On Birthdays and Belly Buttons

I grow pensive every time I have a birthday. The date serves as a marker for me, not just for the passage of time, but as a moment for me to look back and remember the previous year. I take stock, weigh good decisions and bad ones and try to make sense of where I find myself at the present as I lick icing from my fingers.

Commonly, this degree of introspection is referred to as “navel gazing.” That term is always used in a negative light, but I must say, on one’s birthday, maybe navel gazing is a good practice. Literal navel gazing.

I just took a peek at mine.

“Why would you do that?”

On this very day, years ago, I took my first gasping breath as I squirmed and cried while being held aloft in the hands of a doctor. Moments later the physical tether between mother and son was severed, and I still bear the scar, and I will for as long as I live. It means I was born, that I am human, and that being human, my body will one day die.

It’s all there: family, birth, life, and death. It’s all wrapped up in that little scar. And year after year each of us celebrates the scar, and we celebrate everyone else’s as well. “Happy Birthday!” we sing and shout, but what we’re really saying is, “We’re glad you’re here with us now. We’re thankful that we share life together. We’re happy you were born. We’re glad you have a navel.”

And so I contemplate life. Looking back over the last year, were there mistakes? Oh, yes. Victories? Certainly. Moments I would love to live again? Definitely. Moments I never want to repeat? Yes.

Moments come…linger…and then pass. They move on, and I’ve decided to take a lesson from those moments and move on too. But that’s all part of life, and I pray to be wiser in the next trip around the sun. I will glance down again and celebrate (God willing) another year of life full of laughs and tears, fears and prayers, new relationships and old friends.

I think of all of this as a dear friend awaits his own son to make his grand appearance into this big, blue world of ours. When that miraculous moment comes, that little man-cub will receive his first scar, and it will be his longest lasting one as well.

And we will celebrate.

So take a moment, glance down, and be thankful for your navel. It’s a little reminder that, no matter how the last year has gone, we’re in this together.

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