3 A.M. GRATITUDE
By: Lauren Anderson
It was my birthday last Sunday.
People that know me, know that I love birthdays. I love yours, mine, the next door neighbor’s kid, the guy at the gas station. I love em. I’m EXACTLY that annoying kid that tries their hardest to make it a “birthday month”. (I’m sorry if that makes me the worst, but it’s true.)
And yes, I know I’m a fully grown adult and I should be over it by now. But I’m not. I can’t help it! Birthdays were important in my family growing up. It’s how I was raised.
I love celebrating other people, and taking a moment to say “Happy Birthday.” Because to me, it’s really me saying, “I see you. And I am grateful for you.”
Because at it’s core, birthdays are a day/moment/excuse to let someone know that they are special to you. That you are glad they were born. That they MATTER.
The world is so big. Life is so hard and complicated. Regardless of how you may personally feel about birthdays, I think it’s always nice to be reminded that we matter… right? Just me?
Because in some degree, knowing I matter feels a lot like having a purpose.
(And no, I don’t think I should rely on other people to show me my purpose, or tell me I matter. Ideally, I work to have a sense of that inside me already. But it sure is nice to have it confirmed once in a while.)
But back to purpose. To me, purpose feels like a strong foundation. It’s the architecturally sound basement made out of flood-proof material, that we can build our dream “homes” on.
And when I have a solid footing, I feel courageous enough to make the biggest strides.
Okay, before I mix any more metaphors or belabor my bday doctrine, let me get to it!
This year, it would be an understatement to say that I was spoiled with love and attention.
People went all out for me. In a non-stop series of texts, phone calls, FB messages, dinners, brunches, small beautiful gestures to over-the-top extravaganza! I’m not kidding folks… there were acts of service, compliments, quality time. Rest assured all 5 Love Languages were covered, and then some.
At one point during the early evening of the festivities, I got so hyper that I lost my words and called my party Christmas! Cause that’s how it felt. No, I wasn’t drunk…totally. I was HYPER. Like the luckiest kid at Disneyworld. Unable to fully process the joy.
Spazzin out, having an unapologetic full-faucet personal Lalapalooza. And loving every second.
I can’t remember the last time I felt like that.
When the day came to a close, I packed up the car with leftover cakes and the spoils of my loved one’s generosity, and I drove home. It was late, and I can admit– JUST THIS ONCE– that I was actually pretty sleepy.
You know it’s a good party when I, a textbook example of an extrovert, couldn’t wait to get home and sit quietly.
In fact, on the drive home I even turned off the radio. (Can you believe it? I’m NEVER without music.) But I just wanted to let the energy and memory of the day run through my head.
And as soon as it got quiet, I started to cry. At first I was like, “What’s happening?!?!?” But then it dawned on me. This sounds so frickin cheesy… but I think I was legit–overcome with gratitude.
Gratitude is such a buzz word nowadays. It gets kicked around and tossed into conversation. Everyone is searching for it, practicing it, remembering it. Myself included. And yes, I try my damndest to stay grateful. But I can say with certainty, that I am rarely overcome.
I mean, who do I think I am? A corseted duchess from olden times? Seriously. WHO HAS TIME TO BE OVERCOME?!??!
And yet, there I was. Exactly that. Overcome with gratitude. I kept asking myself what I did to deserve this day?! And then hoping beyond hope, that I was somehow deserving of all that love. But I wasn’t about to look this gift-horse of a day in the mouth. I was Grateful dammit. Capital G.
And instead of trying to stop, I indulged in that gratitude. I leaned in. “Hell,” I thought. “It’s still technically my bday in California right?”
I went through the whole day– a flash of a smile, a flicker of a candle, the lick of a dog. Re-living hugs, and songs, and salutations. The laughs! I thanked every moment. And every time I did, I could feel it lock in.
Like somehow the gratitude allowed me to keep that moment longer. Almost as if, gratitude was the price of admission to ride the memory-coaster of this remarkable day.
And it felt SO GOOD.
I mean, I know I’m sounding ALL THE WAY UP MY OWN ASS right now. Like I’ve just spun off reality and into a new syrupy version of myself. But I guess what I’m trying to say is gratitude and it’s full power made so much sense to me suddenly.
It dawned on me that this gratitude business isn’t just lip service. It isn’t just the pumpkin-spiced latte of beliefs to adapt. It’s real. Like really real. And there is incredible power in remembering to do it.
I had thanked every moment. I thanked the universe for surrounding me with so many amazing people, so filled with love. There was only one thing left to do before my birthday was officially done.
And then I thanked my body.
This culture and it’s people have a lot of hang-ups about age. But I can assure you, I’m all the way in the “Age is Only a Number” camp. Sometimes I feel like I’m aging in reverse, because the big secret is, you are more loving and forgiving the older you get. And that is real FREEDOM.
But there is still stigma attached to getting older. In our youth obsessed culture– how could it not be? But my friend said something the other day that is really sticking with me.
They said, “Age is a gift.”
And it’s really resonating with me. Because they’re right. Age is a gift.
Cause think about it. Not everyone makes it to this “age”. Each year is a gift. We learn, We expand, We grow. The person I am now is not the same person I was 10 years ago. (Thank God.) And yet, I am the same as I ever was. And I would’ve never known that if I didn’t age enough to see it firsthand.
I trade folly for wisdom… so I can go out and courageously find more folly. And so it goes.
What a gift indeed.
And I couldn’t do it without the body that houses it all. I can’t go it alone. I need the vessel and the vessel is part of it. The muscle and blood and aches and pains. The hugs. The jumping up and the landing softly. The falling down and landing hard.
And I am finally grateful, because I can finally see how important my body is.
I spent so many years taking it for granted, but I can’t deny the folly in that thinking anymore.
Standing in the mirror at 3 a.m., before finally taking off the crown (technically a diadem, thankyouverymuch) that I indeed wore on my bday–I spent a good long time thanking my body for getting me this far.
I am grateful for all that it has done for me, and often–IN SPITE OF ME–to get me to this point in my life. I can’t believe I’ve left it off the list of loved ones for so long.
But as I move into another cycle around the sun, when I look back on this unbelievably glorious day, I will include my body. Because it belongs with the songs and the gifts and the merriment.
It deserves to be smothered with gratitude.
At 3 a.m. after a practically perfect day… and from now on.