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A Strange Thing Happens Every Year

Who are you? Who am I?

Chocolate birthday cake with filling and cherries, with four burning candles.
A birthday cake at Evergreen

A strange thing happens every year.

People sing ‘Happy Birthday' to me, and I attempt to blow out all the candles on the cake with a single breath. As each year goes by and another candle is added, it becomes an increasingly difficult task.

The strange thing is that I don’t feel older inside. What is looking out through my eyes at smiling family members gathered for the occasion hasn’t changed over the years. The same ‘I’, the same ‘I am’, observes these annual proceedings.

Outwardly I am visibly aging. I’m shrinking, my nose is getting longer, my toenails are thickening, and wrinkles are eagerly weaving intricate lacework patterns across my face while I sleep. But when I stop for a few moments every year and listen to others sing ‘Happy Birthday' to me, that experience pulls me into an awareness of the endless presence that has always resided with me, ever since I can remember. Inside, within, I am ageless, timeless.

Why do I sense this?

Because it is so.

The inner presence that I am aware of, prompted by the birthday song, isn’t an ageless, timeless version of me – Marlane. It’s an ageless, timeless being that doesn’t have a name, although it can be expressed as ‘I am’. The little ‘I’ – Marlane – is remembering that I am the ‘I am.’ I am re-membering myself – consciously putting myself together again with the source (although I was never separate from it – I just forgot about it as I got lost in the world of Marlane).

The ’I am’ isn’t something I have to be given.

It isn’t something I must acquire.

I already have it. I already am that. I am already ‘I am’.

The ‘I am’ is something I can never lose.

It’s something that can’t be taken away from me.

It is what I am.

Rupert Spira, the English spiritual teacher, says it this way in his book, Being Myself:

The being that shines in each of our minds as ‘I’ or ‘I am’ is not a personal being or self. It is the single, infinite, indivisible, personal being, refracted into numerous apparent selves without ever being fragmented. We all share the same being.

For nearly a decade I coordinated services for people with dementia, so sometimes the birthday song was sung to me at work. I’d be called from the office at morning teatime to stand in front of a birthday cake and hear their old voices happily sing the birthday song. When I looked into their eyes, the sense that we all were ‘I am’ was intense, almost palpable. There was no division.

Losing that sense of individuality is an annual gift given to me on the day that celebrates my birth, the day I began life as Marlane. And every year since then has provided an opportunity for me to drop the façade of myself and express the shared being of all that is.

Wishing you the same experience, the next time the birthday song is sung for you.

With love, Marlane

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