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A Birthday Distillation—Three Questions to Analyze Your Life’s Essence

Not all days bring us puppies and rainbows, not even all birthdays. Mine was Saturday, and in Saint Louis it was “burning” (as my daughter would say).

If you don’t know me well, here’s some inside information—I don’t do well in the heat.

I’ve been that way since I was a kid. I remember our big family trip to Disney World the summer after 2nd grade. We had just parked the car on Day 1, and my first words as I stepped toward the holy grail of Disney?

“It’s soooo hot!”

Nothing about excitement or Mickey or It’s a Small World. Instead, a complaint about the heat.

So back to Saturday, my “burning” hot birthday. I volunteered to walk with my 8-year-old in the community parade, so she could earn a Girl Scout badge.

Lots of sun, lots of stickiness. And a lot different than what I’d planned for my special day.

See, I’d been holding onto this promised massage at Four Seasons since Mother’s Day and was finally going to cash it in. But then we found out about the parade…

Since that day, my reflections about my birthday have led me to an unusual place—my mom’s shoes.

I’ve been thinking of all the birthdays she probably didn’t get to celebrate the way she had planned, with four kids needing her. But I’ve also realized that we’d have never known if she’d wanted it any other way. She’s just that great of a mom.

So, back to my own shoes…

After distilling my birthday, what’s the essence that I’m left with?

Moments filled with family. My son cupping my face in his hands, leaning in for a kiss on the cheek. My hubby holding my daughter, both smiling and singing “Happy Birthday.” My daughter troubleshooting my lopsided gratitude tree.

And there’s something else about my little girl. Seeing her looking so mature, running up to hug her friend and chatting away about things I wasn’t close enough to eavesdrop on. I can remember being in that life stage and now here I am experiencing it again through a mom’s eyes.

Just like my mom did thirty years ago.  

Had I gone to the spa as planned, would the distillation have preserved those moments, right alongside the family ones? Or, though lovely and restorative, would that outing have missed the cut, being less than the day’s pure meaning?

The second one, for sure.

It’s these milestone days that often prompt us to extract the filler stuff from the essence of our lives. When we’ve completed this process, holding the pure version in our minds, we just need to ask three questions. With whomever or whatever that essence is:

·         Are we being present?

·         Are we being grateful?

·         Are we honoring our purpose?

When we can be at peace with our answers, we don’t need the day to bring us rainbows. We just make our own.

How’d your distillation turn out? Leave a comment below!


  1. Laurie says:

    Thank you! What a delightful read and helpful reflection in preparing for my own birthday next week!!! with happy belated birthday wishes to you.

    • weboldsouls says:

      So glad you enjoyed it, Laurie, and thanks for the comment and birthday wishes! Hope your special day is joyful and reflective, too!

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