My 40th Birthday Toast
Because of a variety of circumstances I began this decade in deeper pain and exhaustion than I ever thought I could survive. And then I went on to experience a sudden near-death for my son and me; a week long coma; a decade of very serious health problems for my daughter; the darkest economic struggles I have ever faced and a variety of situations that were personally very painful.
To say this last decade (12.5 years really) was difficult is a total understatement. I hit rock-bottom. I went through days where I completely and totally lost sight of my self in the fog and fight for survival. There were bright spots: I lost over 60 lbs (something I am only just now realizing was really, very strong ) including the 40 lbs I gained in 10 minutes (crazy!) during the crisis of Luke's birth.
I held onto my marriage. I loved my kids. And I reached out to friends. When over and over and over again my impulse was to hide, feel shame, withdraw, or even lie about the quality of all this pain: I didn't. I didn't give up. I fought for the truth. I believed in healing. I waited for hope. And, also, - finally - I learned what it means to let go. To trust.
To be caught.
And I have learned a lot. I learned to serve other people's dreams, totally and completely, and to make them my own. I learned the meaning of grace and patience - for my self and as a mother. I learned how to de-fang the jaws of comparison. I learned I was a great teacher. I learned the power of touch and nurturing (it's so powerful!) I learned about the healing of just sitting and reading together on a couch. I learned what peace in a home feels like. And I learned the laughter from a puppy's unconditional love in a family. (It's no small thing!)
Most profoundly in my journey I learned about the incredible power of all-out vulnerability with no other motivation than to own my story & be who I really am. To quote a favourite author it really is "the birthplace of courage, connection and creativity."
I also learned how transformative it is to choose joy and to see beauty amidst imperfection. That is vulnerability in action. And for me, nothing applies those two things more than choosing to be in my body and choosing deep friendships. Both of those things delineate my life's journey, and both of those gifts have become my greatest enjoyment throughout my years.
Running, being in water, hiking in mountains, going for a walk - some days even just getting out of bed - and a myriad ways of reaching out to other women - are the acts of vulnerability for me. They are my way of saying: I am still here! I still feel (thank God) and I have not lost my self. I want to live this beautiful life. My physical activity out of doors and my connections with my friends have become the definition, and have drawn the contours, of who I am. And because of that I cannot thank you - each of you - enough for being a part of my journey.
I know this journey of mine is no where near over. But I am beginning to see more and more jewels beneath the rock bottom I'd hit. And, truthfully, I am not finding those gems in looking back. I had a epiphany when I read a line in a Mary Oliver poem at the beginning of this year. She said "...the answer [is] simply to rise in joyfulness all of [our] days." I find the treasures in my journey when I lace on, get up, and reach out each new morning. I find them in being present in the gift of each day and every year.
Every day ten years ago that I found the strength, the nerve even, to run the 1.3 miles around Lake Louise; every time I found the courage to push the double stroller with two babies through the Columbia neighbourhood, every Saturday that I found the companionship in asking girlfriends to join me trailrunning on Northlake; every steep hill I have gasped up on Chandler and on Barkley; every 5am alarm that I've set, every time I walked into a group and said: "I love to run, actually" - I was choosing a joy deeper than I even understood. I was choosing to be myself.
And for every friend that has walked - or run - beside me, and believed in me, I am more me than I would've been without you. I have so been looking forward to turning forty. And as I've been stretching out my limbs in this new decade I have found my self feeling real joy about being here. I like being this age. It feels like a victory - and it feels like anticipation. I'm excited about what is to come.
One of the reasons I wanted to have this party was to have a chance to thank each of you for the immense gift of your friendships & for your help in authoring my story. Both its details & its outcome. Thank you for being the sweetest of my birthday gifts. Thank you for bearing witness to my victories and for being so full of grace and patience for my weaknesses. I can not do life without my girlfriends, nor do I ever want to. Thank you, each of you, for being my fortieth birthday gifts.
So today, for my fortieth birthday, I want to toast to the absolute joy of friendship, to the power vulnerability and to the anticipation of what is to come. I want to raise my glass to life! Thank you for celebrating all its joys - and surviving all the hard parts - with me!
all of the flowers from my friend's garden
my friend's trike - the basket was full of Izzes
the brunch table getting set up
one of my favourite parts of a party
a special photo from forty years ago
it was 90 degrees on my party day
my early morning helper
beauty in buckets
Kezi helped with the prettiest details
it was so hot we borrowed tents for shade
some of my favourites
orange and aqua