My birthday was yesterday and it was one of those landmark birthdays.  One of those “Oh my gosh how did I get here?” birthdays. One of those “I’ve outlived my parents and my siblings!” birthdays. One of those “I’m holding fast to Mark Twain’s words: ‘Age is a matter of mind. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter” birthdays. One of those “It does matter because it’s a reminder that I’m not getting any younger” birthdays.

And at the same time, it’s also a reminder, as Debbie Reynolds sang in the musical “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” ( that “I Ain’t Done Yet!” In other words, I’m still here which tells me there are things I have yet to do.

Birthdays rate quite high on the stress-test (which counts ‘distress’ and ‘eustress’) which is often surprising for many people. Birthdays can be HIGH’S: big celebration and they can be LOW’S: the stress of birthday prep; the stress of ‘to get a gift or not’ and if so, ‘what’ gift; the stress of past birthdays that were anything but happy.

I’m someone who asks questions.  Then I reflect on my own questions. And when I do, I often come up with more questions because I believe that human beings are meant to bring meaning to life and that in asking questions, in reflecting, we come to know ourselves better, hopefully discover ways we can be better human beings and come closer to understanding the meaning of life for ourselves.

I think that there is ‘meaning’ connected with our birthday.  If so, what does your birthday mean for you now?  Think back – what did your birthday mean to you when you were five?  Remember Danny Kaye singing “I’m five. I’m five.  I’m a big boy now, I’m five!” or Barbra Streisand’s “I’m five. I’m five. I’m a big girl now, I’m five!” (

What did your birthday mean when you were 13 – becoming a teenager? What about 18 / 21 – becoming an adult? What about turning 50 – half a century? What about turning 65 – retirement age? What about the decades / half-decades which follow: 70, 75, 80, 85, 90, 95, 100+?

I’ve discovered, to my surprise, that my birthdays at each of the above stages had a different meaning to me.  This year, one of those decade/half-decade years, has a new meaning. And so I will be doing some self-reflection on the aging process, answer the above questions for myself, and set a goal for the coming year / coming half-decade: a goal that is achievable.  At the end of the year/half-decade, I’ll reflect on how that goal was achieved.

The last time I did this on my ‘half-decade birthday,’ my husband had recently died.  I was facing an unknown future without him. My goal was two-pronged: breathe and heal.  Through the initial grieving, my mantra focused on my breathing, remembering Dame Julian of Norwich’s words “All shall be well.  All shall be well. And all manner of thing shall be well” which helped me focus when I didn’t think I could breathe with all of the things that had to be done.  Then came the healing – gently stepping into the world as a widow. It is not easy.   It takes work. 

And yesterday, I arrived at another landmark birthday.  What will the next half-decade / decade bring?  What will I learn?  How many other half-decade / decade birthdays will I have?  And how will I mark them?

And those are not just my questions. They can be yours too: what will your next half-decade / decade bring?  What will you learn?  How many other half-decade / decade birthdays will you have?  How will you mark them? 

Whatever the answers, may each of us be mindful that each birthday is gift … another day to celebrate being alive; another day to contribute to the world; another day to give thanks and be grateful for at least one thing.  Let’s not squander our birthdays; let’s not take our birthdays for granted; let’s not regret our birthdays.  Let’s celebrate them! The alternative is … well, who wants to think about not having another birthday?

I believe that birthdays remind us that we are ‘works in progress’ rather than ‘completed’ lives.  So, may we celebrate the progress we have made and anticipate the progress we have yet to make.

Happy birthday, me. 
Happy birthday, you. 

© June Maffin
Image © Gerry Jackson Kerdok used by permission