Today is my birthday. We won’t discuss how many of those there have been, but it is safe to say that this particular birthday should be special. It is a birthday that very well might not have happened. Or certainly might have happened in a very different way than finding me in the midst of my too-too-busy schedule running to that finish line known as graduation.
I might not have been here to say: I’m healthy (even if I can’t really say that I’m happy) and moving and exercising and learning and loving and doing all the things that make up a life.
And yet, I feel no desire, frankly no ability, to celebrate this milestone. It is snowing outside — again — but that isn’t the reason. I am beyond stressed and grumpy and no, it wasn’t that much fun to spend most of yesterday preparing to have a dental implant to replace the tooth knocked out birthdaybeagle during my surgery. I know from my frame of mind, from my discomfort with my life, from almost everything about me right now — I am still in recovery. My body is in good shape, but my spirit has not caught up yet. And right now it doesn’t have time to catch up.
I have not reached the wonderful place of another friend whose birthday is this week (I know so many people with birthdays in the tail end of February).
Someone very wise said to me yesterday, maybe it is all still just too close. I think that that is true; in the course of walking through the events of last year I was forced to make myself vulnerable in so many ways — to strangers, to loved ones, to my God. And if you know me at all, vulnerable is not my usual color (at least in what I present to the world). I lost some things: I lost the feeling that I knew myself; I lost the confidence I had in my connection with my body, hard won through years of therapy and years of musical study. I lost some things it was good to lose: I lost some of my ability to power through a situation on sheer force of will, among other things. And I gained other things: I learned what it was like to have a heart that pumps blood the way it should, I developed a stamina for exercise that was previously unknown to me.
While all those things are true, and while my friends statement about all these changes being still too close, I have another theory for my current malaise. The many months of fear and worry leading up to the surgery culminated in one, great, life-changing moment which until just recently I could not describe. It led me to a moment in time, probably no longer than a few hours at most, in which I experienced what the mystics would call true soul freedom. While I will remember many things about the events of 2013, emblazoned on my psyche until the day I pass from this earth will be those moments sitting in the pre-surgical area, with two people more dear to me than I can say, in the total presence of my God. And there was nothing else but love.
At that moment, there was no reason for fear, the next hours would be what they would be. There was no room for human fear, no room for doubt, no room for attempts to control. And somehow, this truly directive personality managed to live into that. It was a moment of giving it over to God, a time of total peace.
And now? Well, I think Emily Dickinson says how I feel right now better than I possible can:
Why—do they shut Me out of Heaven?
Did I sing—too loud?
But—I can say a little “Minor”
Timid as a Bird!
Wouldn’t the Angels try me—
Just—see—if I troubled them—
But don’t—shut the door!
Oh, if I—were the Gentleman
In the “White Robe”—
And they—were the little Hand—that knocked—
I AM grateful to be here, to celebrate this birthday probably more healthy than I have ever been. I am grateful for the love and friendship that surrounds me. I might even manage to say that I am grateful for the pretty snow that doesn’t cause too much chaos. But if you meet me today or some day soon and you look at me and say, she doesn’t seem happy, just know this: I now live every day with the first hand, experiential knowledge that I have not grown into the relationship with my God that is possible. Because that way of being was shown to me that day in September. And right now, I am very uncomfortable with that knowledge.
On this birthday I am experiencing growing pains more painful than anything in adolescence, more painful than any before in my life that I can remember. But each and every day, when the pain is at its worst, I remind myself of what I know to be the truth of everything I believe:
This is the day the Lord has made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24)
I have life, I have breath…all for a reason. And when I finish all these papers maybe I will know what that is…