Happy Birthday to Me.
A year ago, today, I was celebrating my birthday in Cape Cod, courtesy of a very generous gift from a long-time friend. On the spur of the moment, I packed a bag and was gone for a long weekend, across the country. It was a much longer trip than I’m used to, for a weekend getaway in Europe but it was a trip back in time to a girl I knew in acting school in New York. We had a good time but neither of us could have predicted the way life would go down for me later in that summer or the way it would go down in the world, for the past 6 months and into the foreseeable future.
A year ago we celebrated my birthday and we celebrated a nearly life-long friendship. It was a brief but glorious weekend crammed full of adventure and laughter.
This year, I had intended to be spend my birthday undertaking a pilgrimage on el Camino de Santiago de Compostela. It was clear, last July, that my body was not going to cooperate for that to happen this summer. World events made it impossible for me to make the trip and for my friend in Singapore to join me. Maybe next year. Maybe not. So much right now is out of my control.
So, what would I like to see a year from now? I have some goals and some ideas that I’d like to keep working away at seeing come to fruition. I’m not convinced that I will still be living where I am but I suppose I might as well stay here until I’ve worked my way through the jars of pasta and rolls of toilet paper that I’ve collected to keep me from having to venture into stores. I could begin to train for the physical demands of a pilgrimage and in that, use the time as a walking meditation so that a year from now, I will have deepened my practice. There are a few relationships that are in various stages of blossoming and I’d like to tend the garden of my life, uprooting the plants that have spread beyond their borders and nurturing those that appear to be fruitful.
I have learned that its sometimes best not to talk about your goals (says she who has committed to living 10,000 days of gratitude!) because it takes the energy out of actually achieving those goals. So, I keep a whiteboard in my home and on it are my goals and tasks that I think are worthy of more time.
During this pandemic lockdown, it seemed that time seemed to both speed up and slow down at the same time. I know that I have never been this present for the spring ever before. We are now removing restrictions on our activity and I’m not so sure that I want to create a great change in the way I spend my time. I’d like to see some friends – physically distant, and I intend to work my garden and hopefully to get on the water at least a little bit this summer. But I spend most of my day working at a job I don’t really enjoy. My spare time is so very precious that recreation isn’t something I’m really itching to fill my time. I have a lot I want to do and being creatively productive is the best recreation I can have – that and a paddle on a hot Sunday afternoon, of course.
I have spent a lot of time trying to escape this place where I live. I don’t think I will be here for much longer but God has a funny way of messing with a human’s plan. For someone who has a desire to renounce the world and go walkabout, it is interesting that I have found myself grounded by circumstance for longer than this pandemic. In that grounding, the seeds of some beautiful long-distance friendships and the cultivating of long-distance spiritual fellowship has made my captivity into a hermitage.
One day I hope to travel el Camino de Santiago de Compostela but, as it is written, it is about the way and not the destination. And that is a good thing to reflect upon as I celebrate another trip around the sun.
I don’t know where I will be a year from now. None of us do. This past year has taught me that tomorrow isn’t guaranteed and it certainly isn’t guaranteed to exist in a world that isn’t fundamentally changed. I’m grateful for the physical requirement to stop and be still. I’m also grateful for the global pause that we have been in. Both were painful and will continue to be so. But, I trust that it was what I needed to begin to get uncomfortable enough to stop and look before I go and move in another direction. I’m grateful for the internal pilgrimage of the heart that I have undertaken, this past year, and I intend to continue slowing down and making each next footfall a meditation as I navigate this labyrinth called life. Most of all, I’m so truly grateful to be alive and to have the good fortune to celebrate another year of grateful living.