Hills and Valleys

My questions confirmed that this indeed is a drawing of a hill with a gravestone on top!
My questions confirmed that this indeed is a drawing of a hill with a gravestone on top!

It is official:  there was a hill and I’m over it.  Funny…I don’t even remember climbing it. Oh well, I’ve heard that memory lapses with age.  And I’m forty now, so I’d better get used to it.

Now what was I writing about?

Oh, yes.

Each year, when I tack another year onto my age, I tend to glance over my shoulder to see where I’ve been and if I’m heading where I think I should be.  My heart is a fairly accurate compass, but my brain wants to see for itself.

I feel content in our new environment (four months ago, we moved from the desert of Phoenix to the cooler climate of pines, further north in Arizona.) From this horizon, I realize that the last two years had been an emotional valley.  Acknowledging the peace I feel now, I guess my son was right:  I have summited a hill.

But there is no gravestone at the top.

Despite what I imagined forty to be half a lifetime ago, I feel energetic and ready to discover what the next year (or twenty) has in store.  Age may be staking claim on aspects of my appearance, but it doesn’t fool me into thinking the best is behind me.

I may be getting rough in my old age, but I still have blooms in me :)
I may be getting rough in my old age, but I still have blooms in me 🙂

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”  (1 Samuel 16:7)

Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next. (1 Timothy 4:8)


Why I Hate My Birthday (it’s not skin deep)

I don’t hate many things at all because it’s so much more productive to embrace the world, but I do hate my birthday.  The low feeling starts on July 1st, because my birthday is in July and I just want it to pass without any fuss.  My dislike of birthdays isn’t for the vanity reasons one might expect of a later thirty-something, although I’m not especially pleased with the new wrinkles or the gray hairs that appear faster than I can clip them. 

Before I reveal why birthdays are not on my “love it” list, a little background might help.  Growing up, I had an awkward phase that lasted from birth to about sixteen years old.  (Not exaggerating).  I tried to keep to myself, but always seemed to be a magnet for meanness.  Most memories are fuzzy remnants that are buried so deep I can’t piece them together, but some words I still remember clearly.

My parents didn’t know the gory details of what went on at school, but I’m sure they noticed I didn’t have tons of friends hanging around the house.  They tried to make me feel better and told me the other kids didn’t know how special I was or they were jealous of me.  I rolled my eyes at the special comment, and, even at the time, the latter didn’t make sense.  I couldn’t figure out what they could possibly be jealous of…was it the pale skin?  The glasses?  The teeth that only an orthodontist could love?  Or was it frizzed-out curly hair that I had when straight hair was all the rage?

My Grandparents lived down the street and I’d play at their house after school.  My Grandma always had snacks for me and the kids across the street (they hung out with me because my Grandma was friends with their Grandma and our moms went to school together too).  My Grandpa made me super-sweet Nestea instant tea with so much sugar that I think bees could mistake it for nectar.  No one could make tea like him.  (Several years ago I tried; it was gross).  My Grandpa’s birthday happened to be a few days after mine, which I always thought was cool. 

My Grandpa passed away several years ago after a long sickness.  Since then, my birthday has been a memorial rather than a celebration of another year of my life.  I miss him and imagine I always will.  Of course, I think about him throughout the year.  But July is harder, because it was our time and now I’m left to ‘celebrate’ alone.  Of course, I’m never physically alone, because I have family around me…but my heart just isn’t in it.

As an adult, my Mom told me stories about how my Grandpa worried throughout my childhood that I wouldn’t be tough enough.  She said he worked to make me stronger.  True, he did pick on me (in a nice way), but I grew up oblivious to his plan.  He didn’t want the world to trample me; he wanted me to have a mind and be able to speak it.  He wished I’d be able to say “yes” only when I wanted to and “no” when I needed to.  He urged me to be my own person and not who anyone else told me to be.  My Mom laughed at times when I would respond to him as a young child with a pouty lip, “I’m not tough.”  He knew what I didn’t:  if you let it, the world will eat you alive.

Guess what?  I think he succeeded.  I could have given up (and almost did) when I thought I couldn’t take the pain any longer.  I could’ve been an eager-to-please follower, but by the time I got through high school, I learned to stand my ground.  I value friendship because I know what it’s like not to have them; I have compassion, because I know what it feels like at the bottom of a deep well of sadness; and I found out that when you break, you pull it together and come back stronger.  I’m sad, but feeling…well, “tough” right now.  I AM tough.  When my birthday rolls around, I will put on my happy face and show thanks to those who remember, because I really do appreciate that they care.  At the moment, I feel like I can handle anything.  In fact, bring on the story critiques, query rejections and comments that this blog post stinks.  I can take it.

Thank you, Grandpa.  Happy birthday to us…