The Birthday Question That Surprised Me

The Birthday Question That Surprised Me

This week’s inspiration comes from a question I was asked during a dinner for that special celebration, the one that visits us only once a year: our birthdays!

I wasn’t expecting it. The conversation had been light, even transactional, with mutual status updates on work, family, friends, the latest travel completed, and details on upcoming travel plans.

Then my son’s fiancée took a sip of water, cleared her throat, and delivered a question I’d never been asked before.

“What words of wisdom can you share about what you learned from the past year?”


“Words of wisdom?” I think I stammered back.

Meredith’s soft blue eyes were earnest, wide with interest. I glanced at my son, Peter, and shook my head, smiling back at both of them.

“That’s a great question, Mer,” I began, buying more time to consider my answer.

Pete nodded in agreement. I think they chatted more about the origins of the question, where she first heard it, who asked it, and maybe even what was said, but my mind was still processing.

“Well, I know I’ve learned a lot in the last 12 months, that’s for sure, but have I become any wiser?” I muttered more to myself than to my dinner mates.

As my mind ticked through the months and experiences, I was reminded of the research I’d done on our ability to remember (and forget), especially when we cross through a doorway threshold into another room. I’d been comforted to learn that forgetting why I came into a room was NOT an aging issue, but rather my brain’s compartmentalizing attribute, the scientifically confirmed “doorway effect.”

To counter it, I’d become more mindful of doorways, focusing hard on remembering my mission as I passed through each one.

And now, I was perched on the edge of another threshold, my birthday.

What was worth remembering?

Perhaps that’s the distilling thought. Since we have to work so hard at remembering, why not choose carefully those things that we want to remember?

It’s not what happens to us; it’s how we receive what happens to us, right?

Can we learn from it? Grow from it? Perhaps even discover that part of us that helped us get through it so as to keep us strong and ready for what the next year brings?

Indeed, that would be worth remembering.

I felt like I was “tidying up” my mind, as Marie Kondo suggests, sorting through all the piles of experiences and selecting only those that could “spark joy” in a lasting way.


Nevertheless, as I considered last year’s peaks and valleys, the lesson became clear. With the right support of friends, family, and a long enough healthy stretch with my body, it was okay for me to strive beyond what I thought I could do.

I never imagined that public speaking, of all things, could loosen the limitations that paralysis has imposed on my life, connect me in a meaningful way to so many, and keep me focused and moving forward.

The wisdom?

Perhaps I should consider writing my perceived limitations in pencil, at least for the upcoming year.

Granted, managing that is a delicate balance. What’s challenging can easily become overwhelming. But last year, all the effort was worth it.

How about you? What lessons are worth the hard work of remembering? What wisdom have you gained? Tell me about it. I’d love to know.

My best – always,

Becky  (Nana B)

P.S. Thanks for all the birthday wishes and celebrations! Loved every one!

P.P.S. Still prepping for my workshop on Rethinking Possible: Living a Resilient Life on March 12 for Maryland’s Behavioral Heath Administration’s annual conference. Keep the thoughts and prayers coming! More info on it is HERE.

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