This past August I celebrated my thirty-sixth birthday. Holy crap! Where does the time go? I don't want to say anything corny like: "It seems like only yesterday I was walking home from school, uphill, in the snow, both ways under Nazi fire." But it does seem as though time is passing by at the speed of light. It's as though if I go to sleep at night, I will wake up another thirty or so years older in the morning.
Even with all that sleep, I bet I'd still wake up tired.
Every birthday, anniversary or Christmas, my wife asks me the same dreaded question: "What do you want as a gift this year?" I don't dread this question because of any particular bad reason, like trying to figure out what she would allow me to have, or asking for things under a certain budget amount. In fact, I am blessed in that, my wife would probably get me just about anything I asked for (within reason of course). An all expenses paid trip to the moon or my own unicorn is probably out of the question.
I'm not kidding about this either (the unicorn is definitely out of the question). My wife is extremely supportive and giving. By supportive, I don't mean I send her to work and sit at home watching TV. She's not my free ride. Rather, she's always in my corner, cheering me on, helping me day in and day out with all of life's millions of little demands. There is no one more supportive of my writing 'career' (if you can call it that) than her. If I asked to go to a training, she'd make it happen. A book? She'd order it from Amazon within the hour. This is all the more exceptional because I am LITERALLY the biggest screwball I know. My wife supports my endeavor to be published even though she knows I can't even balance a check book or pay bills on time. Sometimes I wonder how she can still be so supportive when I have given her pretty much no reason to believe in me.
But support me she does.
I dread the question because I am one of the few people who simply cannot think of anything I need or want, that I don't already have. I'm sure this sounds cliché, but the fact is, I feel perfectly content with everything in my life for the most part. Sure I have cars that break down, but I don't lay my head on the pillow at night and wish for a newer car. I don't mean to imply that I am wealthy, believe me, Forbes hasn't called to ask how I amassed such a fortune.
For me, it's more about the fact I already have everything I want.
I have my aforementioned wife, and I'm lucky enough to be married to my best friend. She is perfect for me, and truthfully her only flaw is her terrible taste in a husband. I have three beautiful, healthy daughters who still (for the time being) enjoy spending time with me. I have a dog that thinks I'm the coolest person in the world who's just as happy chilling in my office on her doggie pillow-bed as she is running through the woods searching for deer antlers or training to track wounded game.
In terms of extended family, I couldn't be luckier. I have two half brothers, and though we are separated by distance and circumstance, I know they'd be there for me if I ever needed anything. I have a loving and supportive mother who sacrificed a great deal for me, and she is a big part of anything I accomplish in my life. I have a good relationship with my in-laws. Though I don't really have a father of my own, my father-in-law accepts me as one of his own sons, and has taught me just about everything I know about anything you might consider to be 'manly'; things like Hunting, fixing things around the house, working on cars, maintaining equipment etc. My mother-in-law is one of the finest, sweetest people I know and she spoils me like one of her own kids. I have a close relationship with my brothers and sister-in-law and their spouses and when we are together, we have a lot of fun, joking and picking on one another.
I am one of the few people I know who has a job they enjoy. Don't get me wrong, I can complain about it on the best of days, and while my company occasionally annoys me, I actually enjoy the work quite a lot. I work with good people, get along well with my co-workers, my job pays me well and I have excellent insurance.
Regarding physical possessions I consider myself to be rich (even if no one else does). It's funny because growing up I had three things I considered to indicate a person was wealthy.
1: They lived in a bi-level house. (I lived first in a mobile home, then a small ranch).
2: They had cable television.
3: They had a lazy Susan in their cabinets. (Something about that crazy spinning shelf of spices just shouted "MONEY" to me!)
Now I have all three of those things. In spite of the fact that my idea of success was based on the limited experience of a kid who didn't realize he was just above poor, my definition of success hasn't changed all that much.
I have what I need, and I need what I have. I am loved, cared for and appreciated in my small world. What more could a man ask for?
This might come as a surprise to most who know me well, because I have a bit of a reputation for being pessimistic and, shall we say... curmudgeonly. But I have a different version of happiness than most people, I guess.
I'm not one of those folks who run through life skipping and giggling, where rainbows and butterflies flutter out of my every footstep. I think people who are that happy are either, A:) ignorant of what's going on in the world, B:) deluding themselves into thinking the world is all farts and giggles, or C:) heavily medicated.
For example, recently while walking out of a grocery store my wife said to me:
"Nothing." I turn to look at her, confused. "Why do you ask?"
"'Cause of your face," she said. "It's terrible. You look like you hate everyone."
"Nope, sorry," I reply.
"Well change your face. Sheesh," she says, walking away, head shaking in disbelief.
See what I mean about supportive?
But seriously, I realize sometimes I don't exactly scream: "I'm so happy." by my expression, demeanor or body language. But the truth is, I am happy. I am not one of those people who walk around with a list of the things they don't have that they desperately want. I have a family that loves me, a good job and a roof over my head.
The truth is, most of us have way more than we need, way more than we deserve. Few of us really have anything to complain about. For me, my birthday is a yearly reminder to look at my life and realize how truly blessed I am. I have everything I want. Anything else I get is merely a bonus.
However, if someone just so happened to have a multi-book publishing deal out there, I wouldn't turn it down.
That would be some birthday present!