I was looking forward to siting and writing all day, and now that I am on a comfortable chair in my local cafe, iPad on and cursor blinking, I find myself increasingly irritated. The room is too warm, the new barista poured half of my drink out of the cup, my favourite table is free but my phone’s battery is dying so I had to sit to the table that is right next to the door, the place seems much noisier than usual, and I am just… well, I am a year older.
I am a year older than I was in the weekend. It was my birthday on Monday, and this means that I am now a year older. It’s like this sentence is stuck on repeat inside me, playing loudly on my subconscious’s iPod.
You see, this song has some interesting back vocals. There are the ‘so what?‘ harmonies, the ‘what are you doing with your life?‘ rap section, and the obligatory dubstep every time I think of how quick time is passing by.
I have to admit that I was in a bit of a bad mood (the people close to me might say this is a bit of an understatement), so when I called my brother to cancel our celebration plans, because, well, I did not really feel like celebrating it, he shocked me. Yes he was sympathetic and supportive and warm, but he also served as an unexpected mirror. He said to me that I should not be looking at what I have not achieved so far – I should focus on the things I have accomplished. I was stunned; it had really not occurred to me.
For some reason, I have always been fearful of counting my blessings, slightly terrified that someone will say ‘hey there, you’ve got a lot of good things going on, let me take some away‘. I think there might be a cultural influence there, as in Greece, it is considered slightly impolite flaunting your good luck -if someone compliments your new shirt, you thank them and tell them you got it in the sale; if they compliment your cooking, you smile and then point the thing that did not work; you do not accept a compliment without bringing it down a notch.
We also have another interesting saying: when we laugh a lot (we are talking about hysterical fits of belly laughter, something that happens quite frequently at coffee chats or dinner banter), we always say ‘may that come out in our favour’, as if to say that laughing a lot and being too happy usually has bad consequences.
So as I was on the phone with my brother and he was reminding me of all the things I had to be grateful for, I felt my cheeks reddening. It was as if I got a new remix of my internal song without the self-defeating rap (like when Dido released the uplifting ‘Thank You’ after it appeared in the super dark ‘Stan’ duet by Eminem. Yes, that happened more than a decade ago – wow, I am old…).
Birthdays are just days, and in the end we should not be celebrating the number. We should be celebrating the people around us that make us feel young at heart, the moments that uplifted our hearts and the places that made us who we are.
I look around. The cafe does not look so overcrowded, I don’t feel so hot and I am not even bothered from the guy next to me, spreading his Evening Standard all over his table- and half of mine. I think of my family’s wishes warming my heart, of the pictures I developed yesterday from my summer holidays reminding me of good times, and of the birthday cake breakfast this morning still sweet on my lips. I smile, and feel grateful.
Don’t count the candles on the cake; count the blessings in your life.