I have a love/hate relationship with the close of June. I love that it is filled with average days, which to me are far from average; I loathe that on one day, it is not to be that way at all for me. On the 25th of June I oscillate between wanting my birthday acknowledged and not at all acknowledged. It seems peculiar that I should at once become the center of attention that is often only an obligation and yet I do love being attended to. I hate second guessing as to if the calls and emails are little more than what is done from expectation or if they come from a place of fondness.
What really gets to me is the expectation of the matter, both my expectation that I should receive birthday wishes and that any such wish should only come from a place of expectation. The first I feel is self centered and the later is condescending. The real trouble for me is expectation is an odd thing to conceive, especially as my life has been one of incredible giftedness.
I wish I could be more into expectation. It is, after all, the mark of true relationship. I can talk about giftedness all I want and I do recognize its beauty and power, but relationships that are only gifted are not relationships in the truest sense of the word. They give us life’s most powerful moments, but they are too intense to be sustained if that is all they are. Don’t get me wrong….all relationships need this or they have no joy, but all relationships also need to have expectations if they are actually to be considered a relationship.
This is what makes my birthday odd for me. On that day I am left trying to figure out if all those moments of giftedness slide into being just one day where expectation is honored, so I spend the day taking in the plentiful well wishes and enjoying this, but also wanting to get back to average days, when I know that a fondness expressed is truly fondness, the kind that comes from people who dwell in the realm of being both my gift and my obligation.
I am fond of The Little Prince. I remember reading it in my high school French class and acting it out with alternative narration was one of my favorite assignments. I remember being in the role of the tippler and I played the role of the broken man well. Of course, there are many in the book that are broken and my classmates and I took turns playing all of them.
As I reflect on what makes Ste. Exupery’s characters broken, I think of obligation. Until meeting the Fox, nearly everyone the Little Prince encounters are creatures of obligation whether that be the obligation to travel, drink, do business, or search for knowledge. What they are not, however, are creatures of that noble obligation born in grace. Their obligations are things and not a person. Upon meeting the Fox, the Little Prince comes to realize that a true relationship is one born in gift and realized in obligation.
Tu deviens responsable pour toujours de ce que tu as apprivoisé. You become responsible for what you have tamed forever. Upon hearing this from the Fox, the Little Prince realizes he has one in his life who has tamed him and whom he has tamed. But that is not enough. The words of the Fox remind us one rightfully has a duty to certain others and we have a right to expect things from them. For me that is a personal indictment. I’ve been quite good at taming others and being tamed, of recognizing these moments of peculiar grace. The problem is I am not always so good at seeing them through; often preferring the beauty of attaining the thing to the hard work that makes it what can truly be called a relationship. Still it has worked out a few times and I have been privy to know a few foxes and even a rose or two. I suspect I will receive their well wishes on the 25th and when I hear those, I know they will be from that place of both grace and obligation. Of course the other wishes will keep me guessing and I suppose that is okay because on the following day I will have yet another year to get those figured out.
Image: On my fourth birthday when these tings were less of a quandary.