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My Birthday Letter

You learned the bare minimum hours of sleep you can get and still be a somewhat-functioning human being, the number of times a day a toddler can ask why, and that you will never again laugh without peeing a little.
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42. No, we're not talking about Jackie Robinson here, trailblazer though he was. We're reviewing the number of trips around the sun you've taken in this body, on this planet, housing this soul. It's staggering if you think about it. All the iterations of yourself -- baby, child, teen and then adult-ish -- spanning numerous incarnations filled with strife and fun, love and shame, suffering and healing, solitude and union. At 42 you're a mother and a wife -- both strikingly more difficult and worthwhile than you ever imagined. You're also a friend, daughter, sister, in-law, aunt, marketer, writer, music-lover, yogi, conundrum and more.

It's easy to get mired in the marvelous monotony of it all. 365 days of waking, working, cuddling, cajoling, connecting, laughing, loving, suffering, soaring, diaper-changing, potty-training, fighting, numbing, succumbing, overcoming and every other -ing you can think of. In a breath, a year could pass unnoticed. And then another. And yet another. Then a lifetime.

But you know better. You are a keeper -- capturing moments for your friends and family -- committing them to page and heart. As precious as your beloveds are to you, you've learned (especially this year) that you are sacred and deserve honoring too. Yet if I know anything, I know you. You'll forget. So each year, around your birthday, we'll write a letter to celebrate the wins, forgive the losses, recount the love as well as the lessons, and help foster growth.

In that spirit, here is a summary of 41:

  • You accepted duality -- that this human existence ruptures your heart, mends it, lets it soar and then cleaves it once more. That those you love most enrage and enlighten you in equal measure. That grief and joy coexist. And that without the valleys and peaks, your life would be a long, flat stretch of nothing.
  • You numbed less. And when you were unable to stay present, you owned your engagement in activities that keep the earth flat and both the monsters and angels at bay.
  • You fell in love again with modern truth tellers, imbibing all you could from the likes of Anne Lamott, Brene Brown, Glennon Dolye Melton and Elizabeth Gilbert. Their words made you laugh and cry while keeping you brave as you parceled your own truth together piece by fractured piece.
  • You fell even more in love with the family you created and the man you chose. And while this is only one sentence, you know it's the whole damn enchilada.
  • You fell on your ass. And got back up. Over and over again. And though bruised and battered, you stayed down for shorter and shorter snippets of time, as you became more immune to the voice that says inhaling all that dirt and grime is what you deserve.

  • You worked. Hard. In your home. In your office. In your therapist's office. In your faith. You made money, strides, love and sweet memories for your children -- not in priority order.
  • You made mistakes too. More than you'd like to admit, and with the ones closest to you. But instead of always retreating into the familiar shell of shame and blame, you were able to more frequently shed that small, smelly piece of sh*t to repair your relationships and seek redemption.
  • You asked for help when you needed it, no longer swallowing suffering like poison. And in doing so, you discovered the antidote to shame is connection, which is in abundant supply if you choose to seek and receive it.
  • You further solidified your tribe. You know who your people are. And, as importantly who they aren't. Letting in was as hard as letting go, but with those in your circle, you rejoiced, relished, comforted, commented on their Facebook feeds, and wholeheartedly connected -- be they in the same room or in Australia.
    • You joined groups, shared your soul, cultivated vulnerability and took two kids under the age of 3 to Costco by yourself. Each experience proving just as terrifying, yet more fruitful than you expected.

  • You celebrated the first and third birthdays of your sweet babies, simultaneously relishing the humans they are, excitedly anticipating who they'll evolve to become and mourning the life stages they've already left behind.
  • You watched, forlorn, as your breasts decreased two cup sizes in as many months when your daughter weaned.
  • You forgave yourself, and others for many of the sorrows in your history, making your heart more expansive to bliss and resilient to the hurt that is yet to come.
  • Taylor Swift became your not-so-guilty pleasure, though you still felt a tinge of age-appropriate relief when Ryan Adams covered all of 1989.
    • You became more discerning. Instead of starving at the foot of life's glorious buffet, you allowed yourself to say yes to this, no thanks to that. Hell yes I'd like more and more of this. And although that was nice once, it's not something I want to try again. When doing so you fed your soul until it was gloriously fat and full.
    • You captained. Your. Own. Damn. Ship. But did so with the knowledge that there are other souls on board. Souls you'd fight, drown and die for. But you also know their presence in your hold provides them passage and care. Not ownership.
    • You got lost a lot. And found a lot. Many times by others. Oft times you found yourself. In total, the findings outweighed the losses, and you continued your expedition.
    • You finally saw Garth Brooks in concert. And you cried. Not just because it was glorious, though it was. But because when you witness someone living their wholehearted truth, it's impossible not to be moved and inspired to live yours.
    • You wrote, shared your work, and received whatever came your way as a result; a huge accomplishment, though you still sometimes tell yourself it isn't. This was the first year of your life in which, "you refused to engage the monster. You just slipped on by, clutching the gifts from the water, insisting they were real." Glennon gave you these words, and she was right. The monster who tells you your offering isn't worthy, didn't follow you. "Movement is his kryptonite." You know, though it be difficult work, there is nothing more true. And that when you write, you're more yourself than when you don't. You also know that you will always carry G in your heart. She is a cherished gift and one of the reasons this letter, hell anything, can be written today.
    • You jousted with jealousy, your higher self knowing just because someone else has something you want, doesn't mean you can't have it too. And that every soul has a gift to share along with their own monster espousing litanies of lies as to why they shouldn't. So instead of stewing in envious green, you (generally) celebrated those achieving their hearts' desires -- even when those desires were also yours.
    • You realized you were not only afraid of pain, but also, more so, of joy. This epiphany was a gut punch. But you rose. As toxic as the goodness felt initially, you took it in bit by bit until you could tolerate more. And more. And more. And hopefully there will be even more in your future. But as of today you live with greater abundance than you ever dared dream.
    • You learned the bare minimum hours of sleep you can get and still be a somewhat-functioning human being, the number of times a day a toddler can ask why, and that you will never again laugh without peeing a little.
    • You also learned your husband is right more often than you give him credit. And it infuriates you.
    • You began letting go of the belief that you are broken. Instead, knowing you're in a constant state of repair which makes you strong, fragile and full of grace.
    • You rediscovered your faith, your own way -- twisting, turning, learning, doubling back and forging new terrain. In doing so you reclaimed God while realizing you were never disavowed.
    • You loved fiercely and with your whole heart. Though yours is not a faultless love, given or received, it is perfect in its imperfection.

    So there it is. Certainly there was more, but this is the heart of it. Keep up the good work and the faith. Here's to many more letters to come and I'll see you in the mirror.