“Cheerful Birthday to Me:” a ballad sung solo

My birthday is this month.

In two weeks, to be exact. August 19.

Just about 39 times, I’ve grown older on August 19 and it still feels off.


I’m a numbers girl and 19 has never quite fit me.

Not now, not when I was 19, not ever.

First of all, in general, I prefer even numbers to odd.

And second of all, nine sounds harsh, and nineteen harsher.


The 20th seems like a good day to be born. Or the 4th. Or the 16th even.

But not the 19th.

Of course, it doesn’t help that my birthday lands in the worst part of the summer, when school is out but camp is over and everyone is away on vacation or hiding in their houses praying for Labor Day to arrive quickly or not to arrive at all. No one is around or above ground to notice that it’s August 19, the day of my birth that never quite feels like my birthday.

Maybe the 19th is better when it arrives in June.

Whenever my birthday week comes and goes, I feel as if I was headed for a honeymoon in Vegas but ended up stranded in Cleveland.

Long ago, I stopped expecting my birthday to be special.

Sad, huh?

But I’m taking my birthday back this year. Because it is special, I realize. It’s my birth day. The day my soul came alive.

Fortuitously, I read this post by Waylon Lewis this morning, which helped me make a decision to transform my birthday this year from a not-quite-right kinda day of  awkward moderate celebration into a meaningful experience. Even if that meaningful experience lasts an hour, not all day long.

Waylon, who was born and raised in an American Buddhist family, suggests:

“Meditate for a few minutes, then contemplate—a focused, deliberate sort of thinking—your life. Think about what it’s for, and where it’s been, and where you might have gone off the path of being genuine and trying to be helpful to yourself, to others, and to our fragile planet. Don’t waste much time in regret, which Trungpa Rinpoche said was a valuable emotion but one that you ‘should only spend three seconds on’ after making a mistake. Think about where you’re going, how short your life is and what it is for (‘benefiting all sentient beings, including oneself’ is a good place to start if you’re coming up empty).

Then, celebrate the day with your community—genuine friends and close family. Presents, cake, it’s all to the good.”

Yes, it is all to the good.

It will be especially this year because I’ll be on vacation during my birthday. And since I’ve made a conscious decision to disconnect during my vacation, meditating and deliberate thinking for an hour should come reasonably easy.

Yes, this is to the good.

August 19 was, according to my parents and a hospital clerk in Philadelphia, the day I was born. The day my soul made a conscious decision to enter into human life.

And while, for some unexplainable reason, the 19th has never felt quite like mine, perhaps this is just something to notice.

Allow the idea to simmer, to be there without judgement.

To just accept August 19 as my birth day and be grateful that it has come again, and my life is mine to create. Each year. Each day.

Waylon finishes his post with this note:

Chogyam Trungpa always had everyone sing “Cheerful Birthday,” not “Happy Birthday,” saying that Happiness was a state of mind that had Sadness or Unhappiness on its flip side. Cheerfulness, he said, better described a fundamental way or attitude of being. So, growing up in the Buddhist tradition, we always sang Cheerful Birthday to you… Either way is great, as long as you consider that you’re not wishing a temporary state of being based on circumstances—but rather that the you may truly continue to become friends with oneself.

If you wish for me something this birthday, wish for me health, cheer, and the strength to continue becoming friends with myself.

I’ll be offline for a while — meditating on me, and enjoying life.  Please consider reading some older posts and commenting on them in the meantime.

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