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What Are You Celebrating?

On April 13, 1999, after years of searching for her, I called my birth mother for the first time. After she recovered from the initial shock, she said in a hushed voice “I’ve hoped and prayed this day would come.” Two weeks later, I drove to Florida and met her. I remember sitting next to her on a loveseat on the front porch of The Vinoy Hotel in St. Petersburg where we arranged to meet and feeling like our DNA was literally downloading to one another, reconnecting after 29 years apart. It was hands down the biggest event in my life in terms of my identity, my sense of self, of feeling “real” and whole.  

A wise person gave us great advice in the early days of reunion & suggested that the best way to build a foundation was to “make memories” together. So for 20 years, we have intentionally done that. We’ve made a point to attend as many milestone events as we can – birthdays, weddings and funerals in particular – and every ten years, we’ve done a BIG celebration of our reunion anniversary. We spent our 10 year anniversary in St. Augustine, Florida and our 20 year anniversary this past weekend in Asheville, North Carolina.
While an adoption reunion is a rather unique experience, we ALL have reasons to celebrate significant events in our lives. You may recall that I am writing my first book on this very topic, so on the heels of my recent celebration, I wanted to share some thoughts with you along with some personal commentary about our reunion.

Three Big Benefits of Celebration

Oprah Winfrey once said, “The more you celebrate your life, the more there is in your life to celebrate.”
I have found this to be absolutely true in my life. Ask any of my coaching clients and they’ll tell you that I love to celebrate the wins – the big wins, the little ones and everything in between. Personal wins, professional wins, daily wins and wins that are years in the making! Sometimes they laugh at me and how I can be a bit “over the top” with celebration but I remind them that other people want to see you succeed and be happy in life. When you succeed, others experience happiness and joy because they feel a connection to you. When you celebrate your successes–personal or professional–others want to be around you. We naturally gravitate to people who are positive and uplifting… and successful!
1. Celebration is good for our health and well-being. Studies have shown that when we live our lives from a place of celebration and gratitude, we are happier, healthier, more resilient, less stressed, and we have a stronger sense of community. Celebrations trigger a dopamine release in our brains. And if it feels good, we want more of it. So then we’re motivated to find more reasons to celebrate.
When Kathy and I first met, I distinctly remember feeling happier and more complete as a result of our renewed connection. I craved time with her and in the early years, wanted to spend as much time with her as possible. Every time we had a celebration–a holiday, a birthday, a baptism, a “just because” visit, I left feeling stronger, happier and more fulfilled with my life.
2. Celebration builds connection. Think about some of the most important celebrations in your life—birthdays, graduations, weddings, milestone anniversaries, job promotions, retirement, etc. Gathering people together is life-affirming, isn’t it? I bet when you recall these events with fondness, you remember specific people who were there and recall details of stories that are really etched in your memory.
One of the most memorable aspects of my wedding to Eric is that my entire immediate birth family attended-my birthmother and her three children and my birthfather, his wife and their eight children. After the ceremony, I remember inviting them to join me on the back porch and I stood in the middle of the circle of them surrounding me and thanked them for welcoming me into their lives. I took a minute to look at each person in the circle and drink in their love and support for me and for our union that day. It was a once in a lifetime experience I’ll always cherish.
3. Celebration builds self-confidence. Whether it’s receiving an award at work or being thrown a surprise birthday party, being the center of love and adoration builds your confidence and is good for your mind, body and spirit. The student who earns an award in front of the whole school for achieving a 4.0 GPA is likely to continue to be a strong student because of the positive message that is being reinforced by recognizing their hard work. The friend who isn’t looking forward to turning __ (40, 50, 60+) will hopefully feel better about their new decade if they choose to honor the occasion by going on a girlfriends getaway or planning a small dinner party.
The history of adoption in our country tends to involve a lot of secrecy and shame and reunions can help to facilitate healing. Spending time with my former book club in Asheville last weekend was a powerful affirmation of the difficult choices that Kathy faced when she was pregnant with me and also affirmed how mindfully we have entered into our reunion and have consciously cultivated the connection we now share. It’s involved effort and commitment but it’s been oh so worth it!

At its core, celebration is about witnessing others and being witnessed. It can be a sacred and powerful experience and it can be one filled with joy and laughter. I hope that by sharing our story, you can be thinking about cherished celebrations of your own and if you’re planning an upcoming milestone event (birthday, graduation, wedding, funeral, etc) and you’d like some help, I’d be glad to talk with you about my Sacred Celebrations Coaching Services… a fairly new offering but one guaranteed to help you plan your next big event with meaning and intention.
What are you celebrating? (leave a comment and let me know so I can celebrate with you!)


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