Today is my birthday. I’m 45–I’m not sure how that happened. I mean, 45 is only five years from 50! And yet, there are ways that I know I’m older, more mature. Sadly, some of those ways are how my body has changed, like how I don’t just look tired when I’m tired, I look that way all of the time, am tired most of the time. I have 5-10 extra pounds that won’t go away no matter what I do. My body doesn’t heal as quickly as it used to and every injury comes with the worry that it will become a permanent issue, that it won’t heal completely, and I can get injured doing the smallest, simplest of things, like getting up from the couch, or turning to walk in another direction and suddenly something hurts.
Eric and I made a list a few years ago as a joke, “How you know you are a grown up.” It had things like having “backstock” (so instead of just the salad dressing that’s in the refrigerator, you have two more in the cupboard–you don’t run out of things because there’s always a backup), insurance, preferring staying home to going out, and getting up before the sun (which means going to bed ridiculously early).
me–many, many birthdays ago
There are other ways in which my age is a gift, how I know I’m a grown up. For example, I know who I am, and finally, finally I’ve stopped denying that, stopped pretending or trying to be someone else in order to fit in or be liked, (most of the time, anyway). I have let go entirely of the idea that I will ever in my lifetime be anywhere close to cool. There’s a fortune from a cookie taped to my computer screen that says “Do you want to be a power in the world? Then be yourself,” and I now know this to be true. I understand that how I am, flaws and all, is a strength, something I can feel good about.
One of the ways I manifested this belief is a brave move, completed only moments ago. I donated to a Kickstarter campaign for our local independent movie theater (which would have been forced out of business without the help, and they are amazing, we are so lucky to have them), and as part of my reward, I get to have a slide that will play for two weeks on the big screen while people are waiting for their movie to start. I wanted to use it for good, and was really torn about what to do–advertise my favorite charity? send a message from the universe? I finally realized that if I believe this blog is doing good, if that is my purpose and intention, to remind people that they are fundamentally wise and compassionate and awake and powerful, that I could take the leap and use the slide to share my blog. Here’s the design I sent to the theater this morning. *gulp*
There was a time when I wouldn’t have done this because it would have felt selfish, when I would have heard that old mean voice in my head saying “who do you think you are? you think you are so special, so smart…well you aren’t better than anyone else, you know, and you should be careful you don’t get too big for your britches.” But now, I realize that I have something to offer, and that it might help someone, that what’s selfish is keeping that to myself, refusing to share it.
The other way I know I’m a grown up is that I get more pleasure out of giving than getting. I’d rather help someone else get what they need than receive a present, more stuff for myself. In fact, I feel guilty having it so good when others are still suffering. I have causes that are dear to me, such as dog rescue and access to education for all girls and women, but there are others that it seems like should matter to everyone, like making sure that every person on the planet at the very least has enough to eat and access to clean water.
This year, I pledged to “donate” my birthday to Charity:Water. On my campaign page, I explain that I believe everyone has the right to clean, safe drinking water. I first heard about this organization at the World Domination Summit this summer. Founder Scott Harrison told his story, explained what compelled him to do this work. His story broke my heart, inspired me, so when he asked at the end of his time with us if we would donate our birthdays, all 1000 people in attendance stood up and agreed. I highly recommend listening to his story. It will change you.
Since 2006, Charity:Water has funded water projects around the world to help millions of people get access to water, hygiene education and improved sanitation. Private donors cover the charity’s operating costs so that 100% of the money donated goes to clean water projects. My wish on my 45th birthday is to raise $1000, an homage to my blog (A Thousand Shades of Gray), in honor of my hope that somehow through writing it, connecting with my kind and gentle readers, I can inspire others to help ease suffering in the world, that I can be part of that, that I will be inspired to do more, to change what I can change. What can $1000 do? Help 10 families in Ethiopia get access to clean water. What else will it do? Give me the best birthday present possible.