Tomorrow I turn 30. I am not making this announcement as a proclamation for gifts or cupcakes or champagne, even though I adore all those things. I say it because having a birthday is a natural time to think about the past year, decade, lifetime and come to some realizations about where you are and where you have been.
Anyone who knows me knows I am horribly obsessed with music. I have it on all the time, we have close to a 1,000 CD's and sing in the shower, loudly. Oddly enough, there have only been two times in my life that I recall a "soundtrack" to that birthday. In 1993, when I turned 17, I got pregnant with the associate ministers son and had an abortion. As one can imagine, that changed my life forever. I was still 16, a junior in high school and thought I was so grown up. As cliché as it sounds, R.E.M.'s Automatic for the People saved my life. I bought that CD on a trip to where I live now, at a trashy little music shop in the "alternative" part of town. The CD skips continually because I have listened to it so much. The case is cracked and it looks like there is some dried beer on it. I haven't listened to it in years but I know if I were to hear Man on the Moon my heart would open up all over again with pain, hate, fear and anger, the perfect mix for being 17. I would cried for everything that wasn't anymore. I don't regret decisions I have made with my life and know that so many are better because of them. I regret growing up so quickly at such a young age. I don't want to be 17 again.
In 2004 I was living in a small town in northeastern Oklahoma, recently in the process of a divorce from my husband, living at a residential children's facility, working my ass off. My apartment was a far cry for the luxury I had lived in with him, complete with cinder block walls, classy 1970's paneling and carpet that often had mold growing out of it. This period of time is now lovingly called my winter of discontent. I didn't like anything and it showed. I smoked a pack of cigarettes a day, drank like I was an accomplished drunk and made lots of stupid decisions. I hurt and what better way to deal with the hurt than to just dive down deeper. I purchased a John Mayer CD at Wal-Mart on a whim and it lived in my player for the month of December. Heavier Things reminded me of all the heavy things I had done that year. It reminded me that we all hurt and make stupid decisions but somehow it all ends up ok. I put that CD in this year as I was drinking some wine, looking at my decorated Christmas tree, listening to my daughters faint snoring in the background. It took a lot for me to get to this point. It took internal and external struggle, self destruction, self hate, grace, love and forgiveness. When I turned 28 I didn't know what joy my life would have, what peace I would find and how good it would feel to finally allow myself to be loved. 28 was my turning point. In January, I met a little boy named Corbin who looked like my husband did when he was little. I called my husband to ask something meaningless just so I could hear his voice and started crying. His only response was whispering the words, please come home. And I did and it was hard. We had different skin and things were heavy, but I could handle the weight then. 28 wasn't so bad.
This year has brought a lot of change, birthing the bean not withstanding. I met my sister for the first time and felt her pain and remembered mine about our father. I saw what my life could have been and it scared me. I have hugged my mother and husband more in thanks since that meeting. I decided that I couldn't do my father and step mother anymore. I couldn't handle the instant love they had for my daughter, the resentment I still held towards him and I never imagined how freeing it would be to realize I didn’t have to deal with them anymore. I gave up something professionally that I had been working towards for 10 years. After I put the letter in the mail slot I tried to stick my hand back in and get it, but it was gone. I got the conciliatory letter back saying they were sad to see me go but wished good things for me. I lost another part of my family by doing that. I lost something that at one time was all I ever wanted to do.
This year I gained more responsibility at my job and was complimented by a leading fundraiser in the city where I live. I won two awards for applications I submitted for my agency and I raised enough money to ensure that children would still have a place to sleep and be safe at during the night. I had a baby. A little girl that still brings tears to my eyes when I look into hers, a little girl I never thought I would have and didn't think I deserved. A little girl that has made me love her more than I ever thought I could. My husband and I have entered a new season, one of sleepless nights, dried oatmeal in our hair and tiny socks mixed in with ours. My love for him is deeper than it has ever been. It scares me that I am so vulnerable but if not with him, then who? I have good friends who I love like family and I have family that I love no matter what.
I can't even begin to imagine what my 30's will look like. I seem to think they will be full of wine parties with close friends, laughter that makes me cry and kisses that are so wet I have to wipe my cheek afterwards. There will be tears and hurt because there always is but in return there is always grace and hope. I am more confident now than ever before. It feels good.