On Turning 30 and Having a Long Way to Go

July 7th was my 30th birthday. I wrote a little bit about my thoughts on turning 30 here and about what i wanted for my birthday. And i can tell you now this birthday was not what I had envisioned. But, it was so good and I will never forget it. The week before my birthday I stumbled upon this quote by Henri nouwen:

Celebrating a birthday is exalting life and being glad for it. On a birthday, we do not say: 'Thanks for what you did, or said, or accomplished.' No, we say: 'Thank you for being born and being among us.'

My heart stirred reading this, but I didn't realize till much later how appropriate this quote was going to end up being for me on my 30th birthday.

You see I have a deep struggle, I desperately want people to like me, but I don't believe I'm worthy of being liked. I am a people pleaser. I devalue myself, I reject myself and think at times that all that matters is what others think of me.

I thought that I was making good progress in learning to accept myself, and confidently assert myself. Funny, how right when you start to feel you're learning the lesson something comes along to show you how far you really have to go. My 30th was a little like that.

I tend to stuff my emotions, I tend to keep even my closest friends at safe distances, I tend to show only what I want to show. But, the weekend of my 30th, I found myself sick and stripped of some of my crutches to the point were I felt incredibly vulnerable and needy and in the end that resulted in some walls being broken and some realizations being made.

In some ways, and on the surface, my birthday was very much what I had planned. I had seven dear girl friends all spending the weekend with me eating, drinking, doing facials, doing henna, and talking, talking, talking. But, physically I was very sick with a fever of 102F. I could barely focus at times and I desperately wanted to just sleep. Internally there were intense people pleasing battles going on in my head. I felt deep guilt for asking people to spend time and money to come be with me on my birthday…and to then get sick…

And then it happened, and I'm not sure it would have if I hadn't been so sick, so tired, so emotionally raw, a dear friend did some healing touch energy work (ok, mom, don't freak out it wasn't as new agey as it sounds), and suddenly I was sobbing. A purer, deeper, cry than I had in years. The emotion that I kept putting off, hiding, avoiding, suddenly came to the service. Grief from goodbyes said years ago in Prague, anger for friendships cut short, sadness for a life my daughter will never know, fear for the unknown that lays ahead for me and my small family. Tears that I didn't even know I had came flooding out of me. Tears for my friends, tears for my family, tears for my children, and most of all tears for my husband and myself. I think if given the space I could have cried all day. Randomly sense then I find myself fighting back tears that still need to be spent, but can't quite be released.

In my 30th birthday I saw myself for a moment free from the walls I so carefully construct and realized that I am so weak, needy, hurt, broken, and fearful - so much more so than I thought!

I may be 30 now, but in many ways I am still a child. A child who carries a lot of baggage and a lot of unexpressed grief. A child who is terrified of what the next decade may hold. A child who still struggles to see herself as "beloved" and strains to hear the call of a good God speaking her name.

So often I think that in order to be loved, recognized, and celebrated by people or by God I have to earn it. I have to do or say something to please people. That's what struck me about that Henri Nouwen quote. And in a very tangible way I experienced that this birthday. I experienced it when my friends gave me big hugs, not caring at all if they got sick. I experienced it when my friend took care of me giving me herbs and other remedies for my congestion and fever. I experienced it when others made the meals and cleaned the dishes with smiles on their faces not caring at all that I didn't do a thing. I experienced it when my friends reminded me over and over to tell them what I really wanted instead of making decisions based on what I thought they would want. And I experienced it as my friend held me while I cried. There are those who carry me in their hearts, who are thankful just that I was born and am with them. And I am so grateful for their love - an incarnation of the Spirit's love.

May this decade bring me closer to love - to true unconditional, free from fear, incarnational love. In my 30's may I grow in seeing myself as I am, in truth, and grow in my ability to confidently be and show that truth to the world around me. May this decade bring deeper freedom of identity, deeper freedom of expression, deeper freedom of being. And as I discover that, may I grow more like the beautiful women who celebrated with me, freely loving others as I am freely loved. And as my 30's come to a close may I be a more whole, more open, more emotionally, spiritually and physically free to truly be, just be. Amen. Rejoicing in the journey, Bethany