Today starts Chapter 38.
Thirty-seven was a mostly forgettable number, but an unforgettable year, and certainly, an unforgettable time to be alive.
The year leading up to my 37th birthday was full of many, many breaks in my emotional and mental wellbeing. Actually, that’s an understatement. It was smashed to hell. It was full of sorrow and anger and so much grief I felt like I was drowning in it.
If that was the year that everything came undone, the year leading up to 38 was one of rebuilding. That doesn’t mean it was smooth or carefree or easy. It was painstaking and frustrating and unbelievably hard. It still is.
My perspective on myself, my marriage and my life was clouded by 36 years of trying to become what I “should” become. After my Dad died, so did the notion that I “should” be anything. Instead, I’ve spent this past year figuring out what I already am. And what I want to be.
When I stopped looking for external permission and validation and instead started looking inside for guidance and truth, I felt like a caged bird that had just been let free. But that freedom came with a price, and that price was figuring out what to do with my freedom.
Who am I? What do I want? What will I write in the chapters I have left?
I still don’t have all the answers (or even any of the answers), but I know I’m on the way to finding them. It’ll take time. And digging. And writing. And tears. And walking. Lots of walking.
But I’ll get there. And soon after, I’ll likely start all over again. Discovering oneself seems to be a constant process of changing and evolving. And just when we think things are figured out, we go and evolve more.
But enough of that philosophical crap. Let’s get to the good stuff … having a birthday in the middle of a pandemic.
It wasn’t as bad as you’d think. Then again, the only thing I wanted for my birthday — pandemic or not — was to spend hours hiking in the woods with my family, who promised not to complain. Perks of being an introvert during social isolation.
My day started with being snuggled by my girls, each so excited to wish me a happy birthday. A little later, Henry came barreling in with the full force of his love — a hug that almost knocked me over. Claire wrote me a sweet letter, delivered in an envelope addressed to: “Mom, on the couch.” And my mother-in-law sent me a picture of a painting that her and my father-in-law found that prompted immediate weeping. It couldn’t be more fitting for me.
Shortly before lunch, we packed a picnic and headed out for my birthday hike. The trail, the trees and exploring the unknown hit the spot. The kids tried so hard to not complain, and Grace said at one point with complete sincerity, “Mom, this place is awesome!!” It was a great adventure.
Right before dinner, my mom showed up with my favorite birthday cake. Then my sister and brother and their families arrived to wish me a happy birthday and sing from their cars. My niece, Bella, baked me a delicious cake and my niece, Cambri, made me a picture. It was probably the most touching birthday moment I’ve had. We weren’t able to do our normal family dinner and cake tradition, but for some reason, this showing of love amidst the restrictions of a pandemic was even more touching than the usual routine.
All in all, the beginning of Chapter 38 was a day worthy of much gratitude.