Today I turned 37 years old.
It was one of the best birthdays I’ve ever had.
Given the loss of my Dad a year ago and the deep, deep sorrow that followed, I would never have predicted #37 to be one of the best. But that deep sorrow is what made me so damn grateful to be here today.
I have learned so much this year. (Okay, that’s an understatement.) My understanding of this life was completely cracked open, ripped inside out and flipped upside down. I spent most of #36 feeling completely lost. I learned that to feel deep sorrow means you felt deep love. I learned that nothing in life matters except kindness. I discovered myself in ways I didn’t even know needed to be discovered. I found what brings me peace. I found what brings me joy. I found what heals the wounds in my soul.
My journey took me down a dark, scary path, but it also brought me into the light. I imagine it like walking in a forest and getting so deep in that the sunlight doesn’t penetrate. You keep walking, but you aren’t even sure you’re on the trail anymore. The bushes and branches are scraping at your face and arms. The dark is overwhelming. The noises are scary. You aren’t sure you’ll ever find your way out. But you just keep going. Until one day, you see a beam of light up ahead. You keep fighting your way through the darkness and eventually you step into the light.
The truths I discovered about life and myself while I was walking in the darkness were my Dad’s last gift to me — the last lesson from my lifelong teacher. To be honest, I’d trade all this enlightenment in a heartbeat if it meant getting him back. But without that as an option, the next best thing is to wrap myself in these truths, knowing that without my Dad, I’d never have them. Thank you, Dad.
After I fought my way out of the darkness this year, I gained this deep gratitude for what I do have. I’m grateful for every step I take on my walks, getting to watch the earth come back to life as the seasons change, watching my kids grow and laugh (and fight and cry), walking through this life with Scott, getting the best hugs from my Mom, hanging out with my sisters and brothers and watching our kids become best friends. I’m grateful for Scott’s parents, who love and support me just as much as my parents. I’m grateful for all of my friends, from the ones who I’ve known for 30 years to the ones that are brand new (and everyone in between). I’m grateful for the kindness and wisdom of strangers. I’m grateful to be 37.
My book will end someday. It may be 60 years from now or it may be tomorrow. I know I will feel the darkness again — it’s the price of love — but until then, I’ll be over here soaking up as much joy and gratitude for as many chapters as I can.