forest seems to have forgotten your birthday. Poor, sweet Betty.
Don't fret too much for Betty, though; her friends and family haven't forgotten her; they've been preparing a special birthday surprise! So in the end, all is right with Betty's world. She is celebrated and loved, just as she should be.
Now, I love Betty Bear, too, but I think that I learned the wrong lesson from her story. I don't blame Betty entirely, of course, but I'm kind of weird about birthdays. I expect a whole lot of fanfare. I remember friends' birthdays fastidiously and can hardly handle if I forget one. So, as it is with so many things, the way I live my life determines my expectations of others. Last year, I removed my birthday information from Facebook to see who would remember it. That ended just as well as you might imagine. My "experiment" left me miffed and not a little sheepish. And then I read a Dear Prudence column about a woman who felt slighted that a friend hadn't properly wished her a happy birthday, and Prudie kindly told the woman to grow up already.
And so I took the hint. Because you what? When it comes down to it, there are two ways to approach this whole birthday thing: needing to feel singled out, special, unique and relying on others to fill that void is one way (that's Betty Bear's method). And then there's simply appreciating the love others convey because we're all worthy of that love.
There is more joy to be gleaned from a life led not in the interest of building up oneself but in reaching out to others. I pray that the coming year offers me more opportunities to be still inwardly, live generously and joyously, and reach outwardly with love.