I have a late summer birthday. As a kid, this was fun because my mom would help me to throw a fabulous party in our back yard with pinwheels and cute games like ‘Pin the tail on the donkey’. There was nothing sweeter than a gathering of my darling friends in their best summer dresses. Childhood birthdays were full of merriment, and the entire day seemed as if it were meant just for me. But in time, my late summer birthday began to get lost. Friends were on vacation or winding up summers, and the time for celebration within the day seemed to get shorter and shorter. It took many years, but in time I learned to embrace the quiet nature of my late summer birthday, and began to expand the celebration in my mind and heart for several weeks, both before and after, as for me, birthdays became a wonderful reflection on the year’s growth, and a chance to prepare for the year ahead.
In recent years I have come to study astrology. Astrology says that we are a reflection of the heavens at the time of our birth, and that our birthday marks the start of our new solar year. The solar new year is like our own personal New Year’s Day, a time to reflect on the past year and look towards the future. I had always felt that sense of closure and renewal at my birthday, often feeling the need to put the old behind and embrace the new, but I didn’t understand why until I learned that when the earth enters my birth sign (Leo) in late July, that I will began to feel Leo energy coming in. Leo’s are known for their strength and creative flair, but also for their hearts, and it was this side of me that I was feeling so strongly at my birthday time. I wanted to be with people, with friends, and to fill my senses with both the people and the things that I love.
One thing that I love is my home. I have always had an unusual connection to the spirit of a home, and I believe in care-taking home with my own two hands, so each year, as August rolls around, I invariably find that I have vast renewed energy in this area, and I start to plow through household projects. This year I did a home swap during part of my birthday, so projects were geared towards getting my home ready for guests, like waxing my hardwood floors, putting a fresh coat of paint on a wall, and re-caulking my bathtub, basically all the things I am less able to focus on during the year.
But one year I used August to overhaul my apartment, upgrading it from a starter apartment to a home, with new furniture and a more ‘grown up’ arrangement of furniture. And another year I built out an elfa system in my clothing closet, transforming that space from barely functional to fabulous in one day. I recently answered a question from a reader who asked how to make home your own, and I shared that home is made over time. Each project we do adds on, so for me, all these little projects over the years during my birthday month have added up to making a home, further settling me into life.
Which brings me to the ones we love…
For many years, the measure of a birthday to me was who called to sing or who sent a card. Times have changed, these days birthday wishes come on Facebook, or via text. For many years, I missed that more personal touch, but this year I shed all expectations of who might reach out and got quite a surprise. I just returned from a two week vacation to Canada where I spent time with dear friends. I came home to a mailbox filled with birthday cards that I did not expect, and I had no cell service while away, so the moment I landed back in the states I found 10 calls on my voicemail. It was already ten days after my birthday, and I found myself overwhelmed, grateful and humbled by the love and generosity. By allowing myself a chance to slow down and embrace the energy of my birth time for more than just one day, for more than just one moment, I was greeted with wonderful surprises.
Which brings me to how I cleanse my soul.
On my flight back from Canada I was greeted to one of the most spectacular sights I’ve seen in ages – life up above the clouds. I was transported, I could see an entire other world up there, faces and pictures, symbols and imagery of my life popping and dancing off the clouds, and the stress of my day to day just disappeared. As I came back down into Manhattan, the city looked so innocent, and I felt re-birthed, grateful for another birthday and a continued chance to learn.
This birthday was humbling for me, as I felt my age in a new way (42!), but it was also invigorating, as it renewed my passion for helping people to live happier lives at home, and brought me closer to my personal goal, to craft a home environment that can support a family. Up there in the clouds I renewed my commitment to my work, to my personal journey, and felt an expanded sense of compassion both for myself and for the world at large. I have a daily meditation practice that brings me into my body, but it took me a trip a few thousand miles up into the sky to truly feel grounded.
Cleaning house is both mental and physical. It’s about reviewing and clearing up our goals and dreams, as well as the temple the houses us – our homes. It’s about shedding old skin so we can take on new. It’s about slowing down, and enjoying the beauty of life, in both the people that we love, and the homes that shelter us. For me, my birthday month is a great time to do this, and so when your next birthday rolls around, I encourage you to slow down and think about how you can clean house for yourself – both in your heart and in your home – and find new joy in the treasures that your personal ‘new year’ brings.
Wishing you a happy birthday, whenever it may be!
Do you clean house on your birthday? If so, share with me below!
Photo Credits: Sheila Richmond, Maeve Richmond