I celebrated a birthday this week. And, for the record, it was a very happy one. They always are for me. I love celebrating being here and being me. But this year, as my favorite people sat around my birthday cake singing fantastically out of tune, life itself gave me an unexpected gift. It gave me a bona fide, happy birthday Aha moment.

I looked around. Saw candles lit up. Saw faces lit up. And in the background, saw all kinds of Christmas decorations  lit up as well. And suddenly the message from life became pretty hard to miss: “See the light.”

Specifically, I believe it was talking about the light within.

Because, in my opinion, that’s what was really born those not so many years ago. Not just the red-headed girl, but the spark inside that lights her up. Truth be told, this face I see in the mirror – the one that loves to smile, and these legs that love to dance and these arms that happily hug … they’re all expressions of the light that shines within me. They are ways for the light to get out there, show itself, pass itself on. (And hopefully, on and on and on.)

So, if that is the case, then it begs the question: Why in the world are we all focusing on the number of candles on the cake when the real message is found in the glow they’re giving off? Perhaps birthdays aren’t a reminder we are getting older but rather, are a reminder that we (just like our cakes) are destined to get brighter.

It’s a lesson, right? It has to be … the more you shine your light, the brighter and more brilliant life becomes. It makes me think of a really happy memory involving the daughter of a dear friend.

When my friend’s little girl was learning to say my name, instead of Merry Carole, she used to call me Merry Candle. (Ummm …Awesome!) We loved it so much we convinced her for years that it was actually my name. Looking back on that from today’s perspective, maybe we didn’t just love it because it was cute. Maybe it struck a chord deep down inside. Maybe just maybe, subconsciously, it felt really good to have another human being call me a light. In a world that often considers it boastful and self aggrandizing to embrace and celebrate the light within, that little lady gave me permission to shine.

Shining is what we were born to do. I honestly, truly, cross-my-heart-and-kiss-my-elbow believe that. We are all stars. Every one of us. We have something to give and a way to shine that is uniquely ours. We don’t have to light up the entire world, to shine. That’s a ridiculous amount of pressure to put on our light. A little shining can go a long, long way.  Take, for example, my dentist.  He has this incredibly gentle manner. And, knowing how I am illogically fearful of my visits, every time I sit in his chair, he has a set of headphones waiting for me, with classical music to help soothe my anxiety. That, in my opinion, is a way to shine.

Every time I drive through the bank, this one particular teller gives my doggie a treat. That’s a way to shine. My dad used to give little frozen Milky Ways to all the neighborhood “kiddies” as he would call them. They would ring our doorbell constantly, and each and every one of them was that much more happy when they walked away with the treat. That was a way to shine. An amazing way to shine.

We don’t have to have our names up in lights to be stars. We can shine brightly on the stages of our lives every single day. The simple, manageable ways we come up with to illuminate our gifts and brighten the lives of those people we come in contact with are all ways to shine.

All this talk about shining our lights brings to mind one of my all-time favorite pieces of writing. One that I’m sure many of you are familiar with, but in my opinion, can’t be read enough: (Thank you, Miss Marianne Williamson.)

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Seems to me that a human afraid or unwilling to shine is like a dolphin being afraid to swim or an eagle refusing to fly. It’s an unnatural state, one that leads to missing out on exactly that for which we are born… the very thing that defines us and gives us our ability to move around our world with joy and freedom.

And yes, just to bring this post full circle, I got all that from a birthday candle.


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