One of the important things I’ve learned during this time of change and uncertainty is that it’s important to recognize and celebrate my own milestones, rather than expecting others to notice and comment on them. Today, I turn 41. As hard as it is for me, it’s time for a little self-love. And if you’re also finding yourself still standing after a year from hell, this card is for you too. Let’s celebrate.
Dear 41-year-old Holly,
Happy birthday, friend! You’re another year older, hopefully wiser, (definitely grayer!) and that is something to celebrate.
This year has been rough, there’s no two ways around it.
You’ve had to question your faith, your purpose and sometimes your sanity. You’ve had to be more vulnerable than you’d like to be, and sometimes your request for support has been ignored. You’ve watched as those you love have been victimized and despite your best efforts you were unable to protect them. You put self-care on the back burner and watched your weight and blood pressure rise. You took pills to help you focus and pills to help you sleep.
365 days ago you promised yourself that your 40th year would be your best ever. A year later, you’re just happy you made it through to 41.
But you made it.
Don’t for a single second take for granted the gifts of the past year.
Questioning what you’d always been taught about Christianity and religion, making decisions based on love, and being able to let go of judgement has brought you closer than ever to a God who loves you just as you are. Leaving your full-time job has allowed you the opportunity to spend more time with your family and do the things that truly bring you joy.
Admitting that anxiety was taking over your life led to an ADHD diagnosis that provides treatment and the ability to understand years of feeling like everything had to be perfect to be tolerable. Being vulnerable and reaching out to new people has brought you some of the truest friendships you’ve experienced in all your years. Learning who is willing to be by your side in difficult times and who is unable to walk with you has helped you set boundaries and distance yourself from relationships that have hurt you in the past.
Watching loved ones be victimized has strengthened your resolve to never remain silent on things that matter, to speak up and speak out for those that cannot do it for themselves and to hold people accountable for their actions. Ignoring your own needs for a prolonged period of time, and the aftereffects of sickness and mental health struggles, has encouraged you to recommit to taking care of yourself; “you can’t pour from an empty pitcher” has become your mantra.
You’ve struggled, you’ve wrestled, you’ve survived. Remember the Bible story of Jacob wrestling with the angel? He was all alone in the dark. He struggled and fought with the enemy through the night until daybreak and he didn’t let go until he was blessed.
You didn’t let go before the blessing. You hung on and fought with all you had in you.
You learned to let go of things that were too heavy to carry any longer: perfection, striving, fear of failure, worrying about what others think of you. You’ve discovered this year that you are strong enough to fight until you can see the light. That you can be alone with God and still have and be all that you need.
You have been blessed. Not “lucky,” not “fortunate,” but BLESSED. The kind of blessed that comes with struggle and pain and heartache. This experience will forever change and improve who you are. Where, like Jacob and his limp, your walk might not be as carefree as it was before, but you know you can keep going.
Maybe 40 was your best year yet after all. Or maybe it was your worst year. It was probably a little of both. Either way, I’m proud of you. I can’t promise that 41 is going to be any easier than 40, you’re still deep in the trenches and the best is yet to come. But you’re definitely more equipped for the fight than you were a year ago. March on, warrior.
Take your wisdom and fly into 41, sweet girl. You’re more than enough.
The world needs you just as you are. Everything is just as it should be.