Center of Love

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.

Nelson Mandela

Recently my oldest living sibling was approaching a milestone birthday. I genuinely wanted to host a birthday party for her to celebrate her life and shower her with love and appreciation.  When I told her I wanted to host a birthday party for her, her immediate response was “No, I don’t like being the center of attention”.  I knew she would be reluctant, but having lost three siblings, and she being the first of our siblings to reach the age of sixty, I told her I thought it was important to show our children, nieces and nephews that we, as a family, celebrate life and milestone birthdays are a perfect time to do so.  I conceded that it’s difficult to be in the spotlight and I’ve felt that way too.  But, what if we thought of the “center of attention” as the “center of love”.  To ease her discomfort I  promised to keep the party small, inviting only twenty people (just our spouses, children, nieces and nephews).  Reflecting on our conversation, I asked myself why do so many of us shy away from that intense attention of love and how can I receive love and appreciation better?

For comparison, shortly before I approached my sister about hosting her birthday party, my husband and I went to dinner with friends and celebrated my friend Maria’s birthday who reveled in being the “center of attention”.  We gave the restaurant owner a cake and quietly asked her to bring it out for dessert.  Not only did she bring out the cake, she also had the night’s performer sing “Happy Birthday” to Maria.  Our whole table and other diners joined in singing “Happy Birthday”.  When Maria saw the cake she stood up beaming and she swayed to the music as she smiled at all of her guests. I can still see her glowing in the light of the candles and radiating out joy. I remember laughing, thinking “I want to be like that!”  I want to be able to soak in all the love and be grateful for the moment, rather than feeling my body tighten up, and waiting for the beautiful moment to pass before I can take a breath. 

How can I grow into a person who can enjoy attention instead of cringing at the thought of it?  I realized I needed to reframe the idea of being the center of attention for myself and for my sister. 

My parents had six children and there are only three of us left.  Three of us never reached the age of sixty.  Growing old is not a guarantee, it is a blessing and a privilege.  Not everyone gets to watch their children grow up, graduate college, get married, and have children of their own, etc.  Therefore, I feel it is vitally important to celebrate a birthday, at least the milestone ones.  Birthday celebrations are essentially a gratitude practice.  It is an opportunity to appreciate our loved ones for the love they’ve shared, express gratitude for how they have changed our lives for the better, and thank them for the lessons we have learned from them. 

Appreciation is a celebration. A celebration doesn’t need to be hosting a birthday party, it may be something as simple as writing a short note expressing our gratitude.  With this in mind, I asked my extended family to write a love note to my sister and gave her the notes at the end of her party.  Her husband and son printed a plethora of photos of her throughout her lifetime.  We displayed the photos around the house and we all enjoyed looking at them as a family.  We reminisced, laughed, and even shed a tear for those no longer with us. 

At the end of my sister’s birthday celebration, my sister and I sat at my dining table chatting and she said although she had felt uncomfortable, she was glad she did it.  She felt so loved. I shared that I was grateful for the opportunity to say I love you in a more elaborate way.  Perhaps if I focus on the joy birthday celebrations bring to others, and remember that it is a gift to grow old surrounded by loved ones, maybe I can ease the tension in my chest and soak in the love and gratitude.  Viva la Vida!

2 thoughts on “Center of Love”

  1. “I want to be able to soak in all the love and be grateful for the moment, rather than feeling my body tighten up, and waiting for the beautiful moment to pass before I can take a breath. ” – I feel this so much! It’s tragic to lose the joy from life’s most special joyous moments to anxiety, but it definitely gets easier when you recognize that it’s ALL love!

    Congratulations to your sister on reaching this milestone! All the love to you and your family =)

  2. Happy birthday to this moment that shall not return to us again. May we continue to grow through the string of moments coming to us. Viva!

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