birthdays

andrea_jonatha_by_thea.jpg
Jonatha Brooke, Andrea Scher, photo by Thea Coughlin, Canon Rebel Xti

Birthdays are a funny thing. They are often a trigger for people, a marker of something… their beauty, how far they have come in their lives, how much they are loved. This could be good news or bad news depending on how you feel in your pretty little head.

I notice that each year I have my own complicated relationship with my birthday and how I celebrate it. For a long time I insisted on parties. I loved to gather lots of people, not to be the center of attention so much as to see, to make visible, how I am loved and who I love.

It has taken me nearly 37 years to realize that I don’t actually like having parties though! and often feel a bit sad afterwards, like I didn’t get to really connect with anyone in the blur of faces and chaos, and that hosting left me slightly anxious and stressed.

I am inspired by my friend H’s process with birthdays. Each year she has tried something new… One year she decided to have a huge party and design it exactly how she wanted. She planned each aspect of the bash down to her cake. She realized like I did last year that controlling each aspect of the celebration didn’t allow for others to give to her and something was lost.

The next year she decided not to plan anything, and guess what?

Nothing happened!

This made for a sad birthday…

The following year she decided to invite people she loved to spend time with her at different parts of the day. One friend came over and cooked her brunch, another came by to do a sewing project with her. Her husband’s gift (at her request) was to help her complete every unfinished project she had in the hopper (the chair she was going to refinish, the drapes she was hanging, etc) Another friend took her out to dinner. All in all, it was a great birthday.

This year, she had a sudden intuition to walk a labyrinth. I was inspired by this! and hoped for the same kind of intuitive hit for how to spend my special day this year. But nothing came.

This morning I went to Nia dance class for the first time in ages. As I moved, I realized how much joy, frustration, and energy I had to dance off and release. For the first time in a long while I felt alive and that’s when the intuition I had been waiting for found me: This year is about making alive choices.

In the spirit of that, I plan to shake my booty with some dear friends and family on Sunday at Slim’s. Jonatha Brooke will be performing! and I’m pretending it’s my birthday party but I don’t have to host it. If you are in the Bay Area, you should come on by too.

How do you celebrate your birthday?

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Hi, I’m Andrea

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39 Comments

  1. Catherine

    I loved reading about your birthday realizations. I turned 40 this year and thought I would be bummed if i didn’t have a big bash. But I too suffer from feeling sad after I have parties. I didn’t get to connect with anyone for very long and I felt scattered. I heard that people had a good time. But I decided that this was going to be my last big bash and that from now on I would have much more quiet and thoughtful birthdays. Next year I will have a little baby with me so i think that will change things a bit as well! I want to be the girl who has lots of friends over, laughs a lot, is grounded, loving, and knows who I am and feels confident. But I end up being a girl who is insecure, has expectations of a party to help me feel a certain way, and wishes for something in my head to be a reality instead of just being in the moment and accepting things as they are.
    Next year on my 41st birthday I will celebrate all the little things in small ways. And practice being present.

  2. Brenda

    My birthday always falls round Thanksgiving. So, it’s usually with family and pie. 🙂

  3. Lu

    My birthday is three days before Christmas. For the past couple of years, I have been taking it off from work. Not with any particular thing in mind except I don’t have to be in cubile hell that day. Turning 36 last year did not sit well with me for some reason. I felt like moving past 35 meant things should be more in order in my life and I felt very out of sorts. Every year since turning 30, I do treat myself to a special gift just for me. I don’t know what that will be this year. I know it when I see it most times. This year, I am giving myself a break from perfection. Giving myself permission to chill and live. No expectations and being surprised by the good things that are bound to happen. I figure that is gift enough right there.

  4. Nina

    Andrea,
    Happy Birthday. It’s my birthday tomorrow, and I have had a weird tradition the last few years. In that, I always check into a hotel on my birthday. Usually in the town I am living in. I know it makes no sense, as I could stay for free in my own bed…but I feel like it is seeing where I live and where I am in a totally different perspective. It’s funny to look out a hotel window of the town you live in and see it in a whole new angle.
    I usually read, watch bad TV, take baths, and order room service. I don’t really leave the hotel. I can lay in bed and journal and just be. I am single, so I have gone alone the past years. I think of it as a kind of mini-retreat. And with internet booking, I can usually do the whole thing easily under a $100.
    Anyway, that’s what I’ll be doing tomorrow! I also always watch the sunrise on my b’day. I want to be present all day!

  5. Jen Downer

    give it shake for me, a! enjoy your day.
    you ARE soooo very loved, admired and respected. and wonderful… did i mention how wonderful you are?
    xoxo,
    j

  6. happylittleatom

    Happy Birthday! I turned 38 last Sunday. I started the day with a hike with nephews and sister in the rain. There’s nothing like the sound of rain while you’re surrounded by trees. Sounds like the ocean and, to me, promise.
    Later I treated myself to coffee and a writing session at a cafe I love, complete with my yearly reflection: what happened last year that was amazing? And then, what amazing things do I want to happen in the year of 38? The list showed me a lot, including the last thing on my list – to be easier on myself.
    Day ended with a long dinner with the man I love, chocolate, champagne, and a great feeling of hope and promise. And then Obama got elected. I predict it’s going to be a wonderful year, full of collaboration and community and the spreading of whimsy. Why not?! We’re all so capable of amazing things.

  7. mary catherine

    happy birthday! this was the first year that i didn’t feel an excitement leading up to my birthday, because it was my first birthday as a mom. i think it was a mix of low expectations and the feeling that now my daughter’s birthday was the most important day of all. i did what your friend did, celebrating different ways with different people at different points in the weekend, and it turned out simple and lovely. not too much or too little.
    hope your day is perfect, however it happens. 🙂

  8. Connie Townley

    oo! I wish I could come, but alas I am in Idaho.
    Anyway Happy Birthday!!!! I too have realized I hate throwing parties and feel empty aftwards. Last year one of my closest friends envited a bunch of us out to a semi formal dinner at an awesome local resteraunt.It was tons of fun and no stress. I know I spent more on my b-day event then she did on her dinner (we ended up splitting the bill and picking up her end) and she didnt have to clean up! I think I am going to try this for my upcoming b-day.
    Have a wonderful time shaking your booty!

  9. Susan

    Hi Andrea:
    It’s me, Susan, who was in the first day of your Superhero Life class at Squam. I am writing to let you know that I just read your post, then got up from my computer at work and walked down the hall to get something. I walked by a co-worker who saw me, and the superhero “earth” necklace I am wearing and she said “I like your necklace.” I said “thanks!” and she said “It’s mesmerizing.” I said “it’s a superhero necklace.” She laughed because she thought I was kidding, but I’m not, it really IS a superhero necklace! I always stand taller when I wear it. Anyway, I just wanted you to know one of your beautiful creations is walking (or biking) around the streets of Boston and Cambridge and getting compliments everywhere I bring it. So, thank you for bringing beauty into the world, and Happy Birthday!! And as for what I do for myself for my birthday – this year I treated myself to the Squam Art Workshops and a new blank book. 🙂

  10. Steph

    Happy Birthday Andrea. I’m trying Nia for the first time and at the end of last night’s class, felt connected to something bigger than myself for the first time in several months. It left me feeling alive as well and seems to have triggered similar thought processes and realizations.
    Wishing you a wonderful year and a fun evening shaking your booty with Jonatha …
    Stephanie

  11. michelle

    Woo Hoo! Me lika dat! Girl, when you’ve got a booty that looks as good as yours – you gotta shake it and celebrate it!
    Happy Early Birthday my sweet dear friend! I’m thrilled to hear that your day will be for YOU!
    We’ll tawk…
    Love,
    Michelle

  12. HOlly

    Oh Andrea, if I were still in the bay area I would come celebrate your very merry unbirthday! I totally jibe with how you articulate the birthday conundrum. I like how your friend chose to have all unfinished projects completed – what a luxury. Happy Day!

  13. Mariella

    A dancer!! You’re a girl after my own heart. That’s my favorite way to celebrate – with live music and a good shaking of the booty. Happy Birthday!! Enjoy!! xoxo, ~ M.

  14. richie

    first. happy birthday
    second, I’m pondering this thought a lot lately…I’m turning 40 next year. Since I’m an invitation / letterpress person, I want to make a fab announcement. I don’t want to have a party though. I have party fear that no one will show up, and I don’t really like to host either.
    I’m pondering the thought of sending out a “I turned 40” card “see ya soon” sort of thing. I have to figure out how to do this elegantly though.

  15. Susan

    Hey Andrea~~
    Today is my birthday. I had a terrific day: my daughter’s Kindergarten class sang to me when I picked her up after school, I bought myself a gorgeous new leather journal with the money my inlaws sent, my husband brought home take out from my favorite Thai place and we spent the evening snuggled in front of the tv watching a movie with the kids.
    I’ve been feeling rather introspective lately, and though I haven’t quite figured it out, I know something big is around the corner. Today, meanwhile, was perfect.
    Enjoy your dancing on Sunday. Happy Birthday.

  16. jen

    Normally I have a day off work but for various reasons I didn’t this year and had a great day. My boss bought a cake for the team to share and they sang me happy birthday. I went out for lunch, then I went out for dinner and had ukulele practise with my group. It was a blast.

  17. beth

    I think this year I’ll repeat my birthday as I didn’t mind turning 44 at all….and I think I want to celebrate it at the majestic theatre while I sit with my hubby watching and listening to JONATHA…..OMG, I can’t wait !!! My tickets to your concert have been sitting on my desk now for a month and I’m getting soooo anxious to see her….I feel in love with her at squam and I’m the luckiest girl to get to see her again….heaven, total heaven my repeat birthday will be !!!!

  18. kimberly/tippytoes

    Happy birthday! And what a great picture of you!
    I try to do the little things that I want to do on my birthday – like gardening (my birthday is in March). With two little kids, taking a day to do only what I want to do is refreshing.

  19. monique

    This year was my 33rd. 33! What a magic number. I’m the type that loves to have party of family and close friends and entertain them, to let them have some fun. I hosted a tiki party complete with a tiki pinata for kids and karaoke for everyone. I did end up making everything but I dint minde because I wanted to make sure all my friends and loved ones had fun and didn’t focus on me 😉 It was my best party ever.

  20. stef

    looking forward to dancing and celebrating with you on Sunday!
    xoxo

  21. Kirstie

    Happy Birthday Andrea!
    What a gorgeous picture of you!!!! Your eyes are so sparkly. You have an amazing smile.
    Have a great time sounds like the perfect birthday celebration.

  22. Elizabeth Stark

    Andrea–How especially good of you to commiserate/ listen to Angie and me rant about Prop. 8 on your birthday!! I notice that in the middle of the busy life of parenting, my birthday stuff has scaled way back. I did love the feeling that I could have whatever I wanted this year: a morning shower, for example! Ah, times change. By the way, in my sleepiness, I said to Angie, “It’s Andrea’s birthday. She’s twenty-seven.” “She’s so tiny!” Angie said (meaning young). Then I corrected myself, but she would have gone for it, for what it’s worth . . .

  23. Puanani

    I have the same relationship with my birthday. As the last of eight children, as a child my birthday was often forgotten. I have tried many variations of parties and individual quests to find fulfilment. On my 40th last year, my angels guided me. As I awoke into that pregnant moment when we straddle the spiritual world and the daily world, I allowed my self to listen. I heard as clear as a bell, “Olly, olly oxen free!” I giggled. My angels are so funny. So that evening, after contemplating this ancient chant and trying to uncover it’s deepest meaning in relationship to myself, I made a decision. I invited people I love to a backyard dinner. And we played Hide and Seek all night. Happiest of days, Andrea.

  24. vivienne

    happy birthday lovely you!
    i’m a leo, so i can’t just let my birthday pass by…must be celebrated! i worry too much when hosting a party, so the last few years i’ve gone to a local cafe with live music that i love and invited a collection of people to join me there for dinner and music. its been lovely, but what i really have been craving for my bday for years now, but have yet to manifest is to go kayaking. its pretty much my favourite thing to do ever….hearing that your friend listened to her intuition and went to the labyrinth has me inviting myself to make that kayaking birthday a reality this year!
    oh and i so wish i could join the festivities tonight! but alas, not in the bay area yet. i do hope jonatha happens to play there again while i’m living there as i’m just loving her new album!
    hope its a beautiful night!

  25. mamie

    well, happy birthday to you, pretty lady and fellow scorpio. i know understand a bit better why i feel so in tune with what you share here in this space.
    every year i try something a little new and different. some year’s it is a halloween party, others just quiet dinner and wearing the new pair of shoes tim always gets me. this year was a quiet one, dinner and some pie with the babies and family. but we are having a little late celebration with friends to see mason jennings (http://www.masonjennings.com/) when he swings through l.a. wanna come to that? 🙂 wish you could, i think you would like him, if you are not already an avid listener.

  26. Spiral Bettie

    Happy Birthday, Andrea!
    I, too, struggle. My father died on my birthday when I was a child. The news fell during a sleepover party. Ever since, I can’t decide what to feel that very day.
    So each year, I write a letter to him and send it to the heavens on a balloon. I aknowledge him, and the day.
    He died when I was 10. It took me to 27 to even have a party again. This year I turn 35 and I am building a whole new life this year. Squam started a landslide!!!
    Again, Happy Birthday Bootie Shaker!
    Love,
    Jacqueline the Bitchy Rock Star

  27. Julia

    Over the years I too have lost the desire to do the big birthday bash thing.
    I am so blessed to have all that I need and I always feel uncomfortable about saying it’s a birthday party.
    I never want people to feel that they must bring something.
    So I have settled into the pattern of simply going out to dinner with my immediate family and maybe a close friend or two.
    It’s these moments around the table with loved ones, some good food, and maybe a glass of wine, that make for the most meaningful celebrations.
    As for you my dear, enjoy your birthday doing whatever feels right for you.
    You bring so much beauty and insight into the world, that you are a gift for so many of us every day of the year.
    Happy Blessed Birthday!!!
    🙂

  28. Anne

    Dear Andrea,
    Happy birthday to you! Today is my birthday too. As I am sort of a private person I used to not make a big thing out of it, just have dinner with the family and boyfriend, maybe bake something to bring to work… This year is different though, and difficult.
    I lost my mom last spring and this summer the person I loved most deeply and shared my life with the last couple of years decided he wanted to quit the relationship. I’m still in much pain and trying to figure out how to deal with these losses. Tonight I will be with my family and for the first time in my life my mother won’t be there cooking a birthday dinner. This morning I woke up alone, missing the man who used to sleep next to me. I find it difficult to connect to your experience as I feel so far now from being energetically, vibrantly alive, feel somehow out of place in my own life. However, this year I decided for the first time in ages to have a birthday party. It was a modest thing, just a couple of friends, cake, drinks and food at my new place, but I enjoyed it. And tonight we will miss my mother but I will still be happy to spend time with my father and brother.
    So as I am trying to find a place for the sadness and slowly making my way to feeling alive again, I say count your blessings and cherish those moments with your loved ones!
    Have a good, alive celebration.

  29. debra

    Happy Birthday! My birthday is November 18th and I will be spending time with friends, both at work and after.
    I wanted to let you know that I gave you an award on my blog today. I just wanted you to know how much your writing inspires me. I have come here to be uplifted during some low times and you have always caused me to think of things in a new light. I am grateful! Thank you!

  30. jen maiser

    Happy birthday, lady! I’ll be at the show tonight — just found out about it this morning.

  31. Sundries Sublime

    Happy Birthday! I have yet to find my own birthday celebration groove.

  32. Leslie

    happy birthday fellow scorpio :)…this year it was so very quiet and all i wished for was barack for pres (the next day) and choc cake for breakfast…last year was a great big yum of girlfriends for a beach house weekend…there are just so many reasons (and ways) to celebrate being alive, yes? too bad i can’t make it in tonight…you gals kick up your heels and do it right!

  33. Beth

    This year it will be spent in Romania, with my brother, and the friends I made while living there last winter. It will be my 30th birthday gift to myself!
    Bless you and enjoy your day.

  34. Anna

    Last year I started a new birthday ritual — to plan it out the way I wanted it and it went off swimmingly … there was no need to be disappointed and the friends that I included were just perfect. I also bought myself something special and all the other gifts were beautiful surprises.
    This year will be a big one -40 — my sisters have said that they would like to do a special sister weekend for my birthday — and asked for places I would like to go… so we will see how that goes, my sisters are not really good at putting someone else first… but I am hoping for the best.
    Additionally, I always celebrate Birthday Month so that I don’t have to accomplish all I want in one day… or share it with all my friends at one time.
    I hope your birthday was special… and if not perfect, make it birthday month and keep celebrating until you get it right.
    I will be celebrating all month that you are in this world with us!

  35. Angie

    Happy Birthday!
    Boy, did you just bring back some memories for ME. It was last year on YOUR BIRTHDAY that I found out I was (surprise!) pregnant with our second child. Keep in mind that our oldest was 10 months old – and now here we are, with an almost 2 year old and an almost 4 month old sleeping in the other room. I have two beautiful boys that I never imagined would move me the way they do.
    My birthday is right around the corner (12/13) and I have no idea what I want to do, but I want it to be good.
    Hope your day is wonderful.
    ~Angie

  36. LD in PDX

    How timely! My birthday is tomorrow and I haven’t decided yet. Last year I was in St.Thomas for business (the business part had ended) and I woke up, had bannana pancakes and sat by the water alllllllll day. It was splendiferous!
    This year I was planning on making dinner for friends…which normally I love to do…but this year. Not so much. So I am not sure where that leads me. I will journal. Go to dinner with my folks. But I have no plan!
    Happy Birthday November babies!!!! And Cheers to all turning 37! WOOOHOOO!!!
    Also, a quick cheers to all the Vets out there, being an 11/11 baby and army brat, I know you don’t hear THANK YOU nearly enough. CHEERS!

  37. LD in PDX

    Also,
    HAPPY BIRTHDAY MISS ANDREA! May the new year bring you fun, frolic and happy surprises sprinkled throughout!

  38. wn

    Happy Belated Birthday…I just had mine too, on the 6th. I only have one rule for birthdays….spend time with people I love. I take the opportunity on THAT day…to get out of commitments with “acquaintances” or to accept meetings for things that stress me out (or make me sad)…I still go to work…I still get stuff done…but I give myself permission live life in a softer and more gentle way…:*)
    This year after putting my baby to bed, I spent an hour with my husband in the kitchen…assisting and drinking wine, while he laboriously prepared an entire meal from scratch (pasta, tomato sauce, dessert etc…). It was nice and slow…and tender. Perfect.
    I hope you had a soft and gentle day on your birthday too.

  39. creativevoyage

    I’m on a 6 week trip 2 weeks in the US and 4 in Australia ! But I like planning a series of happy events when I have a birthday normally at least a weeks worth. A visit to the cinema, walk, lunch out etc.

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