Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Breaking News: Why it's not all Black and White

This morning I watched a grey squirrel scamper, spreadeagled, headfirst down the thick magnolia tree trunk outside our dining room window. My first thought was how incredible it was that he was able to do this so effortlessly. My second was that the squirrel was just doing what squirrels are meant to do. 

For the squirrel this feat was no big deal. I am sure he did not reflect on his actions for one second, let alone the amount of time you have just spent reading about him. 

But this got me thinking about our lives and how the hum drum stuff we do without a second thought would look to the squirrel.
We stand on two feet. We use technology. We communicate with words and a million other small details that make us human. We take for granted much of what we do each day because we expect it and only stop to consider it, if it is out of the ordinary.

When things go the way we expect them to, we don't spend much time reflecting on these events. Our memories are such that we tend to remember the outlandish, awful or magnificent times. The black or white moments in our past. The ones that stand out in stark contrast to the everyday.

This past weekend I celebrated my birthday. I WASN'T going to write about it and I wondered why.........

I have had birthdays in the past that have been truly awful.

There was the birthday that I spent in hospital miscarrying my first pregnancy. 

There was the birthday when I received a letter from my boyfriend at the time, dumping me by mail.

And the birthday when I was so fatigued, I could hardly move and ended up being diagnosed with mononucleosis (glandular fever) at the age of 30.

Those birthdays, I remember very clearly. 

And just so you don't think I only remember the black, depressing events, here are some birthday highlights. There was the birthday when Jonny and our sons surprised me with a party at a restaurant. Thirty friends had gathered to celebrate with me and had written hilarious and touching poems and songs to mark the occasion. 
It's always teatime in my house.

Last year while Jonny was recovering from his surgery, he organized some of my wonderful friends to make a four course, birthday dinner with a teacup birthday cake masterpiece, and a surprise visit from an out-of-town friend to complete the celebration. 

Yes, we remember the highs and lows of our lives in vivid detail. They often garnish excellent dinner party conversation. We dine out on our worst and best, most embarrassing, least successful, funniest stories for years after they have happened.

But what about the in-betweens? 

The experiences that do not ruffle our feathers, give us pause or make us take note. The stuff of the every day, the kind of activities like the squirrel was performing this morning. 

The ones we expect to just happen, without a hitch.

 The ones we take for granted and only stop short and consider if something goes wrong.

You know.... the days where every one gets up, feels well, goes off to school and work and then comes home again with no hitches in between: 

The days I used to think of as normal and now think of as a gift.

And that is when it hits me. My birthday was a beautifully normal, wonderfully calm kind of day. It was a day with family and friends. It was surrounded by days of thoughtful gestures, lovely birthday messages and generous gifts. It was a brilliant birthday no more, no less.

A rainbow day on Long Island
There was NO drama. NO illness. 
NO fanfare. 

There was gentleness and laughter, warmth, love and delicious food. 

There was NO black OR white about it.

But my birthday was not grey. 

It was filled to the brim with a rainbow of colors. With green napkins, silver earrings, blue gloves, red book covers, pink roses and tulips and multi-colored cards. It was a birthday that deserves a special mention and will be remembered for being the most perfect in-between, normal birthday ever. (Which of course makes it anything but normal in my life!)

I wonder what the squirrel would make of that?

Please tell me about a birthday experience of your own.

Wishing you a normal, colorful week.


You might also enjoy reading

 Birthday In A Box

What A Crisis Can Teach Us About Celebrating

Giving And Receiving

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  1. A belated happy birthday Gilly.

    Sometimes normal can be the best thing in the world.

    1. Thanks Liz. Certainly when you or someone you love is sick, you yearn for normal.

  2. I once told a friend that I worried that this was my life for the next 50 years and nothing would change. My friend who worked in a rehab hospital and had young children at the time (whereas I didn't have children at the time) replied that she prays nothing will change. It made me think.

    1. Perception is everything. Your fear was her security, but you were not looking from the same vantage point. Very interesting. And I guess that's why we need to be so careful when thinking other people's lives are so perfect. We really have no idea what is going on in them or how they feel about their situation....

  3. beautifully written, as normal.....thanks for sharing

  4. Nicole -Thanks very much for visiting and reading Brainstorm and for your generous comment. Greatly appreciated. Gilly

  5. I think most of us do too much on automatic pilot. Obviously there are things we just do, because it is second nature for our bodies. But I think that autopilot is on for so much more. Without stopping and how can we lead a life full of purpose and intention.

    1. I agree. Being present for ourselves and for others to experience life fully is a skill and a goal worth working towards.

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  7. Ahhhh, what a beautiful rainbow. That rainbow is like your spirit, Gilly! Beautiful colors and so magnificent! Happy belated birthday to you!

    When I think of birthdays I remember the ones my parents would give me as a child. My cousins and friends would be over and we would play and laugh. My parties took place over the dinning room table. I remember that table like it was yesterday. My birthday was in December, but I remember the window off to the right with the yellow curtains. That's where we would put the window air conditioner unit in the summer. Man, I haven't thought about this in years.

    Now, my birthdays are special too, because my family is around me. That's what makes them special.

    1. Thank you Lisa. You certainly know how to make my day!
      I think when you have the people who make you feel great and you love, around you, that makes every day a good one.

      Have a very colorful week.

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  10. You're absolutely right. Gotta be thankful for the little things

    1. Absolutely! Thanks for commenting Tali.