Happy Birthday, Me
Yesterday was my 32nd birthday. If it weren't for the cards and singing, I might have forgotten, which would be a shame since birthdays are celebrations of personhood - not just that we were born, but that we are. (The pic is of me and my mom, chatting one morning in my backyard this past summer. Thanks, Mom [and Dad] for having me.)
For me, birthdays are an occasion to intentionally reflect on the past year, and to consider plans for the coming one. So, naturally, when Christie and I sat down for dinner at Angelina's, and after a few obligatory toasts, the topic of conversation was me.
This last year was (surprisingly?) one of considerable change. It didn't start out looking like a very special year, but by the end turned out to be quite memorable. John died. I changed not just jobs but entire industries. I continued graduate studies, then quit, then started again. My parents came up to visit (twice). How many pruning and yard projects with friends? More jars of applesauce and blackberry jam than we could eat alone in a year. And so on....
The two biggest events, of course, are the death of my father-in-law and my new job. Both of them continue to affect me deeply. I continue to mourn John's passing; and I continue to tremendously enjoy my new job.
In fact, working for the church in large part consumes any personal goals I have this year. This job encourages me to develop myself and this position in ways that I am really excited about doing. Few jobs are so caught up with one's personal development or personality. I have professional goals, of course, but most of what I conceive my "job" or "position" to be is what I would want to be doing anyway!
It's my job to organize, equip and inspire people to transform the world! How cool is that?! (I think the only comparable job is my friend Randy's position as a high school social studies teacher - except I'm not as bound by curriculum, testy parents and the WASL.) It's my job to be friendly - to reach out to people. It's my job to build a name for my church in the social justice activist community. It's my job to preach! My job to read, study, and reflect on the scriptures and connect that story with our ongoing story in our world. My job to learn and grow; to process and offer the results to my congregants. What a year I have ahead of me.
The past year was no small feat itself. My circle of friends expands and contracts - inhales and exhales - with surprising rhythm. I picked up the violin again (I need to keep up on practicing, of course). Christie and I are one-year less in debt, and one-year closer to considering having a child. I am one-year more invested in our garden and home (part of our zionic experiment). And I am one-year more in touch with those underlying, subterranean, guiding forces that seem to populate my dark places.
But mostly, I think I am one year happier. Despite all the struggles and sufferings of living and loving, I am happier this February 26th than I was last. I am blessed with a wonderful wife, home, family, group of close friends, job, and a curious peace of mind (curious, because there's so much in me that is tied to turmoil). I have one more year of enviable history under my belt - and it looks like this next year will be more of the same (for better and for worse).
Perhaps just mere thankfulness is a good place to spend one's birthday. Mere thankfulness, and an afternoon in a sun-dappled cafe with a cup of Earl Grey tea.
If I write a chapter of a book someday, "mere thankfulness" would make a good title.