Sunday, February 26, 2012

My Birthday at Work: No, Thank You.

Today is my birthday and it's my day off.  For me, that's the best combination.  Yes, I'm one of those people who don't like to celebrate their birthday at work.  A bit contrary to what my friend and fellow GE alum Allen was taught about HR folks at work before he retired over 25 years ago.  "Human Resources was in charge of Health and Happiness," he once told me, trying to keep a straight face before he chuckled.

Those who know me may be surprised:  what, me ducking an opportunity to be the center of attention? I don't share my birthday on Facebook.  My friends at church didn't know it was my birthday, either.    My 10 year-old son Noah spread the word efficiently (my own personal human social media channel), so a few of my friends did snag me with their good wishes before we all departed to enjoy the rest of Sunday; that was kind, and fine - thank you.

I wasn't always so blase' about my birthday.  Between my two sets of parents, my husband Joel and my friends, I was happy for it to be "Deb Day" (as my friend John dubbed it) the entire month of February, gifts, dinners, cakes, etc. When I was in college, I sent both of my parents thank-you cards, thanking them for not practicing birth control.

My neutrality about my birthday is not based in any fear of getting older; I come from a long-lived family of women who made it well into their 90's while neglecting their health, so I'm set there.  The biggest factor is certainly the birth of Noah almost 11 years ago.  The anniversary of giving birth to Noah is far more meaningful to me than the anniversary of my own birth.  That experience was life-changing to the core of my being, and as I said to Noah today:  he is the best present I have and ever will receive.  All other gifts, except for the gift of Noah's father in my life, pale in comparison.  Eleven years ago, when my birthday crossed the 7th month of Noah's pregnancy:  I threw myself a bowling birthday party and bowled a 220, beating all of my men friends and Joel.  Noah changed my perspective on my own birthday even before he was born.  My parents gave me Joy as my middle name, and it fits:  I'm very happy that I was born, especially to be Noah's mother.  Everything else is gravy for gratitude.

And while we're on the subject of gratitude:  aside from motherhood, as I reached a certain age, I am lucky enough and grateful to have enough things:   I want what I have.  That too, is a wonderful gift as well as a blessing.

Birthdays at work have always rung a bit askew and even hollow for me.  I appreciate the good wishes and intentions, but recognition for reaching another year of life at work seems out of sync with the raison d'etre of the workplace.  Especially on those birthdays later in my career when the tenser tasks of my job as a manager / leader came first.  No one cared on a bad day that it was my birthday.  The work still needs to get done, whether it's my birthday, or not.  That was a great lesson in acceptance, and in striving for an integrated life including, but not limited to, work.

Now, recognition for a job well-done and for being a valuable / valued member of a great team:  those are the gifts of engagement that mean the most to me at work.   

This week:  my wish for all of us is "Happy Workday, and thank you," at work.

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