Today is my birthday. It certainly isn’t the birthday I had envisioned a few weeks months ago when I had anticipated stopping by The Donut Pub on 14th Street on my way to work to get a couple dozen sugary treats to celebrate with coworkers. Even during a year when there isn’t a global pandemic, I tend to opt for smaller birthday celebrations. Years ago, I gave up meeting large groups of friends at bars and restaurants to celebrate because the stress of divvying up the check proved to be too much for me. This year, with New York City still being under a lockdown, it was easier for friends to understand why I didn’t want to gather en masse. Simple birthdays are my favorite and this year will be just that: a birthday cake made by my husband and an obscenely large plate of nachos for dinner with an even larger pitcher of margaritas.
I won’t say it’s feels comfortable having people wish me a “happy” birthday today because there are so many people in this country and our world who have so little chance of being happy right now. We have lost over 100,000 people to COVID in the United States and anyone who says it’s “just a flu” apparently doesn’t seem to understand that the flu might kill 60,000 people over the course of a year and that’s with a vaccine available. COVID has killed nearly twice that many people in just four months. How many of the families of those victims are happy right now? Few of them.
The people rioting in Minneapolis over the murder of George Floyd and others protesting in Louisville, Kentucky over the shooting of Breonna Taylor are not happy today. They shouldn’t be. It’s a disgrace what’s happening to people of color in this country, senselessly being killed by police officers for no good reason. Don’t they deserve happness?
Hong Kong seems to be is losing their autonomy from China, twenty-seven years sooner than the agreed upon time and those citizens are standing up for what they know is right, protesting and rallying. Are they happy to be looking at a very different kind future? No.
It’s my birthday, and rather than be happy, I choose to be grateful this year. While I am sad that yesterday I was laid off from a job I‘ve been at for nine years, I’m grateful that I can still pay my bills and mortgage. While I’m disappointed that I can’t go to my favorite Mexican restaurant Rosie’s on the Lower East Side for birthday margaritas, I’m grateful that we have all the makings for pomegranate Mezcal margaritas right here in our apartment. While I’m wistful about not being able to go the New York Botanical Gardens during my favorite season, I’m grateful that my friend Kendall brought me a bouquet of flowers today and placed them at our door.
This is an odd birthday to be sure, but everything in our world is odd right now. We can’t control what’s happening, but we have 100% control on how we respond to things. So rather than be sad, disappointed or wistful, we can choose to be grateful. And maybe, just maybe after a couple of margaritas and a slice of chocolate cake with pink sour cream frosting and sprinkles, I might allow myself a tiny bit of happiness. There’s a lot going on right now and finding happiness isn’t the easiest thing to do. Happy birthday? Maybe. Grateful birthday? Abso-fucking-lutely.