On the Radiance of Joy


(PHILIPPINES, Quezon City) Abbey's birthday sparklers. (Photo taken by the author.)

Abbey turned thirty-three today and, to mark the occasion, we held a series of parties that began the previous night and finally culminated just this evening. This was in stark contrast to the previous year, which she’d chosen to celebrate with uncharacteristic sobriety and whose solemnity I’d interrupted by arriving at her doorstep (almost unannounced) with a bottle of wine. As if to make up for that aberrant lapse in festivity, she decided to celebrate her thirty-third birthday at the house la fiesta style—in installments.

That we ended up having a string of parties was inevitable given that the size of our house is inversely proportional to the number of her friends—the logistical difficulties were reduced by the mere fact that the majority of her friends reside abroad. That didn’t stop said friends from making their presences felt, however: both our inboxes were stuffed with messages from all over the world in at least three different languages.

And it’s typical of Abbey to inspire such devotion. Being around her frequently makes it difficult to pinpoint the exact cause why—I usually think of at least a dozen different things—but one reason that comes to mind with particular force (at least for me) is how effortlessly happy she makes me. It dissatisfies her no end that happiness should have such a hazy pedigree (even if she herself should be the origin); she always asks what she does, in particular, that makes me happy (a question that makes me wax philosophical: What does a tree do to make one happy? Absolutely nothing, except just be.).

And it’s a rare gift: rare only because most of us outgrow it. It’s our birthright to radiate joy, to be epicenters of bliss, and we do it naturally when we are very young (and unfortunately only when we are very young). Abbey has continued to do it for thirty years longer than the average person—and that’s just one reason (among countless others) for me (and countless others) to celebrate.

So happy, happy birthday Abs. Here’s to thirty-three years of living the prayer lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu.

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