If there’s one day of each year when being self-centered is more tolerated, it’s birthdays. No surprise, then, that birthdays tend to make me introspective. In recent years here on the blog I’ve taken both the long view and, last year, maybe a shorter and more personal view.
With those experiences in mind, I was a little surprised on birthday eve when I found myself really not having much of a view at all. There was no real pressing “thing” dying to come out of my soul that I could find. No real epiphanies that just needed to coalesce into something concrete. Not a whole lot of anything really other than just the usual jumble of thoughts and emotions that make up any of the other 364 days of another year in my life.
And then came … this morning.
One of the more surprising social media contacts I’d had, well, ever. An old friend who I’d lost touch with many years ago, almost seemingly a lifetime ago really. One of the best birthday surprises of my life honestly, utterly & completely unexpected. That’s great, it’s awesome when that happens … but that wasn’t exactly “the thing” for the day.
It was more like the catalyst for what kind of became “the thing” today, the apparent theme of this particular birthday.
As always, I’m enormously gratified and humbled by the outpouring of birthday greetings, well-wishes, the general comradery that birthdays seem to engender. Among the interactions was a simple “Like” by that newly reacquainted friend of a comment by another long-time friend. It caught my eye, when the notification popped up amidst many others, because it took me a moment to realize that those two particular friends of mine actually knew each other. And that’s what sent me down the rabbit hole I’ve spent a good bit of the day thinking in.
See, I tend to look at my life at a series of virtually unconnected, almost unrelated, segments. Different phases or eras or whatever description pleases you. Okay, maybe I should back up just a little bit here.
I have a slightly higher than average number of social media connections. Not much beyond the usual actually, but it’s a respectable yet reasonable number. I’m also a bit of a stickler for having “friends” be just that: actual honest-to-goodness friends. The number of people I’m connected with in specific ways beyond the internet has always surprised me.
At any rate, it was all those segments and all those connections that took up my thoughts for most of the day. The relatives who have known me from infant to toddler to obnoxious child to whatever I turned out to be. The schoolmates that range from that first day in Mrs. Roper’s kindergarten to the final night with caps & gowns. The friends who were there when I turned from whatever I was into more of whatever I’d become. The co-workers, a bunch that you’d think had suffered enough in that business without me, much less WITH me. The incredibly talented people who have somehow deemed me worthy of friendship based on whatever you see in me (even when I don’t see it). The driven, you amazing people who value “TRY” above nearly all else except “DO”. Hard-boiled hardasses, some of the kindest & gentlest people on Earth, the stoic, the emotional.
I was struck today, as much as anything perhaps, by the incredible … diversity. Some of you folks, well, darned if I can find anything in common other than oxygen consumption. And me.
The latter strongly suggests that you all possess a remarkable tolerance for aging lunatics. Some of you — my fellow lunatics mainly — I sort of understand the connection, the bond. The rest of you? Ya’ll must be nuts. Or masochists. Or something.
I sure am happy about that.
This birthday, for me, turned out to not be about me but instead turned out to be about all of you.
About all I’ve learned, about the people who’ve taught me, about the people who’ve allowed me room to learn, those who’ve let me maybe help a little bit when I could.
I haven’t the foggiest where this train stops, but I’m glad you’re all still along for the ride.