Kat’s official tips for having a great birthday

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I think we sometimes forget, especially when we have been adults for a while and we forget to play, that our birthday is supposed to be a celebration of ourselves and the fact that we are still alive. Remember when you were a child and everyone would gather and celebrate you? Why do we give that up as we age?

I recommend you don’t. And so, in case you are out of practice, I hereby give you some official tips for making it a great day. Of course, you can tweak them. Because it’s your day, it’s all about you!

These are in no particular order, although I wrote them chronologically based on my birthday this year. All of these tips would be good to fit into other days as well. But only if you want to have a good day. Or a good life.

  • Stay up until midnight, so you get to experience the first minute of your birthday. Be glad that you made it.
  • Sing happy birthday to yourself before you go to sleep. (I even told me how much I love me.)
  • Turn off the alarm and sleep until your body says it’s ready to get out of bed.
  • Snuggle with a German shepherd (or other animal of your choice).
  • Thank God for giving you another birthday. (A lot of people on the planet won’t get one this year.)
  • Hang around the house in your pajamas doing something you just want to do. (For me, that was reading and surfing the Internet.)
  • Eat something healthy first thing in the morning, because you know you’re going to eat things that are not so much later. (I had some of my favorite yogurt.)
  • Go out to breakfast with your dad (or other loved one) and have chocolate chip pancakes made from scratch.
  • Do something nice for someone else. (I helped my dad with some chores, because he still can’t lift much after his surgery.)
  • Take a drive in a vehicle you love. (I had to take Optimus because of the snow and salt. This was the first birthday I’ve had when I didn’t get to drive Cam. Sigh.)
  • Listen to some music you love, really loud. (For me, this included The Beatles, Ultravox, Billy Squier, Journey, Queensryche, A3, Smashing Pumpkins, Supernova and Kristian Leontiou.)
  • Throughout the day, look around for beauty. Really experience it, admire it and enjoy it.
  • Go around and pick up free presents for your birthday. (A lot of businesses will give you something if you ask. Other places have birthday clubs, where you automatically get something on your special day. This year, I got a free pastry, a free makeup kit, a free ice cream sundae and a free cocktail. I still have free popcorn and a free lunch coming.)
  • Get out with a group of friends, the more the merrier.
  • Have a really tasty meal that includes dessert.
  • Seek out and destroy some cake. (This isn’t a suggestion. It’s mandatory. If you haven’t been eating cake on your birthday, you’ve been doing it wrong.)
  • Go to a theater and marvel at how gorgeous Ryan Gosling is for two hours. (You might choose someone else to ogle. It’s your birthday, so it’s your choice.)
  • Laugh. A lot. Every chance you get.
  • Figure out your catchphrase. (You should have some statement that sums up the day and makes you instantly recall a joyous moment you had at some point during the day or evening. Again, if you’re not finishing your birthday with a catchphrase, you might be doing it wrong.)
  • Have a cupcake and a cocktail before bed. (If you don’t eat sugar, see cake rule above. If you don’t drink, have some kind of treat that you don’t often that you really enjoy. Savor it.)
  • Have additional snuggle session with above German shepherd (or other animal) before bed. (This is optional, but I highly recommend it.)
  • Fall asleep at whatever time you please, knowing you truly celebrated you and being alive.

I’m not getting older; I’m getting better!

I have a birthday this week. For some reason, recent birthdays have me feeling nostalgic and contemplative like never before. A few years ago, it became clear to me that I likely have fewer years in front of me than I do behind me. John Cougar (Mellencamp) said it perfectly in the song “The Real Life:” “It’s a lonely proposition when you realize that there’s less days in front of the horse than riding in the back of this cart.”

It makes me feel sad, because I really love my life. It also makes me push harder to do the things I want to do before I die. Life seems to get more complicated as you age, and many things become harder than they seemed years ago. I’m trying to be bolder as I get older, but in truth things scare you as you age that didn’t scare you when you were younger.

I was in a car accident a few years ago. It didn’t seem that major when it happened, but it has had long-lasting effects. After a few years in physical therapy, I am nearly back to the condition I was before it happened. Unfortunately, losing the weight I gained during the time I was off my feet has proven to be more than difficult. It took much longer to heal from this accident than more serious things that happened in my past.

And then there are simpler things. Remember when you were younger and you’d sleep on the sheets or pillow the wrong way and then you’d wake up with those lines embedded in your face? Heck, they’d be gone before you finished your Froot Loops. When you get older, those lines can stay on your face until noon, or later. Nothing like being at the office at 11 a.m. and having someone come up and say, “What did you do to your face?” (“I aged,” you mutter under your breath. My mom’s secret tip to prevent wrinkles: satin pillowcases. Try them. You’ll be surprised how much better you look in the morning.)

I don’t know if I would call it a bucket list, but each birthday after 30 I’ve tried to take a look at my life and determine whether I’m on course. Some years, I feel right on track. Other years, I feel like I don’t know who I am or what I want.

In the past year, I began downsizing my life. I recently moved into a much smaller home. I got rid of a lot of things before the move, but I still have way too much for the house I live in now. So as I unpack each box, I am taking great care to decide whether I really want to keep each item or whether it should go to another home to live.

(Instead of setting something perfectly good out with the garbage, call your local Salvation Army. They find other people who would love to have the things you cast off, if they are still in good condition. If you don’t have a Salvation Army near you, find another such organization. Many of them will even pick things up!)

I am also considering what I really want from my remaining years. You don’t think about those things when you’re younger, when you feel like you’ll live forever and nothing can harm you. But as you age, physical injuries take longer to heal. Emotional wounds last longer than when you were young and you would brush things off, knowing you had plenty of time.

Gretchen Rubin, the author of three books about happiness, said it best. “The days are long but the years are short.” Think about that for a minute or five.

We all want to be remembered. We all want to make it count. It’s never too late to start fulfilling your dreams. No one is promised forever, and you never know when your life will be over. You should make every day worthwhile. Figure out what makes you happy and go for it, no matter how old you are.