(Warning: VERY long, rambling, and self indulgent post... but it's my birthday, and I can do that if I want...)
When the clock strikes 11:47 am this morning, I will have been on this earth for 51 years. I've lived those years, every single one of them, but it is inconceivable to me that I have been alive that long. When I think of my grandmother I think of her at this age... not me.
What a ride this has been. Nothing at all like I expected it to be. What's that saying... "When you want to hear God laugh just tell Him your plans"? It's funny how, this far into this adventure, even I laugh when I look back at those clearly drawn plans I had when I was standing on the threshold of adulthood.
Looking back now I realize, had I been given the life I mapped out, I would have missed so much. I would have lived a flat and dispassionate life, and I think I would have felt so much less fulfilled. I would have never known how deeply I am capable of loving another being. Or how much pain I could feel at the loss of such a love. I would have never understood what a true friend is, and how important they are to help you navigate through that pain... nor would I have ever been given the chance to be the kind of friend to share another's pain. I would have never learned how powerful a touch, or a look, or a word can be.
Never would I have had the chance to make a horrible mistakes, and I would never have learned from them.
I would never have had the opportunity to realize that my soul has depths that I haven't even begun to fathom yet.
So, on this special day of mine, let me share with you the best gifts I have received in these 51 years...
Without question... my children. There aren't even words that can explain what a gift they are to me. They are, without question, the most amazing thing that has happened. To have experienced their growth inside of me, then to experience their births... each so unique and different, just like the children coming into the world through those births. And the years that have come after... gifts beyond compare, each and every moment I have had with these beautiful souls that the heavens have allowed me to care for.
My son, who was so shy when he was young, and who grew into the most amazing, funny, gregarious, talented and shining young man, I couldn't have asked for more in a son. He's now found a young woman who appreciates him for all that he is, and he adores her the same way. I have a great feeling about them, they are wonderful for each other. And I count myself lucky to have her as a daughter I didn't give birth to, and that she indulges me by allowing me to love her like one.
My daughter. Mother and daughter relationships can be difficult... My own mother and I really were not fond of each other. But my daughter... such a gift. Beautiful, smart, a little on the sassy side, but I think she comes by that naturally (from her father's side of the family of course). Again, had I given the heavens a list of everything I wanted in a daughter, they would have given me her.
Truly, there are no words to explain what a gift these three are to me. And I didn't even have to unwrap them...
They aren't the only gifts though. I have this most amazing group of wonderful, strong, beautiful women around me who I count as my friends. In the last year we have experienced births and deaths and life changes together. We've shared joys and hopes and dreams and sorrows and laughter and tears. We have come together in this bond of friendship that I consider one of the best gifts I have ever received. Not having a large family of my own, these have become my adopted "family", and I love them each and every one. Kellye, Pat, Connie, Margaret... and everyone else... you are wonderful and amazing gifts in my life, and I so very much appreciate you all.
My own flesh and blood sister, Joyce. I don't see her enough, but I know she is there, and I love her. We share the same background, but experienced it from different perspectives... and now, as adults ourselves, we have shared those perspectives and come to understand each other better, and I appreciate the gift of my sister.
My "surrogate" mother... Joyce (yes, two Joyces). She's leaving in September to go be with her real son, daughter-in-law and two grandsons. She's been a constant, if sometimes annoying, loving "mother" to me when I really needed her... and before she gets down there with those babies, I really want her to know that she has been a good mother to me, and I love her, and appreciate what a gift she has been in my life.
And the other people in my life who make it so special... and you know who you are... you are a wonderful gift as well.
The birds that sing outside my window each morning, the loyal dog who lies at my feet whilst I type my posts (who is ALWAYS happy to see me and infinitely patient with me), that magnolia tree outside my window that shares its glorious white blooms and beautiful scent, the fireflies that always remind me of stars falling to earth... the bunny who hopped across my yard today as I got home from work, and the snake that lives in the back yard...and so many more things that make my life worth experiencing... I appreciate the gift of being able to see miracles in little things. It's a gift that serves me well.
Those gifts... the things that cannot be wrapped, but have to be felt and experienced and shared to be fully appreciated... those are the gifts in life that count. They bring meaning and depth to an otherwise bland landscape of simply living. They allow me to breathe deeply, live passionately, and appreciate life for what it is... such a grand adventure.
And now, in closing... since I do want to get a bit of celebrating in today... to you, my dear readers... those of you who take the time to drop by, to comment, to encourage, and even to scold sometimes... you are a wonderful gift. You inspire me, you challenge me, you share of yourselves and make this a better experience. You teach me... you let me share your experiences, your wisdom, your cultures... you are a beautiful gift that I am thankful for too.
Thank you all for letting me share my journey to find grace with each of you.
And now... on to the next year, and the next chapter of this amazing journey!
Who brought cake?