I’ve lived 40 years!
So I’ve lived 40 years and a few days now. Turning 40 years old seemed like a big deal. Friends who know my age asked me in advance how I was going to spend my 40th birthday and the below was how I spent my Big Day.
More and more each year I found myself forgetting my birthday. I would remember as one by one my Pisces friends have their birthdays. As soon as I remember though I feel a bit gloomy, not because I’m getting older, but why why why I have only one special day each year? I want to feel special every single day.
So there came my birthday wish #1: to be at present. Yes that was my actual goal for my meditation and Sekhem healing for myself the night before my birthday. We are often ‘somewhere else’ because we are not enjoying ourselves. I don’t just mean when we’re going through tough times, even boredom could make us want to escape by daydreaming. I would like to experience, to be able to enjoy whatever I’m experiencing and no more escaping.
Sometimes after a healing session there could be a healing ‘crisis’ – meaning the person would feel worse before they feel better. When I went to bed after the meditation and Sekhem healing, I started crying uncontrollably. A lot of grief and guilt came out through my tears while I looked at them in my mind one by one – grief of missing my family and friends in Hong Kong, of leaving my home in London that I finally got used to, of having to settle in a strange city without knowing the language, for the refugees and homeless people I see every day in Athens; guilt for not able to help the refugees and homeless people and for having grief when I have so much more than these people who have no homes. I didn’t even know there was so much grief and guilt buried inside me. I guess that explains why I had been feeling ungrounded since the move about a month ago.
So there came my birthday wish #2: I wish that everyone has a home. My guilt doesn’t help anybody. Right now I don’t know how to help other than doing meditation for them. Perhaps in the future when I get to know my refugee classmates from the free Greek class I’m going, I could offer my service to them.
My husband asked me what I would like to do for my birthday. First thought was: nothing. I would like to do nothing and feel good about it. Friends had suggested that I should have a big party but I feel stressed just thinking about it. I have no friends here in Athens anyway. In the past I always felt odd that I didn’t like parties. I don’t anymore. I feel good to know what I want.
‘Could you take some photos for me?’ I asked my husband the photographer. Immediately I saw his mind wandering all over Athens to find locations and ideas about the shoot. I could feel panic rising in me. ‘I want to look like me! The ‘me’ that I know!’
Here’s the thing about being a photographer’s wife: I do get amazing photos of myself thanks to my husband, but the process could often be stressful because I’m not a professional model and he would instruct me how I should look because after all, he’s the professional and he knows what looks good. I would like to look good but I also like to look like me, the ‘me’ that I know.
When it was time to get ready, he asked, ‘Do you have a light colour dress?’ What dresses do I have here? Shoes?? Handbags??? Makeups???? I just want to enjoy my day, wearing comfortable shoes to walk around Athens’ broken pavements… I put on T-shirt and jeans. An orange colour T-shirt which is not particularly flattering on my skin tone but I like what it says: ‘PEACE & LOVE’. My husband took a glance at my outfit without any comment and suddenly I understood something.
Birthday wish #3: speak my mind and be in control. In the past I probably could have worn whatever he said to please him, and then moaned about how uncomfortable I was later. He never had any control over how I dress. The choice is always mine. Same as what we do, where we go, which country we live. I was always so used to not speaking up in order to please. I’m slowly learning about peaceful discussions.
Off we went to Monastiraki and Plaka, taking in all the interesting sights. We walked past many colouful shops and cafes and restaurants; interesting houses and monuments; tourists of many nationalities, migrants and of course a lot of local Greek people. We sat at a café to enjoy the sun while watching stray cats ‘hunt’ – they climbed on tables when people leave to eat the leftover food. During the walk from time to time we could see the Parthenon from afar. Yes, this ancient city is my home for now.
My husband did take photos of me, as well as photos of the scenery. I am pleased that he was enjoying himself as much as I did and I am pleased that he’s my companion for my Big Day and for my every day. Whether we’re doing something, or doing nothing, I’m happy that he’s by my side.
Birthday wish #4: I wish everyone could find someone they are happy to share their lives with.
My husband suggested we had dinner at a tavern that has live Greek music. He seemed to read my mind that I would like to eat out that night. Seems normal to be out on one’s birthday but we need to be frugal till the husband settles in his job here. I am grateful for his thoughtfulness.
I love live music! I wasn’t so interested in the food we were having, particularly because we started eating at 11pm, which is very normal for the people here. From the moment the band started playing I just wanted to get up and dance but I was shy. So I waited and waited for other diners to start dancing. Whenever I was in a place with live Greek music before, there always were people dancing but this time, no one! ‘Is it okay to dance?’ I asked my husband. ‘Of course! Do what you want.’ So I did just that – dancing to the songs that I enjoyed even though everyone still remained in their seats. I also sang along for a bit even though I had no idea what the words were.
Birthday wish #5: Do what I enjoy. So often we stop ourselves from doing things that we enjoy because of what other people might think about us. Really, we’re the ones judging ourselves the most.
I also managed to persuade my husband to dance with me. I was very happy that he did. I put in a request the night before that he would do slow dance with me like in the movies. Maybe I imagined it but the band seemed to play slower and slower for us to immerse in our romantic moment. I really would like birthday wish #4 to come true for all.
So that was how I spent my 40th birthday. One other special thing I did was calling my mum. She was pleased that I call her on my birthday. And I was pleased that she was pleased with me. A bit shamefaced to admit this but only since I left my Hong Kong home in recent years that I realize how much my parents love me and how important they are in my life. I miss them. I miss being cared for and not having to think for myself. I miss being small. I guess I am a grown up now.
Birthday wish #6: Good health (both physical and emotional) for my parents and everyone’s parents.
Birthday wish #7: Our world be filled with Peace and Love.