Thursday, August 23, 2012

What I Said

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



Jennifer Jo said...

Happy happy happy!!!

Corli said...

Oh happy happy birthday!! What a beautiful celebration! All those jewel colors!
Thank you for reaching out to me via the internet when I was so very homesick - it meant more to me than you probably knew.
Thank you too for your fight for beauty, joy, truth. I loved this post. I love the things you found. It is truly inspirational.
May you have a beautiful new decade!
Much love.

BettyDuffy said...

Looks like a beautiful day!
Happy birthday1

Anonymous said...

wonderful, wonderful! so blessed you're back <3 Happy Birthday!!!

Sara said...

Love. So much love.

Carla said...

I just stumbled here from Kari's blog... Because I'm making her carrot soup. Thank you for all the invitations to friendship over these past 5 (?) years. You are one lovely lady. I do hope to run/walk with you soon. XOXO

Anonymous said...

dear misha,
just have to say hello and missing your blogging again. :) I have hardly done any myself for a long while, but it does tend to be therapeutic when I do. But sometimes life needs more attention :) Just wanting to say hi and hint around (beg?) for some of your lovely profound thoughts :) shauna

Misha Leigh. said...

Hi Shauna,

Thank you so much for your sweet comment/email. I am not blogging right now, but I am working on a book and will probably start a website with that at some point in the near future. If I do, I will put the link on that blog so you can see it. So I'm sorry there's is not more writing happening here!

But I do want to say thank you for saying what you did. The timing of your words was a real encouragement to me in the writing I am working on. So thank you for that! I'd love your prayers for this book. So if you think of it, that would be awesome. : )



Anonymous said...

Well, that is wonderful news! Yes, your blog has been a real encouragement to me through a hard season, and I'm always checking for your new thoughts :) and yet I can fully appreciate a new direction for those lovely words of yours :) Looking forward to the book! Blessings and will pray!
In Him,

Kjersten said...

Just checking in to see if you are writing! I have loved your writing since I discovered your beauty and joy blog and have long appreciated your honesty and insights. Your words have been an encouragement to me. Praying for peace and wisdom as you write your book!
All is grace,

Jessica Stock said...

Hi Misha! I just noticed a comment from a while ago from you and it made me think of you . .. wanted to tell you that I miss you and your blog! And I love, love this post!

R Watters said...

Missing your blog, hope all is well!!