Happy on my Birthday

If i’d had the type of birthday I had this weekend even ten years ago I would be feeling miserable, unloved and hard done by right now. For my birthday I went for a walk in the countryside with my partner, I read the paper with football on in the background, had an afternoon nap, received and sent messages, had a takeaway curry, watched some telly and went to bed. No meal out (still a possibility here until lockdown this coming Thursday), no alcohol, no meeting up with friends, no special outing and it probably would have been like this even without the pandemic.

Ten years ago I would have been thinking why was my life so dull, devoid of event, empty. I certainly would have consoled myself with drink; oh yes indeed. I would have used the excuse of my birthday to drink copiously until I felt even worse than I did, fell asleep and lost the next day to a hangover.

Happy birthday to anyone with a birthday in the next 365 days!

So this weekend I had what I would have previously labelled a shit birthday. The strange thing is it wasn’t a shit birthday. It wasn’t great but I had a good day; relaxed, couple of nice presents. It was Ok. I didn’t feel aggrieved or that I was missing out on anything. I was quietly content. I was intrigued- why was I content with a situation that previously would have made me miserable?

One possibility is that I have learned to expect less. Maybe life has become uniformly flat and and my suffering was bourne out of a desire to see life delivering more than it ever could. Expect less, suffer less. In one of my favourite plays, Arthur Miller’s View from the Bridge,the lawyer Alfieri tries to understand the tragedy of Eddie’s overpowering passions. He concludes,”Most of the time we settle for half and I like it better.” The message for me? Rein in those passions and desires. You may lose something in the process but you’ll survive. I’m not sure that’s the whole story.

The other possibility which I think applies more is that the things that I felt were important previously simply are not anymore. Was I really having fun down the pub, drinking pints, seeing unpredictable situations emerge, hoping deep down inside for some flirtatious encounter? Enveloping myself in the illusory cloak of being alive . Looking back it all seems like desperate attempts at finding validation, connection, excitement and to deny the existential truth of our mortality. Sorry if that sounds heavy and morbid, it actually is the opposite. If those earlier attempts to find joy, meaning, escape all fell flat what else was there?

I suppose it’s the feeling I have now that one doesn’t have to look so much out as in. If I can look at myself, be by myself and find that Ok, I don’t need to find external elements to give me a sense of contentment. I can then focus on what is around me already. It’s about accepting that we are here for a brief time and that that window of consciousness that we have is incredible and to be cherished not lamented before it’s time is up. It’s the old cliche of being able to be in the here and now, appreciate the people we have in our lives, love others and accept their love and extend our own resources to help others. Doing the small stuff is what often gives me pleasure, so on balance, my birthday was not a washout, it was a day where I could enjoy and appreciate being alive. Maybe I’m just getting old, but here’s the odd thing. I wish in a way I would have been able to look at life a little more this way when I was younger. Chasing illusions, desperate for some peace and some answers. That sounds like regret but it’s not really as you can’t get to your final destination without passing through some dodgy stations. It’s another day today, let’s see what that brings, see what tiny but important impact I can make. Right now it’s time for tea and toast- magic!

26 thoughts on “Happy on my Birthday

  1. Lovie Price

    so much here that is on pointe and relevant..and many on here i am sure can relate. I love that line “desperate attempts at finding validation, connection, excitement and to deny the existential truth of our mortality”. I do not find it morbid but rather a very candid and well thought out wording of what so many of us have gone through as alcoholics…but also the words ring true for many who are not. I see it online everyday, more so now with the pandemic- that endless ‘seeking’ without really finding. in fact, i still go through short bouts of it, not even related to alcohol. But what i can say is that it is/was/ and always will be way worse WITH alcohol as a factor. That is a truth , probably the only truth, i have really learned in all of this. Happy Birthday Jim..and thanks for the post:)

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  2. Untipsyteacher

    Happy Birthday, Jim!
    I know I have thoughts about am I giving in to a simple way of life, or embracing it?
    Right now I could travel, do more things, if I didn’t care about Covid exposure. But I do. As I am old..er! Lol
    In any case, your birthday was like our Sat! We did same thing, except our take out was Chinese!
    xo
    Wendy
    🎂🎂🎂🎂🎂🎂🎂🎂🎂🎂🎂🎂🎂🎂🎂

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    1. Jim Simmonds Post author

      Thanks Wendy- In my efforts to keep the UK economy going during lockdown I shall be eating many a takeaway but forget the exotic ones- it’s good old fish and Chips I always go back to X

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  3. Addy

    Happy Birthday (belated). I am sure you are right. Sometimes we expect things to go a certain way and are disappointed when they don’t, whereas not to expect anything means you are happy with whatever you do get. I am in a similar boat at the moment. My 70th is at the end of November. A year ago, we were planning a big party. That then reduced to maybe a small gathering of six. Now I shall probably be on my own. I shall certainly have to reduce my sights considerably. Thanks a lot Covid!

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    1. Jim Simmonds Post author

      Yes Addy, that is when this horrible pandemic hits home , when it stops us being able to do simple things that make life so joyful and uplifting. Such a shame for you with such a milestone birthday coming up. Knowing you, however, I’m sure you’ll make it a day of positivity nevertheless 😊

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  4. clairei47

    Happy Birthday Jim. I absolutely loved this post as I think it describes beautifully how many of us feel after giving up alcohol and rediscovering who we are and being happy with what we discover. I too am grateful for being able to love and for accepting the love of others. That has become so important to me this past year. Enjoy the rest of your birthday weekend. Claire x

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    1. Jim Simmonds Post author

      Thanks Claire, this pandemic has made many of realise just how valuable much of what we had taken for granted really is. Being able to meet up with a friend never seemed a big deal, now it seems like the best present we could get . X

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  5. msnewleaf

    Happy birthday, Jim! I think being able to enjoy the simple things is one the most important secrets to living a happy and satisfied life. I was once in an accident that left me hospitalized for 4 months. There was a point during the whole ordeal when I had this moment of clarity while listening to a song I loved. I realized that, even if I had nothing else, life would be worth living just to hear music. It was an eye opening experience.

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    1. Jim Simmonds Post author

      That’s such a powerful thing to hear leafy and glad you came through that ordeal. I’m intrigued though, what was the piece of music that had such a profound effect? X

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    1. Jim Simmonds Post author

      Now that is a strange coincidence. I have listened to that song myself several times in the last few weeks. I was going through classic stones albums and hadn’t realised Gimme Shelter was on let it bleed. It is a GREAT song. Great choice! 😀

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  6. gr8ful_collette

    Happy Birthday, Jim! I think that lowering our expectations and finding pleasure in the simple things is the key to long term contentment. Add helping others to the mix and we’ve got a recipe for wellness. Xx

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  7. nomorebeer

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY JIM! You’re all gown up now 🙂 Great insight about the shift in values to explain the new found contentment with more simple (and more internal) pathways to feeling joy. it feels good to not be constantly chasing it out there, hamster-wheel style, and to find peace and beauty in what life offers us here and now. And enjoy our precious life cause it ain’t infinite. Basically YOU ARE NOW A BUDDHIST, congratulations 😉 Glad you had a good day, and that once more, old clichés prove themselves to be true 🙂 xxx Anne (high behind you, living like an 80 year old at age 30 and happy about it)

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    1. Jim Simmonds Post author

      Well funny you say that because I have often been compared to Bhudda. I used to think it was my similarity to the chubby representations of him but clearly people perceived my inner spirituality. Bloody hell Jim the Bhuddist- I like that. Time for Bhuddist ice cream? Make mine a koan 😂

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  8. jacquelyn3534

    Happy Happy Birthday, Jim! 🎂 This was a delightful post to read! I loved reading all the comments too. Your birthday sounds like such a nice relaxing day. Definitely something I used to take for granted and now feel the most at peace with. My birthday is shortly after Christmas and NYE. I used to get so bummed that everyone was all celebrated out. This year I am already just looking forward to a nice relaxing day in. Maybe a mid day family movie and hot cocoa since there’s usually snow here. I’m saying cheers to your birthday with my morning coffee and calmness as you have got me thinking of the simple pleasures I love. Thanks, Jim! 😍

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      1. jacquelyn3534

        And yet again, you have helped me. ❤️ I sometimes think I want a crazy time here and there but seems if I drink these days I only end up tired anyway, not like when I was younger. You’re right, they had their day.

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