I started this on Thursday, my twenty-sixth birthday. I finished it now, three days later.
Dear Thirteen-Year-Old Me,
This is the strangest, saddest birthday you've known. It's certainly not how you planned to begin your teen years, with strep throat and a cancelled birthday party and then, suddenly, a tragedy that dramatically changes the country you live in.
You'll have a party later, but not without some sense of guilt. I'm celebrating my life when others lost theirs, lost everything, lost their loved ones. You'll feel a little bit of this every year, and that's okay.
Thirteen years later, your birthday will approach and you'll be oddly excited. Twenty-five was great, but twenty-six? You're starting this year out with some grand adventures ahead. You've been blessed, learned how to practice gratitude a little more, released yourself from some of the guilt that isn't yours to bear thanks to the simple passing of time.
You'll also realize something else: we have to remember the bad and the sad. You sometimes want to stamp those things out of memory, just stop talking about them, forget...
Yet you have to remember them. They happened. They were, are real. You will have to speak of them and share.
But you don't have to think only of them. You don't have to dwell on them.
Understand that the bad and the sad don't need you to stay with them, in their shadowy spaces. You don't owe them that. They don't want or need that from you. The shadows don't require or desire your presence at all times, your undivided attention, your devotion.
Let the light--the happy, the full, the incredible--dust the edges of those shadows, make them less deep and dark and impenetrable. Let the light make the shadows manageable.
And, most importantly, don't forget to stand in the light. Let it fill you. Then carry it with you into the shadowy places.
When I tell people that my birthday is September eleventh, I often get pity. I don't want it.
I just want to acknowledge what happened once on that day thirteen years ago and to celebrate my birthday. These dark and light things will have to coexist. Don't get me wrong--I truly wish they didn't have to!--but life is full of dark and light and I've figured out a way to navigate this particular pairing.
But then, once it dried, I turned the page and found this, and I loved it.
Happy accidents--I've come across that phrase a few times in the last week. Happy accidents are like a little present, I think, a little gift in the moments when what we expected or desired or hoped for isn't what we found or made.
Let's talk about wellness for a minute--specifically, weight, and how it sometimes does serve as a sign of wellness or lack thereof. Sometimes I feel like this topic is taboo, unless you're having all sorts of health problems related to weight or whatever. I'd never presume to discuss someone else's weight, but my own?
Well, I started college at a healthy weight and BMI. I didn't exercise a lot, but I walked enough to make up for it.
Then I finished college, got married, moved to a small town, and got a desk job, which basically added up to eating like my (much taller) husband and, during the cold, rainy, snowy winter, no exercise. Four years, two cities, two apartments, a dog, a house, and twenty-five pounds later, my BMI is at the top edge of normal. That's not where I want to be.
I think most people would be happy with this, and that's fine for them. But with a family history of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and other inheritable predispositions, and with the simple problem of feeling winded far too easily, I'm not happy with almost-too-high. I won't go Paleo or vegan or anything--that wouldn't be sustainable for me--but the husband and I are making little changes. More walks, less Netflix. More veggies, fewer breads. More fruit, fewer sweets. More yoga, less stress (win-win!).
While reaching a healthy weight/BMI is part of the goal, I'm finding other treats along the way: less tension, more flexibility (literally and figuratively), more peace, and a little bit more strength. And the dog is less crazy after a long walk or short run. So there's basically nothing to lose. Now, will I stick with it? Any tips for staying in the habit (especially after that sense of accomplishment you feel in the first week)?
Image source unknown, found here. It fit my take on weight and wellness too well to ignore, so I stuck with it.
Maybe it's because I've gotten a few early presents.
Maybe it's because the last few weeks have left me in want of something to look forward to.
Maybe it's just because birthdays are fun.
There are some things I thought I'd have in order by this age--twenty-six--and some things I didn't expect. I thought I'd be teaching by now (I am, in a way). I didn't think I'd have a house. I thought I'd have traveled more. And those things, they aren't regrets, but rather surprises.
Birthdays are a time of reminiscing and hoping for me, and I'm going to embrace that this year. Celebrate the past; embrace the present. Or, like I read recently: breathe in the present; breathe out the past.
Next week, I'll have some cake (just a little; I'm being careful with the food I eat) and some pasta and I'll celebrate my birthday quietly, with friends and family near. And then, when the house is quiet, I'll spend a little time writing, maybe art journaling, and get something down about the day, about my hopes and dreams, and close the pages of last year's journal and open a new one.
1. surprise in the mail--I didn't know I'd been one of the first to comment! Thanks, Stargardener! /// 2. my husband's gift to me this year--we decided not to wait until my birthday to set it up. It's awesome. /// 3. this year's present-to-myself, from Whispered Truths