Happy Birthday! Who Says So?!

Are We Commemorating These Things Correctly? Perhaps Not.


Like a great number of people, I am marking a birthday this month. (Time now for the obligatory What? Again? Already? comment). As such passages do, this one has caused me to reflect a bit on birthdays; what they mean, and what we do with them. Let’s take a brief look.

About Birthdays

First of all, it is a bit odd when you think about it that most such events congratulate the person who was born. While our day of birth is important to us each and all, we actually had precious little to do with it all ourselves. We showed up, hopefully on or near the expected time. We actually did not do much ourselves worthy of self-celebration.

Second, the date chosen is a bit arbitrary. I had always thought that the Chinese had a date based on conception, rounded up, which added a year to the total. In reading up on this, I found there are two such systems in Chinese culture. One could add a second year to the total. Who knew? It would be fun to have a panel of cross functional “experts” argue out which is the best date to choose and explain why. We may be even older than many of us think!

Third, a bit more of a serious note. In focusing so much on celebrations, are we missing an opportunity for reflection? The celebrations are great whether they be the person or a group celebrating. Let the record show: We may overdo celebrating. However, this will not deflect me from a splendid dinner that reliable sources assure me are in my future shortly.

A Plan B for Birthdays

Wouldn’t a birthday be the perfect time to “stop the train,” reflect on the last year, and do some thinking about the next year? We are going to talk a bit later in this space about New Year’s resolutions. But before that, how about a birthday as a time to make a few personal goals worthy of commitment in the months ahead? They need not all be about self-betterment. Planned indulgence has its place in a healthy life.

If life has taught us anything, it is that in almost every time and situation we have some choices we can make. It also teaches us that we have no idea how many cards we are dealt. Like you, I have had friends who were paragons of virtuous and healthy living. They were struck down in the prime of life by disease, accident – fate. I remember a comedy a few years ago. It was about a young woman who found herself checking in among the recently deceased. Turned out that a space shuttle had fallen to Earth and she was killed when struck by the shuttle toilet. Imagine living that down through eternity!

And then there are guys like Keith Richards, who by all rights and his own estimates should have died decades ago. Look at this guy! And he is still on tour, deep into his 70s! Photo by Ralph_Ph, Fliker

In case you missed the subtleties of his life, here is a cogent quote of how he now “cleaning up his act” a bit:

Richards…stopped using cocaine after requiring surgery when he fell out of a tree in 2006.

Who knows how much time any of us have?


So, here is a modest suggestion. Find some quiet time on your birthday, early before anyone else stirs and again at the end of the day. Be grateful for who you are, and where you are, if that seems right. Take a little stock of how you invested your time and energy since the last birthday. Then ask yourself, “If I have at least another year, what do I want to do with it?” What would make me say to myself, “Well done.” ?

Now go have some cake.

Whenever your birthday comes, know that I and a lot of other people celebrate that day because you are in our lives.

        Bill Clontz

If you find this blog worthy of your time and curiosity, I invite you to do two things:

(1) Join the conversation. Your voice counts here.

(2) Share the word about this post with friends and colleagues. Share a link in your emails and social media posts. Let’s grow our circle.


2 replies to Happy Birthday! Who Says So?!

  1. Happy Birthday to You This Month! I compare this stage of our lives to fine wine, better with age. There is mystery to life and death that includes irony. Years ago it was pointed out to us in a health care clinic meeting that a healthy vegetarian lifestyle choice did not automatically lengthen lifespan because vegetarians die in accidents, etc., too. When younger I dreaded birthdays. Now older, I look forward to them and take that time annually to do some things for myself that I don’t do during the year. As far as calculating birthdays, I learned today at the hospital where I work that baby boys aren’t as mature in their development as baby girls are when they are born. That may explain a lot and may be an interesting subject for you to ponder and explore.

    • Thank you, Vanessa. A thoughtful reflection on your part. I’m glad you shared it with us.

Your Turn to Comment