I write this on my birthday—a day that usually passes with special wishes and bedazzled cards from close friends and family, but that goes otherwise quietly into the good night. I am not complaining. Like most recognized days (yes, I consider my birthday a national holiday if only in my own mind) I think the celebration and silliness is mostly for children, but something strange happened this year that has changed the way I look at celebration, family, friends and love.
When I see a Facebook post telling me it is someone’s birthday, and that someone is someone I don’t really know—part of the extended “Facebook family’ comprised in part of complete strangers—I feel compelled to send a personalized birthday wish, but I always wonder if the recipient will think I’m a stalker. Am I being presumptuous, too friendly when I send my wishes for joy, happiness, hugs, kisses, loving, dancing, sexiness and glee? Then I throw caution to the wind and send it anyway. If anyone thinks I’m weird they can chalk it up to me being a writer, which lets me off the hook on lots of behaviors other people consider inappropriate.
Today I am on the receiving end of a truckload of good will, generosity, silliness, joy, intimacy and friendship and it makes me feel…like I’m suspended in an enveloping sea of warm Velveeta—floating in gooey, convivial bliss. I am deeply charmed.
It’s an amazing feeling to know that people with much better things to do spent the time to write a birthday greeting. Ok, it takes a few seconds, but that isn’t the point. Each person who wrote me had to overcome the same trepidation that I do when I send a note to a “stranger.” Then they sent it anyway. To be a warm, generous, giving human was more important than whatever opinion or reaction it might elicit from me. They went balls out in the brotherly/sisterly love department. If only the whole world could catch that cold.
The past couple of years people have taken the unusual step of insulting one another in an openly hostile and reprehensible manner—total strangers calling others every version of “’tard,” an offensive term no matter how you decorate it, telling one another they’re stupid, not worthy to live, deserve to be shot and the ever popular, “then move to Canada.” (I will never understand this as invective since with said move one would be that much closer to a calendar-worthy world leader.)
Amid all that nastiness and vitriol, the birthday wishes for happiness, fun and love stand out like Bjork. The gleeful emojis, exclamation points, hearts, flowers, dancing monkeys and balloons erase the nastiness spattered across my daily feed, and remind me there is infinitely more love in the world than not.
So here’s my thought: if we can take the time to put aside our differences for the moment it takes to write a birthday wish on FB, then doesn’t that show we have the capacity to tone down the ugly in favor of the beautiful? All it takes is NOT writing something horrid no matter how sincerely we believe we are right and the other person is a drooling Neanderthal.
Each time my phone dings with the news that there’s another post, my heart sings like a whistling cockatiel—all those people spreading a little message of love today. Happy birthday to me! And thank you.