The whole world, although counting down out loud to it for the past few days and weeks, seems to be a little distracted elsewhere. Which is quite alright, given the nature of the 12-month period we find ourselves in [which can no longer simply be blamed as 2020 as it turns out the sequel is pretty crap as well so far!]
i was reminded by a message from an old friend last night that she has missed the countdown to the week-long birthday celebrations that i used to do and so i thought a blog post might help make up for that… but also given the nature of the world, it hasn’t felt too much like a space for a lot of celebration of late.
That’s right. This year’s birthday falls firmly on the same day that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are meant to take up the leadership of the United States and if i had to have one birthday wish above all others, i guess it would be that T Rump does the unthinkable and leaves quietly and fades into the obscurity that that his legacy has laid out for him since before he even took office. There is potential – as we witnessed during the Capitol storming for things to get violent and chaotic and so many of us are praying that transition will finally be smooth and peaceful.
Another big wish and hope i have for tomorrow goes with those we know who are struggling with Covid-19 and other life-threatening diseases. While our immediate circle of people has been relatively unscathed as far as terminal Covid-19, the people we know have lost so many people. It has gotten to the point, as i’m sure it has with so many others, that notifications on the phone and logins to social media feel quite stressful as we fear the next piece of news of someone losing a family member or dear friend. Friends of mine lost both their parents within six days this past week. And they were not super old. This thing keeps getting closer and closer.
But we also know some people who are really fighting for their lives right now. Both with Covid-19 and other diseases. And if i could have any second birthday wish come true it would be that those who the people we love care deeply for, would survive and start their road to full recovery. Those we know who have survived Covid-19 but sit with lingering fatigue and aches and pains i also include in this wish and dream and prayer.
Me and People
The older you get, the less exciting birthdays are, or perhaps the less exciting presents are, cos you can generally go out and get most of the things you want [as long as those things aren’t houses, new cars or trips overseas].
But even as i was writing this piece, a message came in from my cuzz who had been messaging me last night about birthday things and she reminded me:
Regarding birthdays, never grow up too much to get excited about them, or celebrate them. The world is jaded enough!!! – Viv L.
For me, birthdays, as with life, are about people. One of the best presents every year is the people who take more than a moment on your birthday.
To be honest, i think i would prefer no message or reference to my birthday than someone who sends you a message that says ‘HB’ or even just ‘Happy Birthday’. It feels like an “I’m going toacknowledge that you’re having one, but in the very least of ways.” So i would prefer less wishes but more meaningful ones and i am always blown away by people who take the time to write a short message of appreciation or encouragement or connection.
i love being reminded of how i know people who are outside of my close friendship group. As someone who has been in many public spaces doing a lot of writing, speaking, Improv’ing, volunteering, silly video’ing, activisting, it is cool when someone you don’t know that well starts a birthday message with “I was at that camp you spoke at and…” or “You were a Shakespeare-speaking Russian mountaineer in my birthday Improv show and made me spill my drink” or whatever it is.
We all love to be seen. And being seen on your birthday by someone who looks beyond the balloons and the cake and just highlights a moment or a memory, is one of the best gifts ever.
So while it is sad that i am not going to get to spend my birthday with a whole lot of people this year due to lockdown, i am hoping there will be some key connections…
The Far Less Important Stuff
In a world with no boundaries and limitations and privilege and stuff, what would i like for my birthday?
Because, to be absolutely honest i have everything i need and most of the things that i want.
Val is busy organising me the most incredible looking jacket which was my Christmas present – but all the Joker purples and greens and it looks absolutely amazing and we just need to get it to fit well, but can’t wait for that.
And my sister Sue in America sent me the most amazing early birthday present which was a recorded message by Colin Mochrie of ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’ fame – one of the top and most fun improvisers in the world ever and one of my favourite shows growing up.
Beyond those, one of my bucket list items is jumping out of a plane, preferably with a parachute on, and with my semi-heights vibe that might be an interesting one but it is something i have always wanted to do. Now doesn’t feel like jumping-out-of-plane type context though, so maybe when Covid-19 is done done.
Losing 5-10 Kgs would be a great present although i know that can’t come from anyone else but me – started last year off great having lost a bunch on our Philippines trip but then Lockdown snacks and baking experiments quickly put paid to that. Sadly, this birthday wish contradicts so many of my other birthday wishes which involve copious amounts of sugar, often in the form of melted chocolate. But have been walking more and doing the weights and so hopefully post-birthday this will start to take shape [and not the round shape i am presently rocking!]
Books and board games would be two other things i would normally ask for or dream of. But my friend Adhil lent me a bag of games just before recent lockdown and yesterday there was a R30 a book sale at a closing down Exclusives Pop-up store and so a greater wish would be for the time and discipline to learn some of the new games and read the ten books i got…
Funko Pop toys are another love language of mine – i currently have Captain Jack Sparrow, John Mclane [Die Hard], two Doctor Who’s [Tennant, Whittaker], baby Groot, Shuri [Black Panther], Hulk and the Joker. For me the key is knowing exactly who the character is by looking at it and they have to be key to movies or series that i love.
My absolute first prize new Funko Pop would be Bono but for some reason he doesn’t seem to exist in that form. There are specially crafted ones that other artists have made but have not been able to find an original Funko Pop Bono but hopefully one day. The others i half have my eye on are Terminator Linda Hamilton [which looks pretty badass] and half-Hulk half-Banner Hulk from Avengers end game. And i think Mandalorian carrying baby Yoda would be fun! Having just looked for Matrix Keanu which i think would be cool, the figure actually looks quite a lot like Bono so maybe that would be a two-for-one. The Chandler from Friends doesn’t really look like him so less keen and other figures i would love to see that would be classics would be Indiana Jones [just googled and doesn’t look like Harrison at all], Wolverine [yes. the Logan one looks quite cool – add to list!], Black Panther [doesn’t look like Chadwick, sad sad face!] and maybe a great Jim Carrey [Ace perhaps?] or the moment they make a Richard Ayoade or Noel Fielding one for sure. Oh wow, just saw Schitt’s Creek family and those are pretty epic. Also, of course, Ron Swanson!
What i really really want
The bottom line of all of this for me is that tomorrow passes by without any fanfare, i will still feel and be incredibly well-off. In so many ways that you can view the world i am incredibly wealthy [even though it’s always easier to compare up rather than compare down and feel like we are somewhere in the middle which is just not true!]
i am surrounded by the most incredible people – in my family and in my friends and in many of my friends who count as family, one of whom shares tomorrow’s birthday with me [one of my greatest joys in life!]. What is one of the best things for me is that the overwhelming majority of them [and there are a LOT – i listened to those ‘make the circle bigger’ people with all sincerity and action] care deeply about Justice and the practical Loving of Neighbours and most of them are intent on changing the world. All of which feeds my desire to be better at both of those.
To be honest, if a birthday wish was really a thing, these are some of the things i would wish for:
# White people engaged more actively in anti-racism work. While all of us need to constantly be working at becoming better people and loving those around us well, white people have a larger responsibility. The world has been bent in our direction [by people who look like us] and the majority of that bending was quite violent and left a lot of destruction in its wake [slavery, apartheid, Jim Crow laws, whiteness as an ideology that declared being white made you more beautiful, more capable, more intelligent, less suspicious, more worthy]. It would be a great birthday present if every white person i know would work through the 50 videos i am busy creating which give suggestions as to how we might answer the ‘But what can I do?’ question with regards to race. These are not going to make you not racist or even change every aspect of you that needs changing, but they will provide a start and some practical ideas as to how you can live differently in a variety of ways. i would love to see people inviting their friends to watch with them and then engaging deeply on them and choosing to work at it.
# Everyone Loving their Neighbours a little more. While Whiteness is definitely a problem, so is class and the great divide between the haves and the have nots and i would love to see a world where everyone worked a little harder at reducing that gap. Where we were a lot less accommodating of movie and sports stars and CEOs being paid a thousand times or ten thousand times what the person who packs your groceries or drives away your rubbish or cleans your city streets is being paid. As if we benefit more from the spectacle of a goal scored or a line delivered with great passion than not having to walk through filth every day… i long to see more Community Gardens springing up, more stories being shared, more attention given to the issues that are rampant around us such as violence towards women by men, and greater creativity.
# Greater Kindness. i wrote this piece the other day about the idea of us having a different opinion to someone without feeling the need to attack or belittle or name-call them. And if i could have a wish or a prayer that would be answered on my birthday it would be that all of us [myself very much included] could lean more into Kindness when dealing with others, especially online. Remembering that there is another person on the other side of the screen can be helpful because we can often find ourselves typing things as if that were not true – as if words didn’t sting and burn and humiliate and crush. Which they do. We all know it. So why do we keep doing it? Can we become people who can speak out strongly against devastating and evil beliefs and practices and ideas without taking on the form, shape and sound of those who are promoting them? i strongly believe that the moment you lose the ability to easily tell the difference between me and the person i am arguing against, that i have already lost. Can i commit to greater Kindness and then hope that it rubs off on those around me?
# Explore Jesus. A lot of people – and rightly so – have negative perceptions about the church and christianity and maybe religion as a whole. You may [or may not] be surprised to know that SO DO I! Christians can be embarrassing and a whole lot of bad things have been done under the banner of church. But Jesus for me – whether you believe or not – is someone whose words and life i can totally get behind. My birthday wish is for more people to explore who Jesus was and the impact He had on the world and to lean into His teachings and lifestyle. i absolutely have not doubt that the world would be a better place if every single person did this. You don’t have to accept everything that the church has shown itself to be through the centuries, but give Jesus a look! He will blow you away!
Tomorrow is my birthday. According to history, i will be turning 47. But a comment from my cuzz last night who said [with a sigh, i imagine] ‘Everyone grows up I guess…’
But NO, i rebuke that thought. i refuse to grow up and become an adult because i have seen what adulting looks like and more often than not it is not pretty. Age is but a number. Life is measured by who and how we love and how we embrace every single day and seek to do and be better than we did the day before. i want to hold tightly on to the wonder i still have during the opening scenes of a new Star Wars or Marvel movie; the excitement of getting to play ‘the hand game’ [hand on hand on hand on hand and then pull bottom hand out and put it on top hand and repeat] with my nieces and my Birthday Twin’s daughters [three of the absolute loves of my life]; the giggling Val and i do no matter what the context is when someone says the word ‘do’ twice in a row [hee hee ‘do do’] or when an American says ‘duty’ [hee hee ‘doodie’]; the messing around i do with clothes and hopefully-secret private DM messages when Charlton is on a group Zoom call with me; the appreciation of innuendo [in-your-endo!] and the sending of pics of architecture to my buddy Mark and dreadlock Mike because they so obviously look like wieners; and the natural go-to of ‘That’s what she said’ or ‘Title of your sex tape’ that we inherited from the greatness of Brooklyn Nine Nine; and certainly continue to dress up i the most ridiculous of ways when we meet people at the airport…
If i ever become an adult [don’t hold your breath] i will be the kind of adult that still knows how to have fun, that is deeply curious about the world, that continues to ask the ‘Why?’ questions and is kind to strangers and looks out for those who have been pushed to the margins.
So pre-Happy Birthday to me, and if you are going to take a moment to wish me tomorrow, please reach a little deeper than the HB or even the ‘Happy Birthday’ and add in at least one memory we share, or outrageous thing we did together or even something i maybe said or did that may have had some kind of impact in your life. That will be the greatest present you can give!
Brett Fish is a lover of life, God, tbV [the beautiful Valerie] and owns the world's most famous stuffed dolphin, No_bob (who doesn't bob). He believes that we are all responsible for making the world a significantly better place for everyone.