Tomorrow I turn 45.
It is interesting for me to think of my last two birthdays. On my 43rd, I was happily married (or so I thought), just completing a 6-month course in Martin Seligman's positive psychology, working part-time in a church where the long-term beloved pastor had died exactly one month before my birthday, nearing completion of a two-year course in Gestalt Pastoral Care, considering a move to North Carolina and generally enjoying my life immensely. Given what transpired over the next several months I sometimes look back and wonder if I was completely deluded.
But I know I wasn't. I was genuinely happy then. I remember that birthday as one of my best. I was rested and renewed after leaving my previous church (the one where I burned out) 1 1/2 years before. I was feeling excited about the possibility of a move near my parents. I was delighted with the courses I was completing and wondering how that learning might be integrated into my new life. I was grateful to the church where I had landed for the way they opened their hearts to me in the midst of their grief.
By my 44th birthday, I had moved and left behind all my community, I was unemployed, my marriage had fallen apart and my career seemed dead to me. I was as alone as I had ever been. But I was also relieved. The week before my birthday, my husband moved out (at my request) and I received two job offers and two more interview offers. I decided to go ahead and take my current job. So while everything was new and uncertain, life held possibility and relief from the end of the longest, hardest 8 months of my life.
Now it is a year later. I've been at this job for a while. I've been single for a while. I've started to build community. I've gotten used to being a child living near her parents again. I've taken a first stab at dating (yikes!).
There is so much for me to be grateful for. I'm a homeowner. I have a decent job. I'm meeting interesting people. I live in a great neighborhood. I have loving, caring parents. I have a beautiful, resilient son. I am making ends meet. I have a reliable car. I have a sweet dog. I live in an amazingly beautiful part of the world and an interesting little city. I have a good friendship with my ex. I have a supportive board of directors at work. I am physically healthy and mentally on the mend. I am competent and capable and likable much of the time.
Life is nothing like I imagined it might be two years ago. Nothing. Not a thing.
And I cannot imagine what my life will hold one year from now. At all.
I would like to be able to go back and pick up the pieces from that 43rd birthday -- the joy and wonder and hope I felt then. But the two years in between have been full of learning and humility and grace that need to be better integrated before that old joy can re-emerge, I guess. I am not unhappy. I am often able to laugh with ease. I feel connected to the people around me. Most days I can believe that more goodness and mercy lie in wait for me.
And so, I begin my 46th year of living. More humble, certainly. More wise, perhaps. Living, day by day, on faith in a way I could only hint at when life was easier.
*image "Humility" by Chidi Okoye