My birthday took place during a camping trip this week. Getting away with a couple of friends and their dogs (even if one did eat my hat) and staying in a cabin near the lake was everything I hoped it would be.

I’ve never really been into big whoop-dee-do birthday parties, and knowing the friends I was with as the types who’d scheme to do something elaborate, I warned them to not make a fuss.

This year, I just wanted to be. Maybe it’s the COVID factor (leery to celebrate too much, too soon) maybe it’s my upbringing. I suspect, it’s a bit of both. I wanted this birthday to slide by without notice so I not only slid out of town, I deleted my DOB info on Facebook, too.

But Facebook is a funny thing. Love it or hate it, Facebook doesn’t take kindly to un-noticing things. Facebook exists to notice. To be honest, I’d like to unFacebook my life sometimes, but it’s become a necessary part of my work life (I think).

For the longest time, I kept my FB posts visible only to friends—and those friends were people I knew in real life; people I’d commonly interact with and recognize on the street. When my book about Gail Hall was published, I began to accept friend requests from people with whom I shared a good number of mutual friends. Then, as time went by, the parameters shifted to people I hadn’t met but who shared common interests like writing. Or eating.

I have many FB friends, now—lovely people who post interesting things—but many of whom I wouldn’t know if they walked right by me, so I was surprised when the birthday greetings started to arrive because 1) I had deleted my DOB info, and 2) why would anyone take the time to send thoughtful words to someone they hardly know? What weird gene do people possess that causes them to do this?

To say it’s been a shitty year is no big revelation considering the obvious, but I lost my dad, too, and on top of dealing with the impacts of COVID on the economy, I had to deal with (yes, still deal with) a ridiculous divorce that should’ve ended shortly after our relationship did in 2016.

But, aside from all that, I am immensely grateful for so much. Surviving hard times teaches us what is important. Practicing gratitude helps us shed what is not. Finding things for which to be grateful during stressful times will save your sanity, if not your life. It certainly has mine.

If you spend any time on social media, you will know firsthand of the awfulness that thrives right now amongst us, but please, keep the faith: good is in there, too. It shows itself in simple things like receiving a birthday greeting from someone you hardly know or in private messages of support and inspiration from those who know you well.

I want to take this time to say thank you to those who thought about me on my birthday; to those who not only typed the words and hit the send button but also to those who did not, because as part of the Don’t Make a Fuss group who wonders if a simple “Happy Birthday!” will really make a difference, I not only see you, I’m in there with you.

This birthday made me realize that I need to do better, though, so, I will. That’s a pretty special gift, if you ask me. Thank you, for giving me that.