Happy birthday to me! Birthdays are always a time for reflection for me. There is nothing I love more than a new goal or an excuse to start something new. It’s also a time to look back and think about what worked and what just sucked. And honestly, these past two years have been doozies. So many challenges and so many scars.
Old news: Right after I turned 39 I went in for knee surgery. It ended up being pretty significant surgery that continues to impact my daily life. For example, today I canceled my spot in spin class because I’m having a hard time walking without limping. Why? Who the hell knows. Maybe because my knee is officially another year older and decided to remind me that I’m not 23 anymore. Knees are bitches. They act all nice and then take you out at the…knees.
My 40th year, that was going to be my year to crush it. And well, it turned out to be crushing instead. I thought I had done hard before. Nope. That is laughable compared to the year I am surviving. There were days where I just waved the white flag and acknowledged that getting dressed was going to be my grand accomplishment. I’m not going to lie – I’m still having those days – they are just thankfully fewer and farther between.
Over these past 730 days I’ve accumulated more and more scars. Some of them you can see and some you can’t. But they are all deep and they still sting. But I read a line in a book several years ago that puts things in perspective. It goes a little something along the lines of “Scars may not be pretty. But scars don’t form on dead people.” That is totally not exactly what it said, but you get the gist. If we are fully living, we are going to get banged up and bruised in this life. And we get to decide if we are going to walk around like a dead person, perpetually bleeding out of that wound. Let me say that hey, it’s okay to walk around bleeding for a while. You have to. The body doesn’t just instantly heal if it’s been hurt. But you have a choice to live too. And if you are going to live, then you are going to need to let that hurt heal, to stitch itself up, otherwise you are not fully living. No one wants to walk around spouting blood and guts everywhere. Does that mean that the stitches don’t open sometimes? They will. Living means joy and it also means pain. Sometimes a big wound will still get little cuts around it. There will be days it will swell up and you'll need to slow down physically and emotionally. But friends, please let that big wound start to heal. Have patience. You will want to feel better right away because feeling like shit sucks. You’ll have to just live in that garbage for a while though I’m sorry to say. It will get better if you let it.
You are not going to be the same. Scars make us look different. That’s because big changes are just that – changes. You are going to be different as you heal. You are going to change. There is no going back to the way things were. You get to decide whether you want to wallow in that fact or if you want to live on with this new look, this new reality. You can be stronger if you choose or you can decide you want to live your life sitting on the couch watching Netflix all day. Of course if the new season of Stranger Things just dropped, you have my permission to binge watch that until you are done.
So despite all of the mess this year has been, it has been fantastic. Not fun, but fantastic. I have gotten to grow this year. I have been challenged to be a better person than I knew was possible. Am I happy? Um, I’m not sure I can say I’m happy. But the scars are slowing knitting together. I can see that and that makes me happy.
This year I’ve been able to grow in patience, tolerance, kindness, compassion and love. The Dalai Lama says the first four are the path to happiness. Maybe they are – who am I to argue with a religious leader? And those five things sound like amazing ways to live your life, right? But they are just words until you learn what it means to live them. From my experience, you don’t learn to live those words until you are challenged in ways that make it impossible to live them. That’s when you discover what you are capable of - this is the good stuff - when you get the chance to grow. Patience is taking a deep breath and tolerating situations that seem unbearable. Some things just can’t be fixed or at least not quickly. Living in the unknown and having faith it will get better - that is patience. Tolerance is being around toxic people and looking beyond the outside crust and understanding their motives, which are never personal, no matter how much they feel that way. Kindness is giving grace when you feel like the person does not deserve it. Compassion is going beyond what you feel, no matter how deep, and caring about how the other person feels, even if they inflicted the wound. And love. Boy, aren’t we all loving people? Love is a great sentiment until you are asked to love someone who feels unlovable to you. Love isn’t reciprocal. You can love someone and they will not love you back. That’s their choice. But it’s your choice to give that love anyway. Because that is your power and that is in your control.
It is so easy to be nasty, to take revenge, to say the spiteful thing. God help me, that is what I am so good at. Words are my weapons and I can take you down at the smallest infraction. Sadly, I can still be this way sometimes. But true control and power is rising above that and giving grace. It doesn’t feel as satisfying in the moment but further down the line, it is the wiser choice. I can’t control how others treat me or how they feel about me. But I can control my actions, basing them on who I am and who I want to be. I want to be patient, kind, tolerant, compassionate, honest, loving and truthful. I cannot grow in those areas unless I am challenged to be more than I am today. I have learned to say how I feel even though I know it will be scoffed at, ridiculed and stomped on. And it is hard to watch your true emotions be kicked in the dirt. But truth is one of my pillars – I know this now. I will not regret saying what I mean if it comes from a place of love, grace and truth.
So this year. It’s been a real bitch. But I’m better for it. The scars make me stronger and humble. They have taught me who I am and have given me opportunities to push myself in my humanity. It has not been enjoyable. But nothing worth doing ever came from easy. Here's to another amazing year!