Happy Birthday to Me

Dear sweet baby girl,
Dear sweet woman,

I don’t know how to address you because it feels so often like I am talking to both of you. It is hard, isn’t it? Riding that line between who you were and who you are now? I see your innocent face- those dear rosy cheeks and that haircut that you detested- short, the quintessential “boy” cut of the 60’s that your mom adopted because she didn’t do hair. So many memories come rushing back to as you float towards 50. I see you holding a baby pig up by its hind leg as you help your dad give them shots. How uncomfortable you were- the humid farrowing house, the heavy winter gear making you itch, the warm urine running down your arm into your coat and there you were- stuck, wet, hot, surrounded by squealing pigs. This memory is so strong because it seems there are many of those that center around your discomfort and how you could not shake it.

The hot outdoors, the freezing outdoors, the hours in the beating sun walking beans, picking rocks, helping in whatever needed to be done. You have wrestled so much with all of this. And, because of this gift you have, you have spent so much time wondering, why did it feel so hard to you? All of the things you spend so much time feeling resentment for are the very same things friends cherished when they discuss “growing up on the farm.”

It’s all done now. You made it. It was just the way it was. You have spent too much time, I think, trying to figure out what was wrong with how you felt about it instead of just accepting it wasn’t for you. More than all of this is knowing how your parents showed up for you time and time and time again, every year since you left. All the questions they didn't ask, all the support given by their presence in your life. All love, all the time. They were always for you. It is time for you to be for you, as well.

Dear sweet woman, look at how far you have come! You have endured so much loss. The harrowing years of loss- the miscarriage after miscarriage after miscarriage. Sometimes it still astounds you- to know you lost 7 babies. What you know now is that it was trauma. What you know now is that you did not let that trauma have a place. What you know now is that what doesn’t get acknowledged, doesn’t get time, doesn’t get to be seen and felt for truly what is will come back. And so that is why it has ridden down so deep in you for so long. And I am proud of you! For letting each of those losses out, bit by bit, word by word, tear after tear. You now know it wasn’t YOUR fault. It wasn’t something you did. It wasn’t something that you were. It just was. Each drop of blood, each little baby, gone- they were not meant to be yours. And here is another thing. It isn’t ok. It just won’t be. But it is and you can carry it and not let it be all of what makes you you.

Dear sweet woman. This will sound so anti-feminist that you will struggle to write this sentence, but it needs to be said anyway. You chose well! You have found a partner in life who is everything you’d hope for your own children. Dear Bob is funny and kind and patient (mostly) and so for you in all ways that it feels remarkable at times. His life’s mission is your joy. How did that happen? How did you see that? It was his eyes, you know that. They are always at the ready for a laugh and always so steady. He looks at you on a treadmill the same way he looks at you ready for a night out. It is his eyes that you choose to use more often when yours get cloudy. Your life together has been far from easy or perfect, but sweet woman, you feel deep in your bones the true meaning of gratitude and love each night you take his hand and each morning when the cup of coffee is sitting at your nightstand.

Dear sweet woman, the other thing that must be said, this thing you have struggled with for so long, is that you see that your depression is not you. It is a gift to know this, finally, at 50. It has leveled you. It has stopped you in your tracks, it has told you lies and made you small and it has kept you from being the woman writing this letter. It is simply a part of you- not all of you. Every bad minute, hour, day, week, or month is just that- a stretch of time that is dark, heavy, hard to wade through. But your record is strong- you get through it every single time! You come out and see the before, during and after. You have learned to remind yourself as much as needed...it passes, it passes, it passes. You don’t have to hide it. You don’t have to pretend it’s ok when what you feel is so clearly not. Those who love you know this, but better than that- you know. Sometimes, it is not ok.

Dear sweet woman, you do not know and it is ok. You do not know so much. You don’t know how it will all shake out for your parents, your children, your own self. You know the path you are on is only as clear as maybe the next right step. The best part here is that this feels just right to you. You used to want to plan it all and what I see is how much freedom you now feel for not knowing, for letting go, releasing your shoulders and accepting that you don't know.

I see how much you still like to micromanage your kids’ lives, but the feedback from your teens is clear. BACK. OFF. Micromanaging really only comes in handy for party planning but the rest of life? Not so much. And so I just love how you are moving forward without much of an agenda.

I love you dig into the things that matter to you and how you have slowly let go of those things that do not. This is true for people and how you spend your time. I like how you know that it’s ok to pay attention to how people make you feel and if the answer is “not good” then you don’t need to seek them out because of obligation.

You have always tried to so hard to listen and say with your eyes, “I see you”  for whomever you are with. But now...the gaze is slowly shifting, finally, to you.

Isn’t that what this letter is all about? I see you, Lisa. I see the little girl you were and the woman you are now and you are all of it. There are heaps of things I did not say here, and that too is ok. You know that your gift, the one that fuels the very heart of you, is not going away. The gift of sorting it all out in words will be something you return to again and again. You have accepted that you will never stop wrestling. It is who you are. It is the best thing about you. I like that you know this and so you know it is impossible to write one letter to yourself- there are letters to be written that will be fueled by anger, joy, and everything in between because you feel it all and want to understand it. That is you.

Happy Birthday, sweet woman. You are a gift and it is such a profound joy to see that you not only know this, but you believe it.


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