Celebrating your own birthday is one of the more exciting things in life. Yesterday my son went over some of the details he had planned for his 6th birthday, which is 9 months away. He will be Luke Skywalker, his little sister will be this robot on the Star Wars Lego video game that she has affectionatly named “Cherry Tomato” and I will make a Millennium Falcon cake. He overestimates me.
And then somewhere in your 30’s the excitement wears off. You start hearing yourself say things like low key and just dinner with a couple friends and your birthday doesn’t feel as much like a great celebration. Instead it serves as a reminder that your age doesn’t match up with where you thought you’d be by now. Sure, you loved the restaurant and the gift cards but the day came and went without much pomp and circumstance. Because age doesn’t really matter anyway, right? Unless you’re my 5 year old and then you tell everyone you meet. “Hi, I’m Sawyer and I’m 5.” It’s part of his identity.
I might not say, “Hi I’m Stephanie and I’m 41” to everyone I meet, but my age is significant. Each year has contributed to who I have become and is a triumph, no matter how crummy the year. The Earth has traveled around the sun another time and one more layer has been added to the person I am.
This past year was not my favorite. The phrase “being a grown up is hard” came out of my mouth so many times. I have cried more and been on my knees more than most other years. We are tired and discouraged. The people we love and the world around us is facing heartbreak, loss, betrayal, sickness…it overwhelms me. I yearn for the days when dreaming up my birthday party was taking up the most room in my mind.
Getting older is hard. Dreams have met reality. My body is failing me. But as someone who has officially made it “over the hill,” I can begin to see that the backside of the mountain has much to be celebrated. I have a lot of life lessons under my belt. I am comfortable in my skin. I have what it takes to enjoy the pristine view and navigate the back country trails.
If I use what I learned on the way up the mountain and resist the urge to slide down the other side without looking around, there is still plenty of wonder to be had. I am reminded again of this wisdom: “A life that is not reflected upon isn’t worth living. It belongs to the essence of being human that we contemplate our life, think about it, discuss it, evaluate it and form opinions about it. Half of life is reflecting on what is being lived.” –Henri Nouwen
Much more than New Year’s resolutions and annual goals, I want reflection to be a regular rhythm in my year. So today, on my 41st birthday (after eating my favorite breakfast and feeling the sun on my face at the beach),
I am embarking on a new birthday tradition- to set aside time to respond to the questions below. I will resist the urge to slide down without really looking around. I might be tired and the snow might be deep in this adult life thing, but I want to make the most of it. I hear that the deepest powder makes for the most epic journey.