Always buy yourself a birthday present
This is, to my mind, a small but important secret to a happy life. You should get yourself a Christmas present too–or one for any and every holiday you believe should be accompanied by a gift you really like.
This way, no matter how many boring gift certificates you get, or flowers that are already wilting, or chocolate that’s bloomed, or clothing in a size from 10 years ago or a size you have never yet worn, you can smile pleasantly and think of the really satisfactory present you’ve already gotten. From you.
This was mine this year–posted per Hannah’s request to see the frame. (You can also see that the world did not lose a great photographer when I decided to write.) I was in San Jose on business around my birthday, and after dinner I wandered into the Bruni Gallery. This print of a Billie Holliday portrait–after a famous photograph–spoke to me. For awhile anyway, despite a difficult and painful life, she raised her voice and used it to call attention to injustice (which seems a weak word for lynching), singing the haunting “Strange Fruit” to cap every Café Society performance.
I see her doing just that every time I walk in my front door–a reminder to raise my voice in service of justice, and everything else that’s truly important.