My “birthday bash”: On gratitude and my wish to be a simpler woman

Today, I’ve learned contentment doesn’t need anything but a heart filled with gratitude. Sounds cliche, isn’t it? I’ve thought about gratitude today simply because it’s my birthday.

Well… happy birthday to me.

A birthday on a Monday can’t be even more anti-climatic than an all-around intense movie with a cliffhanger end (I don’t enjoy figuring out a vague story without closures, thank you very much).

I woke up dreaded to start the day because an ideal birthday to me is a laid back filled with warm quality time with loved ones. I don’t usually talk about birthdays—particularly my birthday—simply because I just don’t enjoy the spotlight from people whom I don’t hold a special bond with. With that, I have a pretty high expectations from my family and if they don’t remember my birthday, I would be crushed into pieces.

To my dismay, that was what happened today. (please read on, I promise this will end with a good, warm note—I promise)

As I said, I don’t usually talk about my birthday but this one is different because I have a little simple story to tell.

The only reason why I decided to write about this today/tonight is because of the the spontaneous events that had happened to me today that just seem rather magnified that it usually would on normal days. AND, to take on a journey to feel enough, I thought why not start with a day to have all the credit that you can have—your birthday.

These events or occurrences—whatever you may call it—somehow made my birthday complete. Unlike an extravagant birthday bash or an opulent dinner, my birthday was pretty normal. So normal that on the surface, I’d seem like a sad birthday girl.

But as we all know, Allah is The Best. He knows me so well that all the things that have happened today are exactly what I needed.

Ladies and gentlemen… Boys and girls… my gift for today was the sense of gratitude. Yeap, that’s it. Nothing much.

I didn’t start the day with a good vibe because I was rushing. But Alhamdulillah for the iced coffee my sister had bought for me the night before.

My birthday morning was followed by a few birthday greets from different people and a humble teh tarik (pulled tea, literally) gift from my bubbly colleague. On the surface, my colleague and I would appear to have different personalities—so different like the east and west or north and south—but that kind of dynamic is what has made our conversations balanced and alive. Somehow, our conversation escalated into a life contemplation which—if you know me so well—I am obsessed about. That felt me feel so good and a lot fuller than before. This was a perfect start to my “birthday bash”.

Along that time, my family has confessed with remorse that they’ve forgotten about my birthday. I chuckled because I think they were too hard on themselves. And to make matters “worse”, I intentionally made them feel guilty about it just to mess with them. But really, I didn’t mind. As we are all living our adult lives, I completely understand that our brains are trickier as they get older as I too suffer from seasoned forgetfulness. I really need to start fueling up with some brain food *sigh*.

Then came intimate and heartwarming messages from my dearest friends whom I know have their own busy matters to deal with. So for that, I thank you, technology for making our lives a lot easier. With love emoticons and feminine-good-vibes, the noon came a lot faster than I expected.

When I prayed, Allah gave me the ultimate focus—a focus that I haven’t had in a long time—and a blessed few minutes of heartfelt conversation with Him.

My lunch was my mother’s cook which has always been so perfect and to my surprise, a simple meal like that was tastier than it normally would have.

I took a step back from being too occupied today at work simply because we had a successful productive preceding week. And come on… it’s my birthday.

Time was ticking fast that it was already time for Asr prayer. I’ve realised that we’ve had the same reaction almost every day when Asr would come about. Wal ‘Asr, right?

“Woah, it’s asr already?”

We parted ways as we made time to again face our Lord for the third time during the day. After about a few minutes off, we returned to our desks as we talked about different things that eventually reached into a conversation about the hereafter and death.

My friend told  us a detailed story about his interest about history books and his stories about the hereafter that he had researched before. And man, all them chills on my shoulders and through the bones.

As birthday is a celebration of life, it was pretty ironic that we so happened to talk about hereafter and death today. I genuinely enjoyed it though and I treated as a way for Allah to remind me about death (not in a demotivating way, but in a spiritually-uplifting way) through a friend.

After work, my eldest sister who obviously felt bad that she had forgotten about my birthday first thing in the morning treated me with a nice evening meal. Then I had an unexpected encounter with my long-lost love: bagel with smoked salmon and scrambled egg served with crispy salad and cherry tomatoes—which I’ve been wanting to eat for a long time (trust me, I am usually a proud Asian who loves her sambal mangga but breakfast is different thing) As a breakfast meal lover, I just couldn’t feel more fulfilled than I was.

Little did I know, my mother had fell ill today.

“I haven’t seen her that way in a long time…” My sister explained to me that mama was feeling dizzy the whole day and vomited unexpectedly.

And I was a bit anxious thinking about it just because she’s hardly fell sick. Our conversation continued as I teased again that I was a bit sad that my own family “would dare to disown me by forgetting my birthday”—jokingly of course. As we always exaggerate things. As we always do.

We parted ways and I arrived home feeling unexpectedly satisfied and humbled by how normal my “birthday bash” was. By the gratitude that Allah has filled my heart with today. By the amount of distant love and care from those whom I’d love to meet but as responsibilities are in the way, we just realistically couldn’t. By the reminders that Allah directed to me indirectly. I mean, had I not been grateful, I don’t think I would ever see today as a special one.

Mavis (our loving black cat) greeted me with a loud purr and I hugged her as she rubbed her head against mine.

Then my sick mama came to me feeling bad as she had thought about buying me a birthday cake but because she felt sick, she couldn’t. I insisted that I didn’t mind at all and walked away to avoid myself from tearing up as I was so touched. Too touched. My dad greeted me quite late that I thought my sister must be the one to remind him. But no, he remembered it himself and that all that mattered to me.

Then came the million dollar question as any birthday person would get “What do you want today?”

I’ve been thinking all day what I really want and honestly, I don’t know. I wish I am a simpler woman—a woman with simple thoughts who knows exactly what she wants.

I wish I am just a little less idealistic sometimes. I wish I know what I want but my thought drifted away to my eagerness to write tonight.

So, here I am writing all of these sequence of events of why I am grateful and why this is the only “birthday bash” that I needed. To think about my birthday last year, I remember feeling this way too—not exactly but similar. I remember I spent 9 to 5 in uni. But I also remember that—despite swamped in assignments and surrounded by deadlines—I felt free.

Barakah.

Blessed.

Gratitude.

All the warm, good feelings that I needed to feel today.

I guess—as cliche and corny as this would sound—I have what I need and what I want.

God showered me with things that He knows that I genuinely enjoy. And for that, I couldn’t ask for a better birthday bash.

 

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