It’s my birthday week! Birthdays were a big thing at our house growing up, and thanks to my awesome parents, we were always made to feel so special and celebrated. It’s a tradition that I’ve carried into adulthood, but for some reason I developed a false belief that it couldn’t be a “good birthday” unless other people helped me celebrate properly. Talk about ego!
I remember when I was pregnant with my son and my parents came to visit. We were all sitting together, and I actually burst into tears because my ex-husband got me a store-bought carrot cake, and I didn’t think it tasted like genuine, delicious, homemade birthday cake should taste. (Still to this day, I pray it was the hormones that caused me to act like such a selfish brat.)
Last year, when I turned 40, was the worst. It was an extremely intense season as we were less than a month away from opening our own school for the first time. We were also hosting an event in our home the day following my birthday, so it seemed to me like this day that was supposed to be a massive milestone in a person’s life was being overshadowed by a busy schedule. And as icing on the (birthday) cake, my husband did not grow up with the same emotional connection to birthdays, so in spite of his heroic efforts, I can often be umm, “less than impressed”. (I’m ashamed to admit it!) So, all in all, I was feeling pretty lame on my big day. I was having a huge party alright – a pity party. And then one simple turn of events changed my whole day…I bought myself a balloon.
I had run to the store to pick up some supplies for the event in our home when I saw this balloon at the cash register. It was a huge balloon, the new kind that is perfectly round and probably 3 feet in diameter. It was bright and multi-colored, but it was translucent, so you could see all the way through it. I still have no idea why, but that balloon made me smile. So, on a whim, I marched over and grabbed it. As I stood in the check-out line smiling at my balloon, the cashier asked me, “Oh, whose birthday are you celebrating”? “Mine!” All the way home I smiled to myself, and I was still smiling when I marched my balloon inside the house and tied it to the kitchen chair. I smiled for the next 24 hours every time I looked at that balloon. And that’s when the lightbulb went off. I don’t need anyone else to celebrate me or my life. Not my parents, not my spouse, not my friends or family. Those things can be nice, but the celebration that brings true happiness is the one that comes from within. And I don’t need to celebrate myself from an ego perspective, but from a place of joy and appreciation for life!
It’s said that true wisdom doesn’t really start to come until after 40. I’m not sure it shows up like a gift on your birthday, but I do know that this year has been different for me. Even though it’s been a crazy intense year, I’ve spent a lot of time inside my own head, reflecting and searching. I had received a letter from my biggest mentor several years ago, and the opening like kept replaying in my head over and over again. “I can see that you’re unhappy. You must find a place of internal happiness, and when you can find that place, your happiness will know no borders, and it will permeate every area of your life.” I knew I had been unhappy, but I didn’t know how to fix it. After all these years of chasing success and happiness, that little (huge) balloon was my biggest gift of all, because it was the physical object that represented the shift that was missing in my life. That transfer from outer-approval to inner. So simple. So cliché. So life-altering for me.
In the year since then, I’ve done a lot of inner work to try and discover what I need to do for me. We do a lot with our community, and if I’m not careful, it’s very easy to get swept away with the workload. But busyness is just the high achiever’s form of laziness, because it’s easier to simply stay the same and keep going with the hectic flow of life than it is to stop and force yourself to evaluate the situation and make change. And I read something this year that really resonated deep within me. All humans are born with gifts, and as children we operate at the genius level, naively unashamed of our own brilliance and inner power. Then as we grow, we become overly self-conscious, and society grooms us to tone down and conform. But those gifts that we’re keeping stuffed inside – that is our art. Everyone is an artist. Not every artist carries a paintbrush. God has given all of us gifts, and our art form is learning how to channel those gifts and share them with the world. If we’re not doing that, we’re stifling ourselves and keeping ourselves small. And our living small serves no one.
My job this year has been to dig deep in search of my art. I know my art is my use of words. How I string them together in thought form, written form, and spoken form. A younger (and more naïve, egotistical and brazen) version of myself used to share this art. But then life happened, and I had to go through a season of cocooning, transforming, and a little drifting here and there before my art was ready to come back. I thought I was ready a couple years ago, and I attempted to start. But then my inner critic took over with all sorts of loathing self-sabotage. “Who are you to write? No one cares what you have to say. You’re a no one. What have you done that anyone cares to hear about or learn from? Don’t be one of those theoretical experts that sells air like a TV evangelist. The world has enough experts. What do you have to show for yourself? You’ve wasted your life and missed your chance. People will laugh at you and criticize you. They will misunderstand you. Haven’t you had enough of the haters? Why do you need that again? Just stay quiet and safe under the radar. It’s easier.” That inner dialogue kept me paralyzed for two more years after I thought I was ready to work on my art again. And finally – finally – this year, I can say that my inner desire to share my art is greater than my desire to hide and stay small.
So, this blog is my gift to myself on my 41st birthday. This blog is my canvas. This is where I will bring my art to life. If anyone else reads it every now and then and draws a source of strength and encouragement from it, I will be humbled and thrilled that I was able to contribute to someone else’s journey. But even if no one reads it, this blog will continue as long as it serves as a tool for me to create my own inner joy by processing my experiences and transforming them into life lessons. This blog will exist as long as it makes me smile.