I have a joke I use to offset the dig-me factor in my crowdfunding talks about how, by the time I was 50, I'd done everything one could to mark a birthday—twice—so that I was forced for the first time to try something not-so-selfish. It's funny because it's true: I have been self-involved my whole life. Even when I did nice things for you, it was so you'd think better of me. I mean, nice things got done, anyway, and work, and all of this is good. But it was for the cookie, and no mistake..
Still, the other part is true, too. By the time you've celebrated that many birthdays, you've covered a lot of territory. I've had parties thrown for me, surprise and regular, and thrown parties for myself. I've taken myself on trips and been gifted with them. I've gotten all kinds of stuff, most of which I don't own anymore. I had the one not-so-selfish year. And last year, I flat-out hid, because it was all too much.
That was the year that taught me there must always be some sort of plan, some way to mark the day. Thank god for a dear friend who narrowly saved me from my self-created near-disaster with a card and gifts and a generous offer to join her on a jaunt around town doing errands, with a pit stop for smoothies.
By next year, I may be ready again for festivities; this year, I was not. My plan was to start the day with a solo coffee and end it over a low-key dinner with a friend, with plenty of time in between for meandering, and a few exits just in case. Was it the most spectacular birthday of my life? Clearly not: it wasn't even planned that way. But neither was it the worst.
It was a day where I was grateful for all I had, reasonably sanguine about what I didn't, and an ending that felt fuller than its beginning. A good-enough day with none of the buzzy highs and none of the dreadful lows of years past. Just me and other humans and our real, honest-to-God feelings, hanging out together. I would be happy to have another 53 just like it. If I got just three more, I'd be happy with those.
So maybe you live most of the days of your life before you get that this is the point: to live the days of your life, as Jonathan Swift said.
Works for Pauline. Works for me, too.