1. BE HAPPY. It's practically a law. Even the most wretched person on earth is required to take a day off from the pursuit of misery on their birthday. Not only will your family and friends feel compelled to remind you of your duty to the gods of happiness, but even perfect strangers will get into the act. On catching sight of your birthdate, clerks will stop everything and order you to be happy! Now! And if you find yourself in a restaurant, don't be surprise if a coven of otherwise normal wait people surround you, holding a tiny flame in their hands, and singing an ode to your happiness.
2. BE WISE because happiness is a capricious thing; and if you're not a little bit wise, you probably won't be all that happy either. Sure, it's YOUR day and you're supposed to enjoy it, but if you expect Happiness to behave in a certain way, it will squirm out of your arms as quickly as a recalcitrant two year old. In the end, the happiness paradox is the same on your birthday as it is on every day: If you want it, you've got to give it to someone else. Yep--even on your birthday.
3. BE GRATEFUL for the gifts you got, and even more so for the ones you didn't need to get. Be grateful for the people who remembered your birthday, and love the ones who forgot. If you're old, take time to be grateful and amazed by all the lives you contain. Celebrate the entwined mysteries of fragility and strength. And if you're young, go outside and shout down the stars. It's your world.
But above all, be grateful for your happiness, however worn and misshapen and imperfect it might be. It is yours. When it appears at the door in its artful disguise, take care never to turn it away.
I got this quote in my inbox yesterday. It seemed like the perfect birthday reminder.
“You are younger today than you will ever be again. Make use of it for the sake of tomorrow.”
– Norman Cousins