I can never remember my age, just like I can never remember the year I graduated high school or college.
But that’s ok. You don’t need to know how old you are, as long as you remember you are never too old or too lame to celebrate your birthday. 😉
Because birthdays are awesome.
Birthdays are a time that I get to celebrate the lives of people who mean a lot to me. I get to buy them presents and go out for yummy meals and do all the things one does when you want to mark the occasion.
I like doing all those things for my birthday, too. Let’s be real.
This year I’m enjoying a new aspect of my birthday. I’m using the occasion to look back over the past year in a thoughtful and reflective way, and look forward to the next year with intention and excitement.
I realized that a lot happens in a year. A lot of important things happen in a year. (Any year.) It can be easy to just let time slip by and experiences wash over us. But I believe that growth can really only happen from a place that includes both movement and stillness. The movement and energy and excitement of all that happens in a year can teach us a lot, but only if we allow ourselves to get still and process it all.
It’s funny. I think our bodies are always trying to process the things we are experiencing. Our bodies, the physical part of us that moves and feels and acts. But our bodies need to slow in order to allow our hearts and minds to process everything, too.
This summer, I gave up running. It was just so hard on my body, and after a season of life that was difficult mentally and emotionally, I needed to make the choice to be good to myself. I needed to carve out space where I could be gentle to myself physically, to allow everything that was stirring in my heart and mind to be honored, and processed, and dealt with.
Now that I look back, I understand that last year was a harder than I realized.
We enrolled Theo in kindergarden and that was not an easy or pleasant experience. The confusion and frustration that surrounded what I felt should have been a “normal” milestone was, for lack of a better word, stunning.
It was a year of major shifting sands. We were in a constant state of experimentation: trying to figure out what was working and what was not, what would work and what would not, and asking what we even wanted. We were all on what felt like unstable ground. (Not necessarily in a bad way, just a LIFE way, you know?)
As a family and as an individual, there was a lot to figure out, but the good news is: we did! I’m not saying we have it “all” figured out, just that we’ve made some strides in the areas that were previously totally stumping us.
Last year was a catalyst year for a lot of things for me, personally, as well. I started pursuing a greater understanding of who I am, so I could better serve my people in the season we are all in together. It helped. It’s still helping.
Also, I just felt so tired of feeling like I didn’t know what it was that I was “supposed to be doing.” (I’ve grown to hate that phrase – what a passive view to take of our own life!) And I grew tired of comparing what I wanted to what everyone else was doing and what everyone else felt I should be doing.
I discovered along the way that, in life, we often go through a period of rejecting (or questioning) all that we knew or understood when we were younger. We might walk away from beliefs or values that were instilled in us by our family of origin. We might forget the person we set out to be when we were very young. Or maybe we simply allow time and experiences and other people to shape us into someone new.
This isn’t all bad.
We are meant to be shaped. We are meant to grow. We are meant to become.
But then, we start to circle back to that person we once were. We don’t fully embrace them. How could we? We’ve changed so much. Grown so much. Experienced so much. But instead of viewing that person with eyes of sadness, bitterness, or regret, we realize that we have more in common with them now then ever before. We see how the passing of time and the journey through different seasons of life has brought us to this point. And all those people that we’ve tried to be; all those personalities that we slipped on and off depending on whose homes we were in; all those values we clung to or rejected – it’s all led us to here. To now. We aren’t one of those things. We are all of them. And we are better for it.
And now, looking back at it all, we can see how we get to choose the lessons from each experience to carry with us to mold and guide us. But also, we can lay down the ones that no longer serve us. They are not ours to carry, and that is ok.
As we return to old values or ideas or hopes or preferences, we bring with us the new things. The new lessons. The newly developed taste. The new ideas. And together I think it creates something really special. Really unique. Really our own.
Something, that looks a lot like wisdom.
This coming year, I’m excited to live out the lessons that last year taught me. I want to continue to pour into my family and friends out of the well that is inside of me. A well not of my own making, but of my own attending.
I’m excited to walk quietly and confidently through my own life. I’m finding freedom from this desperate need I’ve always felt to be understood or agreed with. I realize now that my job is not to get anyone else to agree with me. I can’t change anyone else. And truly, I don’t want to. I want to focus on the things before me. I want to focus on stewarding the gifts and responsibilities that I posses. I want to focus on the version of myself that started with a creator’s love and ended with my creation.
I want to focus less on the specific details of “should” and more on the freedom of “here.” And I want to focus less (so much less!) on obsessively trying to figure everything out. I mean, some of that is my curious and inquisitive personality and that is a good thing. (Thank you, Sheila, for always showing me that.) What I want to avoid is attempting to figure things out before simply acting. Most things aren’t and can’t be figured out beforehand. It would be neater and tidier if life worked that way, but usually, it doesn’t. There is a time and place for thoughtful questions. And then there is a time for faith. When you “figure it all out,” you’ll have absolutely zero need for faith. That, is not the direction I’m heading.
Last year was my year of not needing to be right. Did I tell you that?
It was an important decision I made in an attempt to view life less in terms that put one person on the offensive and another person on the defensive. If we lay down our need to be right, we can simply be who we are supposed to be. Free from carefully crafted arguments, free from the need for other peoples’ approval, and free from trying to control the uncontrollable.
I don’t need to be right. And I don’t need you to think I’m right.
Out beyond the place that we call “right” is a better place called “real.” I’m slowly starting to realize what it looks like to be real. To be authentic. To be me.
There is this line from a Head and the Heart song that goes, “My roots have grown but I don’t know where they are.”
I like that. I feel that. My roots have grown, but they haven’t hit the bottom, yet. There is still so much more growing to do, and I embrace that.
My friend, Chrissy, gave me a plant for my birthday. It felt symbolic of all that I’m feeling right now. The growing. The roots. The fact that it’s an aloe plant – a plant with healing properties. Goodness. Yes. That is what I want. That is who I want to be.
I don’t know where these roots are going. But I do know (and trust) that it’s someplace good.