It was my 41st birthday last weekend and it was lovely and understated. I actually prefer a lovely day having one good meal, relaxing, and talking to a few close family members and friends. The ostentatious parties, the expensive gifts- I don't really need that. Sure if you're turning a round number: 30, 40, 50- that's okay but 41?
Many years ago my sister and I started this tradition with birthday gifts. Every five years we do something big for the other (35, 40, 45, etc.). This includes flying out to see the other and a nice check for that person to have some fun with. This year my sister turns 45 so we'll meet for a long weekend in Vegas. But on the other years we simply give each other a $25 Amazon gift card and mandate one book that the other must read. This results in my always reading historical fiction with a romance and my sister reading esoteric novels written in a Modern-day version of Old English. I can hear my sister sighing now.
And since we've endured a slight torture with those off-year book suggestions we decided to incorporate a lovely tradition: a living eulogy. We first did this when our mom was in her final days with cancer. We both wrote our eulogies and read them to Mom- I mean why not guarantee the person you love is the one that hears this? And since we often take those we're closest to for granted, my sister and I decided to start a list of all the things we love about the other.
I would say that this was not an easy road to get to. No two people could be more different than my sister and me. In fact... it took me a minute but we have a love of history in common. And we both like bagpipes... yep! that's about it. I mean look at us! My older sister with her sable hair, dark eyes, and dark complexion. I am all light- hair, eyes, skin. But when Mom passed we had one more thing in common- we lost our best friend. And as we took care of her through her illness and dividing the work with the estate, we also had equity in common. Finally as the world moved on and we processed all that goes through loss- the letting go of small things, the earned patience, we had personal growth in common too.
It's not like we didn't have these things in common before but it was the first time we didn't focus on our differences and instead really took a good look at the other. I think it's easiest to take those closest to you for granted. It's also easy to not work near as hard to find commonalities. But perhaps I'm past the need to find things in common and instead look at what that person's strengths are that will help me grow into a better person.
I won't go into the details of our private letters but I will say that the impact is overwhelming. Not only do you realize that someone really SEES you but you also realize that they love, respect, and even admire your attributes. It's a very emotional moment and one you can't wait to do for the other.