“The TRUTH is that the higher you rise in status & popularity, the more you are called to SERVE others (not the other way around).”—Robyn Bomar of The Birthday Project
I wouldn’t call myself one of the cool or popular kids, when I was growing up. I was different. I was imaginative, creative, introverted, and had a very unique sense of style. Betsey Johnson’s clothing personified all that was similar to my childhood. As a teen, Helena Bonham Carter’s style was more of what I would have wanted to wear. But as we grow, we literally try on different clothes to showcase who we are. I am very blessed to be many things. I’m an athlete. I’m a thespian. I’m a writer. I’m a dreamer. I’m a music lover. I’m a photographer. I’m a seamstress. I’m a coach. I’m a counselor. I’m a corporate worker. I’m a hippie on the weekends. I’m a cheerleader. I’m a listener. I’m a healer. I’m a mother. I’m a wife. I’m a sister. I’m a daughter. I’m a friend. I've had several people ask me about the birthday month. This question asked might have been in jest from some, others were curious, some were thrilled, and another found it quite indulgent and selfish. I felt the need to clarify what it means to me, this month-long celebration.
There were many, many times I was horribly lonely and sad. Emotional scars from my childhood really manifest themselves during these moments and cast a shadow of doubt and worthiness as a person. I just wanted a friend nearby. On my 24th birthday, that was my wish, for a friend nearby to do things with (my two best and closest friends were hours away, still in school). Wish granted. Over the course of the next several years, she and I had a great many adventures, making new friends along the way, building our own colorful urban family. This isn’t to say that I lost sight of my old friends. No, not hardly! It is always magic when each of those worlds collides, friends from the past, from the present, and new friends from our futures are brought together in those rare moments. I like to flit about like a butterfly, socializing with each of them, often excusing myself to seemingly go to the bathroom, when in reality, I’m stepping back, looking at everyone smiling, taking it all in, and giving thanks for being so blessed with loved ones. Being afforded friendship, true friendship, and love.
With the advent of social media, I made virtual friends, many of whom I have met in real life, many of them mothers themselves, who relate to the everyday life of what it means to be all of the aforementioned labels and more…more like, health/body related issues like laughing so hard you pee, and extra skin, and lack of privacy, and the other hilarious details that make you appreciate your own mother. So you can see that I have joined and am a part of all of these tiny tribes all over the place.
A couple of years ago, I came across Robyn Bomar’s The Birthday Project. How beautiful, how wonderful of an idea and concept! At the same time, one of my virtual mom friends posted about celebrating her birthday month. During that time I would celebrate the week of, trying to squeeze in lunch/dinner/coffee dates with friends to celebrate myself. The idea of the celebration had escaped me. I was too stressed about the activities surrounding the very reason and joy I wanted to celebrate…being alive! I got to thinking and decided that I too, would be celebrating for a month. And for that entire month, for each item I gifted myself or was gifted, I needed to give that much back to the world. I like opening gifts! I like receiving gifts. Receiving a gift can be difficult. I mean, I am not that gracious at receiving a compliment and when you give me a physical gift, I get a bit overwhelmed. I wasn’t always that way. Some where along the way, though, I had changed. I’ve since gotten better at it. I smile and accept it. My heart races at the surprise inside! I’m thrilled at the thought that someone had gone out of their way to consider ME and they were giving me a special token.
I’ve never stated before about giving out to the world during this month, nor have I ever mentioned my gift receiving anxiety. I don’t feel the need to brag about being a decent human. It’s like that commercial where one simple act can have a ripple effect into the world. Sure, I’ll buy a coffee for a stranger. But more than that, I like to hide dollars at the Dollar store, leave a $5 in the toy section at Wal-mart, give food to someone hungry, deliver a flower to a neighbor, or just give a good, long, exaggerated hug to someone in need. It is in the act of giving that I receive so very much. Gift receiving: I had such anxiety about giving gifts to friends. Would it fit? Would they like it? Did I spend too much? Did I not spend enough? That it got to where it wasn’t about the person, but the item. And then the gifts I did receive, I didn’t know what to do with them. Literally, when I’m given scented soap or lotions, I don’t know what to do because I’m incredibly allergic to those things. I don’t feel like I can regift something like that because, after all, it was a gift to me. I can’t throw it away because, again, it was a gift. See, how I overcomplicated things? Instead, I allowed myself to spend money for me and give myself gifts. Some would say, “Hello Bianca, that’s kinda selfish!” Let me explain: I would buy myself a cup of coffee. Celebrate the coffee. Appreciate the coffee. Not take for granted that there was always coffee available to me, but rather shift my perspective for the ability to buy myself the coffee and freely enjoy the simple pleasure it brings. I buy myself a cupcake. I eat the cupcake without guilt of empty calories. I try to not think about how much I’ll have to run for that cupcake. Getting in the habit of accepting the gifts I give to myself, I can accept the gifts I receive from others. Which I am then afforded the pleasure of paying it forward…
Last year’s birthday month involved more introspection and focus on my relationship with self and my husband. Accepting who I was, appreciating who I was, and also, fully appreciating my husband and enjoying our marriage. He, Captain America, being one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received! It was also for making magic. NYC (Tiffany, Yankees, Central Park, Serendipity), Costa Rica (surfing, poi, thunderstorms, jungle, spa), Los Angeles/Anaheim (family, Disney), San Diego (Coronado beach, San Diego zoo, family dinners, private concert), Paso Robles (wine and dinner), San Francisco (dinner with friends, machine museum, SF Bridge), Napa Valley (wine tasting, chocolate bacon, and so much laughter), and Tennessee (beautiful sunrises, lots of sneezing, and driving through Amish country)…what an adventure! I had a month long sabbatical from my job and thanks to our family members and friends, we were afforded that much needed time he and I desperately needed. Thanks to family who understood what we were trying to accomplish and stepped up to help us with our girls. Thanks to friends and family for opening up their homes to us (even when they weren’t there!!) and for all of the rides. Thanks to friends who scheduled with us well in advance of our departures so those (literal hours) in between jumps to the different locations, we got together for dinner, for breakfast, for lunch…all of which was coordinated in advance. My feelings weren’t hurt by people who didn’t reach out to schedule. We all have busy lives. Unfortunately, it didn’t occur to me that by not reaching out to others, I may have inadvertently hurt their feelings.
Here is a very, very public apology to my sister: I’m sorry, Samantha. I’m sorry I hurt your feelings and didn’t consider you more than I should have. I misinterpreted and accepted when I should have followed through and double-checked. I’m sorry that this apology never fully embraced you (in my seemingly apathetic attempts to you up to this point) in the way that I meant for it to. We can’t have a do-over. I regret that I missed that shared time. I regret that I hurt you. I can only say I’m sorry and I will do better.
whoo…(wipes tears)…that was heavy…looks around, oh right.
This year, I took on a greater undertaking. The thought came to me a couple of weeks prior to my birthday. I had to courage to embrace my health diagnosis and not allow it to define my life. I wanted to live by example and invite others to join in my quest for a healthy lifestyle. I invited friends and family to participate in a fun and casual 5K. They would walk, run, bike, crawl…whatever they wanted to do, but they had to commit to get moving on that day. I hoped for 20, I expected 10, I was blown away when I ordered 40 medals! F.O.R.T.Y. Forty medals to be given to participants who let me know they were going to participate. There were still others, strangers even, who participated because they were inspired. I was and am humbled. Someone applauded me by saying that I was being the change I wanted to see in the world. That compliment totally leveled me. It was that type of good that I have always wanted to inspire in people. In middle school, we were asked to write down our goals. I didn’t think immediate goals, per se, like my peers did. They talked about graduating from universities and their career goals. I wrote down that I wanted to make a difference in someone’s life for the better. When I wake each morning, I feel my heart beating, and I’m excited at the very thought that I’m given the chance to do just that. Ever since fully embracing my gift for listening to people’s life story, I have discovered that through that listening, and giving a hug, providing affirmation and validity to the individual, I AM making a difference. And this little 5K…I made a big difference in people’s lives for better health! My tiny pebble thrown into the large pond has created some incredible ripples in the world. Thank you. Each one of you, THANK YOU!
The rest of my birthday weekend had celebrations with friends, some of whom I expected to see and others I hadn’t seen in a long while. And my birthday proper…it was spent exactly as I wanted to, almost. I wanted to spend it with family alongside my father. In my open invitation to friends (yes, I send out an itinerary with scheduled activities, don’t you? If you know me, this isn’t a surprise.), I had mentioned the game. I was very excited that no one responded about going and it would only be family. This year my birthday fell on Father’s day. We planned to go to the Ballpark in Arlington, where we’ve spent the past 19 summers, cheering on our Texas Rangers. We sat in the heat, in the full sun, cheering, heckling, wearing the freebie hats (which were quite awesome), giggling when I saw my name on the scoreboard.
So now you know. If you are reading this, thank you! And I ask that you do one small act of kindness to put that goodness into the world. Could you do that for me? Pretty please? Thanks! High five!