New year’s resolution: Remember birthdays

Fortunately for us egomaniacs, birthdays are a scheduled alarm call to be grateful for the wonderful people around us

Happy Birthday cake with candle Laura Eades

Happy Birthday – can I just say it now? No that doesn’t count does it. You have to actually remember it. Hm. Laura Eades 2014

Giving, apparently, is a key feature of happy people. Is it a cause or effect of happiness? Well research suggests it’s a cause – for example, studies show that spending your money on other people seems to make us happier than spending it on ourselves.

I’m very interested in my own happiness

This paradox (think of others if you want to feel good in yourself) speaks pretty loudly to me. In case you hadn’t noticed, I think about myself a lot. Yes, you could say, in most senses, I’m pretty self-interested.

Giving? It’s just an extra thing. How am I supposed to fit it in?

Since I’m also seeking ways forward around vocation and life purpose, and all the advice points towards doing things that other people find helpful, this giving thing is pretty hard to ignore. It’s not extra, it’s central; essential.

If you find this a bit morally unnecessary, or nauseatingly noble, you can also look at it in terms that are commercial as well: you can’t sell something that nobody needs, so you’re compelled to ask yourself what you’ve got that can be useful to others.

You mean…

Generosity, giving your gifts, using your talents, being helpful, responding to need, being rewarded for giving with money or by having created good karma or a warm heart, identifying a demand or a market – these could all be different words for similar things?

So my egotism leaves me poor as well as lonely?

Learning to give, to be helpful, and to find constructive uses for my talents, feels like a major evolutionary necessity. Giving feels like a major life lesson.

Where do I begin? With random acts of kindness? Volunteering? What, then?

Why don’t I start by trying to remember the birthdays of my loved ones.

That’s easy. Everybody does that!

I don’t. Not very well. It’s belated, haphazard, guilt-inducing, disorganised and cumbersome. So often my selfish life is just too busy, too self-important, too demanding to manage it.

OK. Here’s my challenge:

Remember 20 birthdays in 2015.

How’m I gonna do that then?

I’ve asked around. People say they use a birthday calendar. Others say they write them in a diary and copy them all in at the start of the year.

I think I’d better break it down for myself, like when I’m teaching my child to put on her socks. First you sit down, then you get the sock…

My plan: to pre-address, stamp and allocate a homemade card for everyone at the start of the year, with the date due on the outside, and that same date reminder put on the calendar, and in my diary.

  • I need to make a batch of cards.
  • I need to buy a batch of stamps.
  • I need to get people’s addresses if I don’t know them.
  • I need to check certain people’s dates.
  • I need a place to keep the cards where I can see them.

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