Today is my birthday. I’ve never been much for birthdays. Even as a kid, I didn’t want a party or much of a big deal made out of the fact that it was my birthday. Presents are nice, as is cake, and the addition of either of these things to the day was (and is) appreciated. Birthdays, mostly, fall under the category of “just another day” for me. I never could figure out what the big deal was about them. There is something spectacular about knowing you made it through a whole year without dying. In that way, I guess birthdays could be a big deal. On the other hand, I am often just as happy knowing I made it through a typical Monday without dying, and without any major catastrophes or dramas popping up to ruin the day.
This year, I find myself waxing nostalgic and delving into the realm of introspection. Perhaps it stems from feeling I am firmly entrenched in middle age. After all, the clock isn’t going to turn itself backward. I’m not sure I would want it to, but that’s another story for another post. Whatever the reason, I find myself thinking about the year that has passed, as well as looking forward to the year to come. Where have I been this year? Where am I now?
At this time last year, I was lost, in many ways. I felt stuck in a life that didn’t fit me, or like I was wandering around a strange building looking for an exit amid a warren of deserted hallways and wrong turns. I was struggling with depression and health issues. I was not writing. Writer’s block had hung around for so long that I was beginning to believe I had fooled myself with the whole writing thing. I wasn’t attending church. I felt isolated and afraid of life. To say I was unhappy is a massive understatement. I was miserable. I was trapped, weighed down by the expectations of others, by their fears, and by what they wanted from me and for my life. I wanted something different. I wanted freedom. I wanted everything. And yet, I didn’t know what I wanted at all. Although I had made progress in many areas of my life, I still felt like I was spinning my wheels and accomplishing nothing. I wasn’t sure things could change. Thinking back on it, I am not sure I had any hope for the future. When I think about myself a year ago, sitting at my desk in front of my computer, everything is a big splotch of black. I remember feeling like such a failure — the biggest, dumbest, most ridiculous failure ever to walk the earth.
I wish I could go back there and give “last year me” a hug … that I could tell her to hang in there because things will get better. I don’t think she would believe me, but, perhaps, she would appreciate the attempt. When I think of last year compared to this one, I am stunned and amazed at the difference a year can make.
The most wonderful, most profound, change in my life has been finding my way home to the Church. It had been years — more than ten but probably less than twenty — since I had attended church. Going back to God wasn’t easy. I felt I had failed Him, that I had failed myself, and, even worse, that I had failed my family and my daughter. I was afraid. What if I wasn’t good enough? What if God couldn’t forgive me? What if I burst into flames upon crossing the threshold of the church? Okay, so that last one is a bit of a joke, but the fear was real. A combination of fear and uncertainty — not knowing where I belonged or where I should be — had kept me away from God for many years. At long last, almost out of desperation, I sucked up my courage and headed to church. My hubby is Catholic, whereas I was raised Baptist. We decided to go to Mass first. Then, we would explore other Protestant churches in our area to figure out what was the best fit for our family. Once I walked through the doors of St. Mark’s, I knew: I didn’t want to be anywhere else. I didn’t want to try other churches. I had come home. I attended inquiry sessions for a couple of weeks, and then I enrolled in RCIA. Eleven days ago, I was confirmed at the Easter Vigil. At last, I am at home, happily in the embrace of the Catholic Church, and thankful beyond measure for forgiveness, mercy, and grace. I find myself all smiles each time I approach the priest for Eucharist. What a wonderful, amazing gift it is!
I am writing again. I started this blog in October 2013, more or less as a last-ditch effort at writing. Again, I was desperate. I didn’t feel capable of communicating or connecting with others through my writing. I had come to believe I was not meant to write, but I needed to know for sure. I figured, if this isn’t meant to be, then no one will read. If no one reads, I will know. Maybe I can stop this ridiculousness and find the thing I am supposed to be doing with my life. But people read it! The impact of this simple statement on my life cannot be overstated. Blogging gave me the courage to write poetry. I am an unskilled poet, but putting my thoughts into poetry gave me the courage to write more. I wrote a short story. And then another one. I had ideas for a few more. On Monday, I pulled my forever-in-progress novel out of a drawer, blew the dust off of it, and started working on it. It needs a lot of work. I see massive edits and rewrites in my near future, but, for the first time in a couple of years, I don’t feel overwhelmed or terrified by this task. Yes, it is a big undertaking. But I have ideas. I have direction. Finally, I have somewhere to go.
This year, I have hope. I find more humor in life. I laugh more readily. I worry a little less. I smile more, and I look forward to the challenge of each new day. Don’t get me wrong. I still struggle. I still have days filled with depression. I still have days when I wonder where I belong, or if I really belong anywhere at all. But those days are spaced apart a little bit now, instead of coming at me all at once. Ever so slowly, I feel I am learning to find peace in my life. Things aren’t perfect, but they are better.
Happy Birthday to Me.