I have a birthday coming up. I’m NOT going to say exactly how old I’ll be, because most days (with a good color job) I can pass for younger … but let’s just say it’s a “major” milestone … and zero years have not been traditionally good to me.
But this one’s going to be different.
I was thinking today about my last zero birthday. We had just survived what was perhaps the most traumatic time in our lives. Actually, on my birthday, I wasn’t 100% sure I was going to yet survive. We had been moved from a job we’d loved for 10 years, a beautiful house, and a church congregation we had grown up with and loved into a quaint but cold and leaky little rental (provided for by some very generous friends). Christmas that year had been made possible by some other extremely generous friends. We were without work, without moorings, and I was personally without much hope.
I had been left numb. I still had my loving husband … but he was distant and depressed and fighting his own demons at the time. I had my four beautiful children … but they were young, and they had been my priority throughout the tough times, so while they “knew” something was wrong, I tried my hardest to make their transition as smooth as I could. That meant holding back most things the best I could, and attempting to keep their lives “normal.” I had fabulous friends who tried their best to support and love us, but their lives continued on, somewhat disrupted, but they held hope in what was to come.
I tried. I tried to find something to hope in. But I felt (right or wrong) abandoned by my family, my friends and my God. People tried to help. But no one else lived in that house, and in my head. I took a job I hated to help support the family — a job that compromised my own children and my time with them. They were often left to fend for themselves, because neither of their parents were capable of truly being “there” for them.
It was a dark time.
And now, looking at another zero birthday, I am happy to say I’ve turned the page. Turned quite a few, to be honest.
My “little” kids are now big … one married, one in college, one a senior and the last in high school. And I’ve picked up another one! We are now in a community where the people are broken and imperfect, but my God they know how to love, and laugh, and live authentically alongside us. I’ve stopped trying to “be” something I can never obtain, and work daily on being who I am. I have a stray cat who makes his home with us, and he is a great comfort many days. I cook … I love to cook. I love good coffee, and building into the lives of amazing “kids” that are my children’ friends, and a special group of young career men and women that challenge me and push me to not get old. I write, but not books (not yet, anyway). I take pictures that make people happy, and let them remember important events in their lives, and that chronicle our lives in living color. I learn … this is my year to learn Italian, to sew aprons, to craft more and perhaps even embark on a new career.
And I have people in my life that have made it rich, and full and stand in the face of my statement 10 years ago that I was “done making friends” and heartily laugh. And I join them, because I was so very wrong.
I’ll celebrate this zero year with my feet on foreign ground. My husband and I are headed to China to see our oldest and his beautiful wife. We’re going to eat street food, experience the ancient quiet of a Buddhist temple, and stand in Tiananmen Square, soaking in the history. I’ll miss my other three, to be sure. But the opportunity to personally drink in one of the oldest cultures in the world draws me even against my apprehensions and fears.
It’s been a long, hard week among the members of my community. Sad passings — relatives, spouses, livelihoods — and I know people who are reeling and hurting and I hurt alongside of them.
I want to tell them so badly to not lose hope. I want them to know that life will never be the same … but life will go on. I want to stand beside them as their grieve, but also reassure them that eventually, they will be able to “turn the page” as well and look forward to whatever comes next. I want to tell them these things because I know.
I know because I’ve been there. I know what it feels like to drag myself through dark day after dark day. To want to run, to give up, to just stop. But they shouldn’t. They can’t. Because each day … each year … brings a new chance, a new opportunity … a new page.