Beliefnet
The Queen of My Self

Yesterday was my birthday.

Those many years ago, I was born on my mother’s birthday. As a child, I was absolutely enchanted by this bit of information. Did I come all wrapped in ribbons, I would ask? Were there balloons? A cake? Did the nurses sing “Happy Birthday To You” to you? And my mother, being of the-glass-is-half-empty-school, would reply that, although I was certainly a lovely present, she could think of several things that she’d rather have been doing on her (pre-Lamaze) birthday.

Sulpicia, the famed First Century Roman poet, also was piqued by the circumstances of her would-be party day. She cursed her “hateful birthday to be spent in the boring old country.” Most of us cherish a certain notion of entitlement on our birthdays, and often, a stylized celebration fantasy as well. A mythically idealized expectation based on popular practice, historic precedent and personal memory.  As Elizabeth Goudge wrote in Green Dolphin Street,

“Her birthdays were always important to her; for being a born lover of life, she would always keep the day of her entrance into it as a very great festival indeed.”

Who doesn’t awaken on their birthday with a tingle, a heart-skip of excitement? A trill of a thrill, a nascent throb? The date jumps out at us from newspapers, calendars, mail and memos, and we start the day with a stimulated sense of anticipation, or, for some, perhaps, trepidation. In any case, a heightened awareness of a period of personal significance. Of specialness. Our birthday is the anniversary of our Self, the blessing of the fact of our being.

Our birthday is our own personal new year. It is an annual reunion with ourselves, and attendance is required. It is a periodic opportunity to take serious personal stock. “How am I doing?,” as Ed Koch, former mayor of New York City, would always ask. What have I learned? And what can I just not get through my thick skull? Like any new beginning, our birthday is an ideal time to sharpen our focus, realign our perspective and rededicate ourselves to living the very best life we can.  

Ultimate good girl that she was, Princess Victoria of Great Britain wrote in her journal on her eighteenth birthday,

“How  old! and yet how far I am from being what should be….I shall from this day take the firm resolution to study….to keep my attention always well fixed on whatever I am about, and strive everyday to become less trifling and more fit for what, if Heaven wils (sic) it, I’m someday to become!”

Somehow, especially as we grow older, cake and low-fat frozen yogurt are no longer the fulfilling richness we seek in our birthday celebrations. A party doesn’t feed us, the day doesn’t quite seem to satisfy us the way it used to. The promise implicit in the pomp is gone. We have seen what we have seen. We know what we know. We are left, more and more, with a an unsettling reminder of the ever-swifter passage of time. A birthday, then, becomes a time line, a life-line, a party line, a deadline. An assessment of our annual bottom line.

Every September I take time out of time to evaluate my past experiences and actions and to prepare myself mentally, physically and spiritually for the coming year. I usually retreat to some extent and fast to some degree during the two-week period surrounding my birthday.

This experience is intended to center me and slow me down. It is my birthday gift to myself. During my fast/retreat I devote myself completely to cleansing and centering myself: body, mind and spirit in readiness for the future. I rinse my system with fresh water and teas, I clean my house and altars and I use yoga, meditation and t’ai chi to flush my mind clear of the mental detritus that I have accumulated.

Once I have created a safe cocoon of centered, silent, ceremonial solitude, I immerse myself in my Birthday Book. This once-a-year journal, which I have kept since the mid 1980s and now runs to seven volumes, is the record of my involvements, experiences and lessons over the years. In it I process my impressions, plot my progress, ponder my problems and plan my goals.

This sacred period of Self reflection is the greatest gift that I can give myself. Every year
it sets me up to move forward along my karmic path, with a renewed and refined sense of purpose, passion and empowerment.
    
– Lovingly dedicated to the memory of my mother, Adelaide Trugman (b. September 19, 1914 – d. June 27, 1994). She was a woman ahead of her time and my role model for The Queen of My Self.

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The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

 

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