Well here it is. It came rolling in with a bang! (Hardly! Unless you consider scrubbing dirty dishes and doing piles of laundry long into the night!)
Somehow I thought it would be different. In my 20’s, I always envisioned by life at 40, happy, career driven with a wonderful family and not a care in the world. Everything would surely be perfect as I had lived my life the first 30 years, without any tragedy or major challenge.
Earlier this morning, the tears started to fall as I realized I was turning 40 and upon me is another birthday without my daughter. No matter how much time passes, the dreaded “this is my 9th birthday without her” thoughts, coming barging in without an invitation, packing bits of sorrow accompanied with loving memories of how life used to be.
It’s so incredibly hard to believe….
Where have the last 8 + years gone? I couldn’t tell you but looking back, they did scream by terribly fast. I was overcome with that rotten feeling of sadness, reminding me of how life was when I had just turned 30. My 20’s were grand, full of excitement and adventure, spontaneity and determination. It was full of confidence, friends, graduations, weddings, parties and new beginnings. And then the decade of the 30’s arrived, and only one year into them, at 31, tragedy struck and my life was instantaneously shattered into a million pieces, leaving me felling like a helpless child. When Lydia died, I lost everything. I had no direction, no purpose, and no motivation for life. My existence had been reduced to crumbs.
But somehow, some miraculous way, God held me up and gave me the strength to keep going and rebuild my life, despite my reluctance. Turning 40 for me has been a time to reflect and examine the old me and the new me and how much my life has changed.
So how is life now?
I’m happy, but also sad. I’m so blessed, yet broken inside. I’m still learning to balance these delicate feelings of grief and sorrow that ambush me at moment’s notice, while still being able to experience amazing joy and gifts of each new day.
The fog has lifted. The me who lived a decade ago is not here anymore. Not sure where she went but, an older and wiser me has evolved. I’ve learned about forgiveness and generosity, perseverance and deep love. And I’ve finally figured out how I like to eat my eggs- (scrambled), and that my favorite time of day is just at twilight when the sun it setting. The sky is illuminated in a magnificent light that amplifies the spectacular rainbow of colors, bringing peace to my soul.
As I look at the reflection in the mirror, I see a woman who feels old as the creases on my face get more noticeable. I feel exhausted, and deeply scarred. Yet on the contrary, I also see someone who is strong, full of faith and is a thriving survivor of life’s most horrific circumstances, whose direction in life has been made clear.
The most important thing I’ve learned in the past 8 years, is that if we allow Him, God will turn our grief, sorrow, and anger into something so beautiful. The trauma, the flashbacks of that horrific moment, were like stabbing pains directly through my heart, over and over again, hour after hour, day after day, penetrating my core. Yet, beneath all the pain was a tiny spark of hope that I was determined to uncover. As I reached for the light that I could just barely see, He gently brushed away what kept it hidden, and slowly He began to strengthen me, mold me, and refine all that He created in me. What He has clearly shown me in this process is that through recognizing His work in our own lives, God is able to give us the ability to see others in a different light, with a heart full of compassion. Finding meaning, and living fully with passion and purpose, is what life is all about. It’s unfortunate that it often takes us being broken and at rock bottom, before we can see the light through the cracks. But, my God is faithful, full of mercy, and His love is immeasurable.
No one is exempt from tragedy. No one is exempt from accidents or mistakes. Guilt, regret, and shame do not have to haunt us. I made a choice-a choice to find hope. I learned to gently let go of those things that weighed so heavily on me, slowly removing the blanket that once enveloped me. Although scary, I was able to get through it by clinging to my faith. He works miracles, and is the only one who has the power to bring amazing beauty out of total devastation.
For now, when I feel that time is just rushing by way too fast, I try to slow down, to read those books to my children, to play games, pick ugly flowers that they think are beautiful, explore and appreciate the sloppy kisses, silly questions, fantastic indiscernible artwork, adorable animals and make ample time for the simple things, learning that a little gratitude goes a long way. I’ve learned to embrace my unorganized, chaotic and messy life, making room for what really matters.
The scars on my arm have forever marked me providing me a daily reminder of my arduous journey, dividing my life into “before and after.” Something that I will carry with me always. Presently, I have no idea what the 40’s will bring, however, I know I’m equipped to handle whatever life throws at me.
So, my advice to you all, if I can do this, so can you.