My 50th Birthday…Stream of Thoughts

My 50th birthday will be here in less than six months and that’s cool, because 50 is one of those milestone numbers. I was thinking that maybe I should have a big bash. Then I remembered that parties are overwhelming for this introvert. Additionally, if all the people I know and would like to invite actually showed up, it would be extra stressful because some folks I haven’t seen in more than five, ten, years. That’s a lot of catching up try to do.

I had this idea that in the run up to my fiftieth I would try to schedule a coffee date every week with a person I hadn’t seen in years to try to catch up, so when I invite them to the big bash, it wouldn’t be so weird and stressful. Then I got a job and got too busy with that and planning trips. Plus I remembered that several of my efforts to reach out to people I miss fell flat and they never reached back.

I know so many people from so many different communities, and part of me wonders how that would work in a party format? Probably pretty nutty, like the time I invited both Sunni and Shi’a Muslimahs to a party and when the former wanted to put on music and dance, the latter all picked up and left. How would my alcohol-avoiding friends deal with a party where some people are heavily into drinking, for example?

Then I found out my birthday is happening during this year’s Critical NW camping trip. My first reaction to that was to see if maybe I could make up an excuse to not go and attend a Buddhist retreat instead. I think I have talked myself out of that plan. But I’m not sure how I feel about celebrating my birthday with only one my communities. In the end I will probably use my birthday as an excuse to show up late to Critical, after I get that 1/2 price spa entry fee from Olympus Spa. 😉 Then maybe there will be a surprise party waiting for me, because I hate surprises, but if I drop a hint about it online six months before, maybe I can have a non-surprise Surprise Party.

My new favorite emoji

 

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Putting Others First

I have a friend who lives by the philosophy, “Help everyone around me be happy, and that way I’ll be happy, too.” I conveyed this idea to another person, who responded with, “That’s a terrible idea, because you can’t rely on another person for your happiness.” Well, right. But my friend was not saying she can’t be happy unless everyone else is happy, too. There’s another way to look at this, which is rooted in Buddhism.

To be as happy as the Buddha was rumored to be, see all beings as equals (upeksa), recognize our interdependence (shunyata), and eliminate clinging to the concept of yourself as a separate, independant person. If you can do those things (easier said than done of course), then putting others first will come naturally.

If you don’t believe that putting others first can make you happier than you would be otherwise, try it for yourself.

A couple of years ago I needed to have an MRI of my brain, which required me to hold still for thirty minutes while a cascading racket of special MRI noises (blended with 80s pop songs they piped in) filled my ears. It didn’t take long for me to get a crick in my neck and feel like there was no way I was going to sustain this. Then I thought of my daughter. I thought of how she deserved to have a Mama while she grew up, and if I didn’t hold still, they might not get a good picture of my brain and then who knows what could happen? Thinking of her gave me the strength of will to hold still with purpose. (And luckily there was no brain tumor).

A nice way to practice putting others first is to donate your birthday. Because if you are like most people, you have a certain expecatation, conscious or not, that everyone will treat you like royalty on your birthday. You’ll be treated, dined, wined, whatever you want. Lots of cards, gifts, phone calls, etc. And the reality is no matter how much of that you get, it’s easy to feel like it just wasn’t quite enough. I’ve donated my birthday this year, and you can help out if you feel inspired.

So try this when you wake up on your birthday (or any day, really). Set the expection that you will do as much good for other beings as you can that day. Smile at people, do favors for them, cook a meal for others, give money to a person on the street. See how much better you feel at the end of the day.

Everyone Needs Clean Water

My newly shaved cat, Sketch, visits the water bowl.

My newly shaved cat, Sketch, visits the water bowl.

I’m about to turn another year old, and once again I’ve chosen to donate my birthday to charity:water (an A-rated fund on Charity Watch), in hopes that people such as yourself will donate to my clean water campaign.

What’s cool about this is that the money we collect is combined with others and then designated for a specific site. Once you donate, you will periodically get updates on how the project is coming.

If you’re curious, check out the project page for the campaign I helped fund two years ago, which helped 320 people in Rwanda get clean water.

Please give generously, if you can.