Birthday Dash!

So I had a birthday recently. Yup, it happened again. Same time as last year. I always find it interesting how some people say things like “I’m not having any more birthdays” or “I’m X years and holding.” I LOVE having birthdays. I mean think about it for a minute. If you’re not having birthdays, what is the alternative????

So for a while, I was a little bummed though because my best guy couldn’t get the day off from work and so I was really upset at the idea of spending my birthday home alone. I mean he really tried and I really appreciated him for that but there was only so much he could do. And we celebrated the following day (more on that later.) But in my family, birthdays have always been kind of a big deal so I was feeling sorry for myself because I didn’t know what I was going to do on THE BIG DAY. I looked into going down to San Antonio and going to Sea World but that was pretty expensive, there was going to be about a zillion kids there, and all the really cool stuff cost extra. So I nixed that. But then it hit me. I decided to go to Hamilton Pool.

Now, for those of you who don’t know, Hamilton Pool used to be one of those hidden gems Austin is so famous for but then it got written up in some travel magazine and ever since then, they have actually had to restrict the number of people who can enter the park at a given time in order to preserve the park and keep things safe. The pool itself is like a giant crater with a beautiful waterfall coming down one side and there is a hiking trail that will take you to the Pedernales River. But, here’s the trick. Gates open at 9:00 AM and you have to be there right at 9:00 to get in…but you can’t get there early and form a line because there’s no place to FORM a line as the road in is very short and cars would end up blocking the road. So it is a bit of a conundrum. But, I’d set my sights on going and that was that. I ended up getting to the park at about 9:40.

The ranger came up and told the line of cars in the driveway that the wait was about 2 hours long. Several folks bailed but I had decided that I was going to Hamilton Pool and so I decided to wait. Besides, I had my book, my journal, my Zentangles (see for my designs) and it was a beautiful day so I just shut off my car and proceeded to begin to wait. Suddenly, the song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams starts blaring from the car 2 cars back and I just couldn’t help myself. I got out of my car and started dancing! I danced back to the other car, trying to get other folks to get out of their cars and dance too but to no avail. As it turns out, the kids in the car were from Dallas and had gotten up at 4:00 AM to come and spend the day in Austin and this was their first stop. So I danced outside their car while the song played and they car danced. Meanwhile, the people in the car between us were all 🙁 frowny faced. I mean if they could have scowled harder, their cheeks would have met their shoulders.

Lesson folks! HAPPINESS IS A HABIT! You can create your own happiness…or your own misery. We all had to wait in that line whether we liked it or not so why NOT be HAPPY and get out and dance? About every 20 minutes or so, we’d all turn our cars on, move 12 feet and turn them back off. After “Happy” was over, I blasted “Mizzunderstood” by Pink and we jammed to that for a while. Then I settled down to read and the time flew by. I really think the wait was only an hour. After parking my car, I started walking toward the pool and about 1/4 of the way there, realized I forgot my chair so I left my stuff on the trail and went back to my car to get it. And ran into the kids from the Happy car! They offered to help me carry some of my stuff, which I gratefully accepted. We started talking and set up “camp” together. They went to take pictures while I watched the stuff – and then a spot in the shade opened up so I snagged it. May not sound like a big deal but it was about 101 that day and electronics will fry if left in the sun so being in the shade was a good thing! Then it was my turn to go take pictures. We hung out and talked and I convinced them that they did indeed have enough time to stay and see the bats fly and still get back to Dallas by midnight. I also had to (sadly) inform them that the food trailer park was gone but gave them some other ideas about where to eat. It was a blast. A newly minted 46 year old hanging with three 18 year olds. But I think they had as much fun as I did. Eventually they had to leave but I stayed until the park closed at 5:00.

I walked the trail toward the Pedernales River and took some close up shots of things – algae, moss, and things that had gathered in the little holes that had been formed in the rocks over time. So you see, I made happiness happen. I didn’t wait for it to come to me. I didn’t say I’ll be happy when ____. I didn’t hope to be happy. I didn’t pray to be happy. I made a decision to be happy. And then I spread that happiness to others. Happiness is a habit you can develop too. I made a conscious effort to be happy. I didn’t dwell on the fact that I wasn’t with my best guy – I knew we had all of the next day together. I didn’t sit home and mope – I made a plan. I didn’t get all bent out of shape because I had to wait in line, I did things while waiting that made me happy.

It’s not rocket science. People overcomplicate happiness. Watch a kitten, a puppy or a child. Watch how they create happiness. We adults forget how to do that. We seem to think that happiness has to have some kind of big price tag attached to it or it’s not good enough. Or it has to happen exactly the way we pictured it in our minds or it’s not good enough. I saw those frowny people on my way back up to my car to get my chair – they made it into the park and they were still frowning only this time it was because they had to walk ALL THE WAY TO THE POOL! <Picture me putting the back of my hand to my forehead and sighing “Oh my, life is so hard! Poor, poor me”> WAKE UP PEOPLE! I’ve said it before but it bears (bares? I never know which one is right) repeating. This is not a dress rehearsal! This is your life. You only get one of them. (Ok, for those that believe in reincarnation, you get more but you only remember this one) so for goodness sake, make the most of it. Quit bitching about what doesn’t matter and start paying attention to what does!

There’s a Gerber commercial running right now that I love. It opens with mom saying “Haley decided not to wear pants today” and shows a toddler running around in a diaper and a shirt and at one point, her pants are actually on her head. Then mom says something about how she ate the Gerber food. Mission accomplished. That mom has it spot on. If your 5 year old wants a purple Mohawk, let him have it. It’s just hair! It will grow back! What you are doing is allowing him to express him (or her) self and picking your battles. Don’t fight over hair, fight about having your child stop when you say stop because it could save her life if she’s running toward the road.

So on the day after my birthday, my best guy came to my house right on time – I was running just a wee late getting our picnic lunch all put together: tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, grapes, pineapple, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, watermelon, grapes, brie, gouda, cheddar, and 3 kinds of crackers and a rotisserie chicken. And plenty of drinks. We were headed for “the hottest coolest time in Texas”SCHLITTERBAHN”!!! And he gave me the most incredible birthday gift. You see, a few months back, we’d gone to an art gallery in Wimberly and I was mesmerized by these glass globes made by an artist named Rollin Karg. But…they were pretty pricey. I have a bad habit though of buying things that I really can’t afford when I fall in love with them like that. But that day, I managed to exercise restraint and NOT buy one. As walked out of the gallery, I told my best guy to go ahead and pat me on the back bc I didn’t buy one. Well when he handed me my present, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what could be so heavy in such a smallish box. Yup, you’re right – he had gone back one day and gotten me one. It is simply magnificent and now sits atop my entertainment center where there’s no clutter to hide its beauty. The thoughtfulness that went into that gift was something I truly cherish.

When we got to Schlitterbahn, he went up to get the tickets while I got stuff out of the car – and got us both senior tickets (woot woot!)! We got our lockers and hit the water and played all day long. And yes A – you are right – on the Black Knight ride, the right tunnel is definitely better than the left one! We left about 30 minutes before the park closed, soggy, tired, but smiling. And then, we got lost! Somehow, we missed IH-35. (How many PhD candidates does it take to find Canada from North Carolina? Apparently more than 3.) In theory, we SHOULD have been able to go due west and hit the highway but somehow we missed it. But after a rather scenic tour of the hill country, we found it and made our way home. Happy.

And happiness? It isn’t going to happen when______ (you lose 20 lbs, get that raise, buy a bigger house, etc.) It will only happen when you decide to be happy. Happiness is an inside job. One last thing before I close. Stop comparing yourself to everyone else. Says Brene Brown in The Gifts of Imperfection “Comparison is the thief of happiness (Hazelden, 2005, p.95). There will ALWAYS be someone who has more, better, prettier, than you. BUT, there will never be another you. So the next time YOUR birthday rolls around, what are you going to say? Are you going to say nothing and act like it’s no big deal? Are you going to say “I’m not having any more birthdays”? Or…are you going to dash?


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