The Importance of Ritual and birthdays......
Since yesterday was my birthday and for the first time in a decade it passed without a disaster (someone is slipping up), this morning I was thinking about birthdays, the things we dread as we get older as we are one more year closer to death.
Well, I know death better than some acquaintances and we are on a first name basis, so he doesn't scare me and I think he actually likes my coffee. So, instead of dwelling on that, I started remembering birthdays as a child. Do you remember them? We all thought we were one year closer to freedom. Nah, that's not what we thought at all. It was our special day!
I'm going to do a generic birthday because my life was never even close to generic or “normal”. Now, if your birthday fell during the week, you might have to wait until Saturday for the “special day”, but the anticipation made it all the more special as you had no idea what the parents had planned for you and your friends.
You would spring out of bed early because you knew you were getting the special breakfast filled with everything you loved to eat and didn't even stop to consider it was unhealthy to have half a bottle of maple syrup on those waffles with the chocolate chips. Nope, it just tasted really good. If you were really young, this might be the day you got to taste coffee! That was a real let down but you plowed ahead because in the afternoon your friends were coming over, there would be cake and ice cream, as much as you could stuff, and you never thought about how sick you were going to be as you skipped lunch to make room for that CAKE! You played silly games until you finally got to the important part which was tearing into those gifts most of which were worthless because kids only had a few pennies allowance. Then everyone was lying around, half sick in a sugar coma and there was always one who couldn't hold his cake but there was no yelling or blame as he was passed off to knowing parents apologizing for the mess he made. You probably got to even stay up late as this magic marker made you a year older and gained you, and only you, admittance to the special place of the year older. It may have moved your bedtime which would take you half a year to get used to, again. BUT, it was your special day. Tomorrow, you would return to the same world, same routine and everyone would be the same, even throw-up boy as he was now known.
What went wrong? Well, someone told you how silly it was and how let down you would be the next day so let's just keep it low key. We weren't let down the next day. Someone always pinned the tail on someone other than the donkey but we didn't hold them responsible..they were blind folded and what's a little pin prick? Someone always got sick. There was usually one fight. How is this different in adulthood? We survived, commiserated the next day and had a good laugh until someone else's birthday party took its place in the good old days' remembrances on afternoons.
Do you remember when afternoons after school were spent sitting outside with your friends, talking. You know, actually moving your lips face to face. We ran out of school, freed from books until after dinner and chores like clearing the table were finished and then we went to work on homework. Do you remember crickets chirping and cool breezes? Do you remember making your own fun?
We worked our little arses off. We washed and dried dishes and progressed to mopping and sweeping and dusting. I even progressed to cooking. Can anyone remember helping a friend with the cleaning up so they could come out and play and never once....NO, NOT ONCE...thinking about what was in it for you because all you wanted was to enjoy each others' company until the sun went down and dinner was served. I used to help my neighbor babysit his little sister and keep her entertained until his mom and dad got home from work. We all thought he was weird (not in a bad way) because he had to go to Catholic school and we went to public school but it didn't start a religious war. She got to play with the big kids, a treat, and no one worried we were going to drop her off a roof or something. She was HIS sister and we took care of her, walked her across the street and taught her the fine points of being our golden age. We fell, got skinned up and got into fights. Goddess knows, I decked many a little boy who thought picking on someone smaller and female was the right thing to do. As my cousin will tell you, I taught him respect for women in five minutes and how much a broken nose hurts to set in the doctor's office when the man is really upset his dinner was interrupted and the doctor is laughing his ass off that a little girl half his size broke his nose and one rib. I looked so very angelic back then. My uncle was so embarrassed and my father was just smirking. Can you imagine that happening today without a law suit? We settled our own differences and hence, we learned how to do it. We didn't need a conflict resolution team.
You think you are shielding your children but what you are really doing is criminal. You are preparing them for the world you live in which is obey the rules, fly under the radar and work your ass off so your kids can do the same. Your parents' parents thought they were giving their children a better world and a better life. Your goal is to keep the world the same and maybe they will manage to live. That is the definition of stasis which leads to atrophy and final death. When all things, even rocks, stop growing and changing...they die and decay making way for the next thing that will eat them and take their place. That's something you might want to think about. Can the whole Universe be wrong about that? I doubt it.
Why can't you have that special day? It's not going to ruin the rest of year, though you have been convinced of that. You've been convinced it is going to ruin your children. It has become a monetary extravaganza where parents try to out do each other and the TV show that is popular. Pin the tail on the donkey was an expensive party. Parents loaned that donkey out until it ceased to resemble anything like a donkey. New tails were cut out of paper. Every kid took something home even if it was the dreaded pencil or eraser. Candy was the favored treat because you could “hide” it in a pocket for that special time you needed a treat and discovered what mold was; something to scrape off and eat the candy underneath. Guess what? No one ever died from moldy candy. What it does is give you something to look forward to the rest of the year when things are really crappy. You WILL have another special day that is all yours and no one can have it but you and it will feel good.
It doesn't feed the Pharmaceutical companies with money from antidepressants. That memory is your happy pill. It doesn't feed the Medical Company with pills and office visits due to stress diseases. It is your relaxer. It doesn't kill you at an early age.
What do your children have to look forward to coming home with a load of books every day? Are they afraid to make friends because you are afraid everyone is going to hurt them? Are they unable to go to the new kid's house until you Google their parents and get a background check? Do “play dates” have to be scheduled a week or two in advance? Does every sleep over, party, or interaction require a TV or Movie theme? Are you their parents or their social secretaries/jailers? Adults had adult things to do and kids had kid things to do that we hoped the adults didn't find out about but they already knew because they had been kids. Have your kids ever been kids?
Let's all have more birthdays; that wonderful, magical day filled with gooey treats and surprises. Let's stop the fear which is just hate in sheep's clothing. The whole world will be a better place and you just might know your neighbor well enough to borrow a cup of something without wondering if they poisoned it. Let's go back to thinking the neighbors that were a different religion, color, sexual orientation or ethnic group were a little weird rather someone threatening our very existence and planning on killing us and destroying our way of life. Yes, there have always been gay people and they lived together as “old maids or bachelors” in the very towns we lived in and everyone knew but no one said anything or kept their kids blindfolded when they walked by their houses. They were just honorary aunts and uncles. We wanted to destroy our own way of life because we wanted our children to have a new, better world with a better way of life.
The people next door are just people like you are people. They may be different but if everyone was the same, it would be a really boring world.
Who does same benefit, my friends? It benefits a government that collects taxes and provides generic everything. It benefits big companies that only have to produce the same things and hire the same people who won't rock their boat by asking for new things. It benefits religions that get the same twenty in the same collection plate from the same people who parrot Amen while glancing at the score on their smart phone and having no idea what you just slipped into their subconscious that they agreed with by rote.
It does not benefit you. You just remain the same and die and give your children the same old world with the same old problems they tackle in the same old ways because everything is always a new version of the same.
Are you bored yet, because I am?