It’s hard to believe another year has come and gone and I’m sitting here pondering the last year of my life yet again, trying to put something meaningful into words to share with all of you for my annual birthday post (you can read last year’s here). To be honest, this one has been tough to write. Perhaps because it’s been another year of things not going as planned, and another year that’s felt heavy, and laden with loss. But as seems to be the case with each year that passes, I also continue to find myself digging in and finding the lessons, the good. And of course clinging to the in-between moments that have been filled with peace and joy. Which is what I hope I can somehow put to words today.
I remember a couple of years ago, my mom referring to my journey as that of a butterfly. As excruciating as what happened to me was, as she watched me struggle to reconcile and rebuild my life, she also knew something good, something beautiful would come from it, even thought it might be a long process and journey to get there. And how right she was. But just like a caterpillar, had my journey been cut short or not complete, I would never have had the chance to rebuild a happy life, just like a caterpillar who’s process is cut short, never has the chance to be come a beautiful butterfly. It’s a really beautiful metaphor when you stop think about it. Because the reality is, we will all have struggles and trials that will come in this life. But I have found, first hand, that it’s often in those struggles where strength is born. And courage. And grit. And beauty. And kindness. And character. And HOPE. I truly, truly believe beautiful things can and will emerge from every struggle and trial we face in this life. We were all meant to become butterflies.
So with that said, here are the things that come to mind as I take stock and look back on the 38th year of my life, and look forward with hope and anticipation to year 39:
Happiness is worth fighting for. I lived a majority of life with happiness as my default. It came totally naturally for me. But I also think that caused me to exist a bit in auto pilot. So when things suddenly came crashing down, I found myself having to fight for happiness, and to seek out joy. But I’ve found because I have to fight for it, recognize it, and don’t take it for granted anymore, happiness has become deeper and more fulfilling for me. Sometimes it’s as simple as taking an inventory of the things I love. Letting go of things that no longer serve me. Writing down things I’m grateful for. Setting some goals. Having boundaries. Making choices to protect or create joy in my life (even if those choices feel hard). Being intentional about being with people or encouraging them. Choosing to spend time doing things that I love. Even on hard days, I try and find at least one thing I can be grateful for, or try and do at least one thing that makes me happy. Even if that’s as simple as a cup of coffee in the morning or telling someone I love them.
It’s ok to struggle. This one feels particularly hard for me this time around. Sometimes I look back at the last 5 years and they feel so long, and I feel so weary. And I’m honestly tired of the struggle. I don’t know how many of you are familiar with the Enneagram, but I am a 9 (the Mediator) with a strong 1 wing (the Perfectionist). And while I have a deep desire for inner peace, the perfectionist in me is also quite strong. Particularly that brutal self critic. And sometimes when I struggle, I find myself frustrated that I can’t just get over it. But the reality is, we all struggle and we’re all going to keep struggling. And that’s ok. Whether it’s something small, or something big, or even if it’s something you think is silly, it’s ok to extend grace to yourself and to be how you need to be, and feel what you need to feel. We don’t have to be perfect, or pretend that we are. I actually find when I let myself feel the struggle, and sit in and allow myself to work through what’s going on, I feel exponentially better. In fact, this morning I had a good cry when I woke up, alone on my birthday. It felt heavy and hard, because of course waking up alone is not how I would have ever expected to kick off the 39th year of my life. But I let myself cry it out and move through that grief, and now I feel like I can be present and truly enjoy the rest of my day.
Life (or pieces of it) probably won’t work out the way we hope or plan for. I talk about this one a lot, because it’s particularly applicable and difficult for me. It’s something I’ve been working though and I’m learning how I can be ok, happy even, if my life doesn’t have the outcome I dream about. But in recognizing that, as hard as it does feel sometimes, it has also allowed me to stop thinking, I’ll be happy when…, I’ll be happy if…It’s forced me to be present, to fight for my happiness, and to recognize that happiness starts with me first. No matter my circumstances. There are so many things we can’t control in this life, and if we put our focus there, it’s difficult to be present and appreciate the now. Even if things look different than how we thought they might, there is always beauty somewhere to be found.
Grief never really goes away. When I started out on my journey, I think I thought about grief as something that disappears over time. But what I’ve learned, is that it doesn’t. Of course it changes, and it takes up different space in our lives and hearts as time goes on. But that grief, that loss, is something that will forever be a part of us and our journey. The important piece however, is allowing it to refine us, rather than define us. I’ve also learned the importance of recognizing what it is, and how it might present itself. Particularly as time goes by, or when we aren’t expecting it. Grief is a part of all of our stories, and it certainly shapes us, but it isn’t who we are.
Change is hard, but necessary. I don’t love change. You can ask any of my friends. Haha! But for the last couple of years, I knew I needed a change from the SLC. Even though I have the best friends I’ve ever had in my life there, I just wasn’t happy in Utah anymore. And so I made the excruciating, yet exciting decision to move home to Montana (you can read more about that here). And it’s been hard guys. I am not going to lie. But at the same it’s also been really amazing. And while my heart has been more at peace here than I can ever remember it being, I also recognize that part of my heart will always be in Utah with those friends. But in the end, even thought part of it will always hurt, I’m so grateful I made that hard decision to follow my heart home to my beloved Montana and family. I can promise you guys it’s worth it to do the hard thing. To make the change you need to make. To do that thing that’s been pressing on your heart. Even if there are pieces of it that hurt, it will be worth it.
Life is hard, but we don’t have to be. As I’ve watched our world collectively shut down these last couple months, and our lives as we know them be drastically changed, and stripped down to the bare necessities. The heart break of job loss, isolation, illness, and death has made me angry. It feels horribly unfair. And it is. But instead of letting that anger take hold, I’m trying to think about what good I can do instead. Where I can grow and how can this hard situation make me better instead of bitter? I’ve said this in previous posts, but I don’t want the hard things to harden me. I want them to strengthen me, but also help me to be a softer, kinder, more considerate person. And so in this season I’m finding myself trying harder than ever to be kind to strangers, to encourage the people I love, and to find joy in the simple things. The other morning I had coffee at my parents, socially distanced on their front porch. When I got in the car to drive home, I was so frustrated because I haven’t hugged them or even been in their house in weeks. BUT that simple coffee date also ended up being the highlight of my week. And it makes me grateful that life has slowed down so much that I can truly appreciate moments like that, instead of just glossing over them in the hustle and bustle of every day life.
People and relationships mean everything. When I lost everything as I knew it in my life a few years ago, it was the people around me that remained steadfast. My family and my friends. And in this challenging season that we’re all experiencing, where loss is swirling around us, it’s very much the same. We may be isolated and with out jobs, or the ability to do things we used to normally do, but the people in our lives who we love remain. And at the end of the day, that to me is what matters the most. Year after year, this continues to be the greatest lesson, and the most important gift that I have in my life. And I am forever thankful for all of the incredible people I am blessed to link arms with and share in this big beautiful, sometimes heartbreaking existence. We should ALL be so lucky.
Photo Credit: Hope Kauffman (go find her on IG: @hkcameraface)
And as always, I just want to say a HUGE thank you to all of you who have been following me on this journey. Your kindness and encouragement towards me really means the world. I feel like I have a whole army of people cheering me on from afar, and that is pretty incredible. So here’s to 39, and making this last year of my 30’s count. The good the bad, and every single moment in between.
LOVE YOU GUYS!!