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BIRTHDAY BLUES

 A New Dawn For My Life.

I charged friends to come to my 40th Birthday Party – and they came!

In my mid to late 20’s I did a lot of hiring for factories and I remember believing that people over 40 were somehow too old for jobs I had on offer.  As I write this in my 70’s, with no concept of retiring, it’s something I find embarrassing to admit! Like a lot of young people, I was immortal. To imagine myself in my 40’s, was definitely not the purpose of a mirror!

So, on my 39th trip around the sun I was forced to accept reality.  Looking back, my 40th birthday was the most difficult birthday to confront.  Fortunately, I had attended the now defunct Est Training, a self- awareness and development course that I believe later evolved into Landmark Worldwide.  Through this, I discovered that the way to overcome is to experience it and not suppress it.  The more you suppress something, the more it persists. If you are jealous, just be jealous and it will dissipate.

So with this idea in hand, I knew that I had to have a party.  I wanted to make it big and as confrontational as possible for I was not kidding myself about experiencing the pain!  I settled on a restaurant in Detroit’s Greektown complete with music and of course, a belly dancer to complete my humiliation in front of friends.  The only problem was the expense.

I realized that people might feel obligated to buy a useless gift, so I sent out an invitation that announced the party at $15 per head and said: “ you are the gift, no other presents please.”

There can be any number of reasons why this worked.  Perhaps it was because I was 40 and still single.  I used to joke that there was only me, Prince Charles and Cliff Richard, an English popstar, left. Or maybe just shelling out a few bucks was a lot easier than figuring what to give me. But most of all, I believe they knew the invitation was sincere and I was recognizing their presence and contribution to my life. Perhaps counter intuitively, it gave ownership of the party to them.

Now I avoid thinking of birthdays mathematically and view them as trips around the sun.  It helps me to view life as a continual journey in which every day is a view to be enjoyed.  Looking back, I don’t think I would have the courage to do this again!  However, for those of us who don’t value relationships in terms of gifts, acknowledging them as a gift, may go a long way towards creating our happiness.