I turned 35 today. Normally, I don't ascribe significance to my birthdays; I don't care that much about getting older. Today, though, was different. Today I learned something.
My husband and I moved to North Carolina 8 years ago. It was a tough decision for us; we needed to establish our marriage on our own, but we both grew up in Michigan and hated to leave our extended families behind. I knew God was leading us here, but it was scary.
In my family, birthdays are a big deal. My mom has a gift for making you feel so special, so loved on your birthday - it's a beautiful thing. I grew up spending my birthday with grandparents, aunts, uncles cousins; whoever could come and have cake. Since we moved here, I think I've had family with me once.
So, I've been depressed on my birthday almost every year. I just figured it was what it was; I miss my family and I am acutely aware of how much on that particular day.
Today, though, was different. I had to renew my driver's license, and my husband stayed home from work so that I could go to a scrapbooking event at a friend's house. I could not let him see that I was feeling blue when he surprised me by taking the day off for my birthday! So, I smiled a lot, thanked him profusely, opened my presents from my family with the girlies, and then got on my way to the DMV.
On the way, I had to stop at a gas station for my caffeine fix, and the man working there was so friendly and cheerful, that I fixed a smile on my face and said "Great!" when he asked how I was, and chatted with him a minute. I felt my spirits lift a little more.
At the DMV, I made a real effort to be friendly; people who work with the general public day in and day out do not need any more unhappy people in their day. I chatted with a girl in line about the cool purse she was carrying, and found out she'd gotten it in England. I told her my funny license renewing story from last year (see below) and we both laughed. I thanked the woman who gave me my new license, and she thanked me for thanking her - I could hear the surprise in her voice that someone showed gratitude in the DMW office.
When I got to my friend's house, I met another homeschooling mom, which was a tremendous blessing in itself. She also had her 6 year old daughter with her, and I learned that this little girl and I share the same birthday. I could not possibly feel sorry for myself in the presence of this beautiful child celebrating her special day, telling me all about the Ariel birthday party she's having - you know how much fun it is to have a birthday when you're 6, right?
I have a Mary Kay business, and one thing you hear a lot is "Fake it until you make it!" I suppose you hear it in any sales-related field. You have to put on a happy face when you deal with people because they need to know you are focusing on them and their needs. I am not typically good at hiding my feelings, and don't often put much effort into it. Today, I put it into practice, and it WORKED. I started the day feeling blue, but when I stepped out of my pity party and made a point to be cheerful to other people, somehow the smile worked its way into my heart, and by the end of the day, it was real.
I can still feel that little place in my heart that wishes I could have celebrated my birthday today with my parents, my siblings, sibs-in-law, my nieces and nephew. However, I learned that even on MY birthday, I don't have to wallow. I can rise above the sadness and, eventually, the joy will creep its way into me and become the real thing.
(License renewing story: Last year, my husband got a card in the mail to renew his driver's license; we thought since we'd been here 7 years it was time to renew. He got his, and a week later, I went to get mine. At the DMV, I handed over my old license to the nice gentleman helping me, and he asked me what I wanted to to do. I told him since I'd lived here 7 years it was time to get a new driver's license. He said, "Ma'am, you can't renew this more than 180 days before it expires. What is it that you want me to do today?" I said, "I have lived here for 7 years, and I need to renew my license!" He then explained to me that in North Carolina, you renew on your birthdays ending in 5 or 0; my husband had turned 35, but I was still a year away. So I got to go home and tell my husband how OLD he was. And that although I would be 35 the following year, he would still turn 36 first. Ha!)