That Trip Around The Sun

All of us do it. We do it in our own way. We do it either alone or with friends and family. Sometimes we try to ignore it.

I’m talking about celebrating a birthday—that one day out of the year that is ours alone.

Now, I realize that birthdays may not be a big deal to some people—especially in 2020, the year of the pandemic and if birthdays are usually not a big deal and you are happy to let it go by each year unnoticed, then it would not be a big deal for you this year either way.

But for me, birthdays have always been a big deal. My special day.

It started when I was a young girl and my dad would kid me, pretending he didn’t know when my birthday was. I still remember every year on October 1, I’d comment to my dad—“Do you know what happens this month?” He would always say, “No. Is something happening this month?”

And, being as gullible as I was, I always fell for it.

My mom always made me feel special on my birthday. She called me every year on my birthday at 4:15 a.m. No matter what time zone I was in, since I was born at 4:15 a.m., she figured it was fair play for her to wake me up. Every year. Last year, for some reason, when I went to bed, and put my phone on my nightstand, I didn’t realize it was on silent mode. So when I woke up in the morning, I kind of shrugged it off that mom had forgotten. But, never fear! There was a voicemail for me from mom! Who would have known that it would be the last year she would be calling me (since she passed away three months later)?

This year was a milestone birthday for me, so before the pandemic my partner Jack and I started planning to have a party at our house to celebrate my birthday (last week). We even started re-landscaping our backyard in July to make it extra special for the soiree.

Well, you know how this story ended. Not only are we still in the middle of our landscaping project, but there was no party. No lunches and dinners with friends during the month, which is another birthday tradition for me. If you’re not a super extrovert like me, this may not be a big deal, but I thrive on in-person interactions with people. It gives me energy.

Frankly, I had a pretty hard time last week. It was all my “head trash” (thank you Jack for putting a name on it!).  I began to focus on the reality that there are so many people who have been locked in their homes since March, in constant fear of contracting COVID-19. I needed to remind myself that I have been fortunate enough to go into my office three or four days a week, and to get to spend time with my teammates (with masks and physical distance, of course). Multiple times a week I am interacting with friends, business professionals and others via Zoom.

In fact, last Friday on my actual birthday, I attended a virtual global session with three of the most powerful and influential women in the world: Mary Barra, Chairman and CEO of General Motors; Virginia (Ginni) Rometty, Executive Chairman of IBM; and Fatma Samoura, Secretary General of FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association)! It was quite a session.

Have you ever had a pity party for yourself? Especially since the coronavirus has taken over our lives, I think there are many of us who have regular pity parties. I was guilty as charged. So, I did what I needed to do to stop that pity party—I took matters into my own hands, within the limitations of masking and social distancing.

I let my partner Jack know how important my birthday was to me, without any specifics. Fortunately, he is very creative and amongst the cards and gifts he gave me, I giggled when I opened up a package with bottles of Benadryl and Advil (he said I would need them more at my age). I set up a birthday dinner with my family, putting no pressure on them to attend, as I know to not judge those who have health considerations during the pandemic.

I contacted two of my dearest friends, and they each happily offered to meet us for breakfast and lunch at an outdoor restaurant. It was so good to see them—in person!

And I did one of the coolest things ever—I played the recorded voicemail message that my mom had left me last year on my birthday. It was fate that I had my phone on silent, as I now have a lifetime memory.

As I think back to last week and what I had originally hoped to have happen to celebrate my milestone birthday, and then reflect on how the week went, I realized that everything worked out perfectly. It was different for sure. I found new ways to celebrate (such as hiking up to the top of the HOLLYWOOD sign in Los Angeles, which allowed me to check something off my bucket list).

It was QUALITY, not quantity. Perhaps I learned that the new normal, starting in 2020, is about quality of life. Have you thought about how your life is going to be different now? Maybe it’s not so bad that we have had to slow down our hectic pace. We’re not traveling as much, not eating as much, perhaps sleeping more and taking better self-care.

I think this trip around the sun was awesome and I look forward to what the near year holds!

Karen