Scallywag

It is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.

~ Henry David Thoreau ~

What Makes a Happy Birthday?

November 20th, 2011 ~ Est. reading time: 1 min, 51 secs

Even if it falls a bit flat have a happy birthday anyway.

Have you ever been let down on your birthday? What was it that was missing? Was it that you didn’t get the present you dearly wanted? Or was it that someone didn’t care?

Having a happy birthday relies on a number of factors, not least your expectations. If everybody has to fawn over you and treat you like a celebrity for the day, chances are disappointments will be inevitable.

I recall having my first birthday party with guests my own age when I was eighteen, courtesy of my dear wife. And I vividly recall my parents basically skipping my fourteenth birthday (most likely because they had a lot on their mind).

But then there are people from various cultures and faiths who don’t celebrate birthdays at all. So a happy birthday for them is a truly foreign concept.

Inevitably, people can’t be perfect. That somebody who should remember will forget your birthday some time. Gifts will be forgotten, or else be completely inappropriate.

I recall a brand new Dad buying his wife a toaster to celebrate her giving birth to their new son. Upon unwrapping the box in her hospital bed she cried, screamed, and then threw the toaster at him. It probably didn’t help that it was day three after their child was born and she was feeling lower than a snake’s belly.

So how do you ensure you have a happy birthday? Well I have been privileged to learn a lot from my wife’s mother, Ethel. Demonstrating a remarkably gracious outlook, despite her challenges, she has taught me that simple thankfulness does the trick. If you can find delight in very little then you truly will be easily pleased. That means my mother-in-law is nearly as happy with a cheering phone call, a card, or flowers, as she would with an all day extravaganza. The secret of her happiness is not in what happens to her, so much as how she chooses to be.

Of course it’s still lovely to be treated and a happy birthday celebration deserves priority. But if you want to reliably have happy birthdays, count your blessings any way you can. If that still isn’t enough, lead the way on your birthday and show those who ought to know how to do it. Take them out with you and capture the moment yourself. Your happiness is yours. So before you let it go because of the thoughtlessness of others, do something good with it and pass it on. That way, you are much more sure to have the kind of day you can say is genuinely a “happy birthday.”


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