Yesterday was my birthday and I spent an hour of it in the dentist’s chair. By choice. I’m not proud of myself for scheduling a dentist appointment on my birthday and so I’m overanalyzing why I would do this. It helped that my friend in Ghana, Isaac, sent me a message yesterday morning with birthday greetings and a request to let him know all about my celebrations. I told him I was going to the dentist. He seemed disappointed. “But please get time to celebrate,” he said, and then informed me he would be waiting for celebration updates and pictures. The pressure was on.
So I had to ask myself, why would I so diminish the significance of the day I was born by agreeing to lay in the dentist’s chair and have my teeth cleaned? And to make it worse, I had nothing else planned for the day except work and then a dinner out (and although I appreciate dinner out, we do this at the end of the day). After all, it’s a birthDAY. I’m sorry to report that I did keep my dentist appointment because I wasn’t willing to pay the $50 charge for canceling in less than 24 hours, but I decided to take my friend’s advice and celebrate. In Ghana, birthdays are a reason to set aside the mundane and acknowledge that life is fragile, and that every day is a blessing. By God’s grace. I heard this response multiple times a day in Ghana. Often it was said in the context of a greeting:
“How are you today?”
“I am fine, by God’s grace.”
Another year has passed and I have much to be grateful for, by God’s grace.
I promised my friend Isaac I would celebrate and take photos, so after my teeth were cleaned and polished I slid out of that dentist’s chair and proceeded to acknowledge that every day is a blessing, especially a birthday. I am 48 years old, which is a number that makes me cringe just a bit and might explain the ease with which I basically disregarded the day. I know very few people over the age of 21 who count down their birthday with exuberance. We might enjoy the dinner out, the gifts, and the cake someone brings to the office on our birthday, but other than that we don’t skip around shouting to everyone “Hey! I can’t wait for Tuesday because I’ll finally be 48!” But my friend’s words the morning of my birthday made me realize that scheduling a dentist appointment and not altering my work schedule did little to acknowledge the blessing of another year and the grace that has been shown me within that year. With polished teeth and a report of no cavities (pretty good for 48, right?), I grabbed the two people who were in closest proximity and told them we were celebrating. And we did. Lunch, a stroll through the Woody Guthrie Center, a walk around Guthrie Green, and I didn’t even check email on my phone. At this point, you’re probably making the spot-on observation that this is hardly kicking up my heels and really celebrating, but it was spontaneous and something that absolutely did not fit into my busy schedule. Which made it wonderfully celebratory.
I’m learning that with each passing year, I fit more comfortably into who I really am. I’ve stopped trying to please everyone or try on personas that make me more agreeable and tolerable. I’m trying to listen to the deepest places inside my soul where God whispers, “Come to me and find rest.” I’m learning to be comfortable with drifting just a bit, despite high expectations, my need for speed, and the feeling that I must fix the world. I haven’t conquered anything completely, but I agree with Anna Quindlen who says, “Control is a nice concept, little more.” Perhaps these are the things that should make each birthday a cause for celebration. I’m not getting better, just better at being okay with my limitations and imperfections. By God’s grace.
So thank you Isaac, for causing me to slow down and think just a bit about all the blessings of a birthday, even one that marks 48 years on earth. I did take photos. And I did acknowledge the blessings of June 25, 2013. My birthday. Cheers!