The Queen of My Self

The Queen of My Self


Happy Birthday! – Part 1

posted by Donna Henes

 

I see “Begin Again” as an ideal theme for this season. We have the supreme opportunity now in the autumn of our midlife to begin again. How shall we reinvent our Selves? What new programs, projects and passions are on the horizon for us? Please send me your stories of change, transition, and transformation. Our shared experiences serve to inspire and empower us all.

Thanks.  xxQueen Mama Donna

 

Today is my birthday. 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.

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 intoit 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.

Every birthday is a rite of passage. A ritual of progression through the stages of the ages. The travel from one state of being, of status, to another has always been held to be fraught with danger. Life is fragile after all, and vulnerable. So care must be taken to ensure a safe crossing for the celebrant. S/he must be surrounded by well-wishers who, with their cheerful salutations, songs and spells of “Happy Birthday!” attempt to please the protective and guiding spirits. The giving of gifts provides an extra surety of safekeeping.

Since the advent of agriculture, special cakes have been offered in religious ceremony. The Persians consecrated sweet honey cakes and placed them on the altars of the Great Goddess in Her many guises. A circular cake topped by a glowing taper was offered by the ancient Greeks to Artemis, the moon, in the fullness of Her monthly birthday. In Japan, too, round rice moon cakes are still offered to Lady Moon at Her birthday on the full Fall Harvest Moon. “Happy cakes” were given as party favors at the night-long Egyptian feasts in honor of all ten-day-old babies. Emperor Hadrian of imperial Rome sent gift cakes to his coterie on his own birthday.

The modern birthday cake was invented by German bakers in the Middle Ages. Not unlike the Goddess cakes, they were ringed by burning candles, “The Light of Life,” each representing a year plus an extra one for luck. These were kept lit all day long in a symbolic guardian circle until the cake was cut and eaten after the evening meal. In Great Britain, birthday cakes, like Twelfth Night cakes, contain small charms, which are mixed into the batter and then baked. When these lucky pieces show up in someone’s slice of cake, they tell the future of the finder: a ring for marriage, a thimble for spinster/bachelorhood, a button for poverty, a coin for prosperity, a seed for fertility.

Tomorrow: Happy Birthday! – Part 2

*****

Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She is the Midlife Midwife™ offering counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity.

 

Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™: http://www.donnahenes.net/queen/consult.shtml

http://www.thequeenofmyself.com

 

***

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I see “Begin Again” as an ideal theme for this season. We have the supreme opportunity now in the autumn of our midlife to begin again. How shall we reinvent our Selves? What new programs, projects and passions are on the horizon for us? Please send me your stories of change, transition, and transformation. Our shared experiences serve to inspire and empower us all.

 

Thanks. xxQueen Mama Donna

 

 

Candles, lanterns, lamps and torches are employed universally to light the way along the spirit path of progress. In another domestic adaptation of the Epiphany tradition, many families keep a tall twelve-year candle for each child. This is first lit at the christening, then burnt bit by bit, year after year, until the child attains adulthood at the age of thirteen. A candle, of course, represents life; a birthday candle, our life — the spark, the heat, the glow, the movement, the melt down, the ultimate burnout. We kindle a ceremonial fire so that the propitiatory power of our prayers can rise on the smoke, fly on the flames, find its way up to heaven. We make a wish and bless it with a blow of our life’s breath, which, one day, too, will be extinguished.

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 subtle sense of disappointment and an unsettling reminder of the ever-swifter passage of time. Another day older and deeper in debt.

 

A birthday, then, becomes a time line, a life line, a party line, a deadline. An assessment of our annual bottom line. Research shows that there is a definite “birthday effect” on the health of a given group. The incidence of heart attacks increases significantly for both men and women during the week before and after their birthdays. This might be equally explained, I suppose, by the added emotional/physical stress of ambivalent anticipation and ultimate let down and over-the-top partying.

 

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 old 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.

 

“The return of my birthday, if I remember it, fills me with thoughts which it seems to be the general care of humanity to escape,” wrote James Boswell in The Life of Samuel Johnson. Since the early 1980’s, I have kept a birthday book. I usually retreat to some extent and fast to some degree during the week or so before my birthday, during which time I devote myself entirely to the recording of the past year. Processing my impressions and my lessons. Plotting my progress. Pondering my problems. Planning my goals. 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!”

*****

Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She is the Midlife Midwife™ offering counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity.

Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™: http://www.donnahenes.net/queen/consult.shtml

***

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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