I had a birthday yesterday. I know birthdays can be viewed in different lens, but I’ve always found the beauty in them. Yes, we are one year older and lines around our eyes are perhaps more prominent as youthfulness gradually evolves into looks of wisdom. Joints ache more, and we don’t necessarily “bounce” after a tumble.
Birthdays can add flavor to a mundane work week. They can sprinkle joy into your world through birthday wishes, an excuse for cake, and an occasional sense of celebration. These senses of celebration are what fuel my passion for a good reason to celebrate the ones we cherish.
As many of our worlds, my life has experienced a series of growing pains during this past year. Absolutely, there were some major opportunities for rejoicing. I fulfilled my dream of becoming a fully licensed clinician and my success in the private practice world skyrocketed. I became busier than I ever imagined, and my connections to my coworkers bloomed into wonderfully rewarding friendships.
I married my best friend in the middle of a pandemic. I don’t know about you, but pandemics were not included in the list of things a bride-to-be needed to fret over. Postponing our date from May to August was one of the most tumultuous decisions I’ve had to make. That journey could have wreaked havoc on our relationship, and I can remember the crossroads we stumbled upon while the world was legitimately turned on its head.
This is when I began to recognize my choice. Even in the depths of fragility and despair. I could choose to be angry, sullen, and hyper-focused on the date we had put our money on (literally), or I could choose to reframe my mind and choose what I focused on.
Growing pains are not only in our legs, folks.
My relationship with my now husband blossomed this year in ways I cherish after I realized my choices sitting perplexed at these metaphorical crossroads. The date nor the pandemic nor the obstacles did not define our story nor our love. We embraced the fragility of plan-making and went along with our pandemic-friendly dance lessons. We learned exactly what it meant to love fiercely and flexibly.
Being 27 was challenging in ways no one had warned me about.
Friendships can deteriorate no matter how hard you protest.
Loneliness can sprout no matter how thick-skinned you may claim to be.
The people you once held so close to your heart can fade out of recognition due to pettiness, resentment, or trepidation to have adult conversations.
What the hell is that about?
I have learned that growing pains are woven into the complexity of relationships. No matter the type of relationship, these pesky pains are there, and they will occur eventually. Whether it be a mother-daughter relationship that faces the transition from parent-to-child to parent-to-adult child. Or perhaps a friendship from both being single to someone who gets married. The types of growing pains go on and on.
As a marriage and family therapist, you’d think that I’d already be aware of these complexities. Maybe it was a matter of “it’ll never happen to me”. Perhaps my innocence clouded my reality of what was to come. Whatever the case may be, I faced the truth head on. Some relationships cannot grow past the pains.
This drives my stubborn, empathetic heart NUTS.
Because I still miss them. I still love those that chose to succumb to the growing pains. My anger toward them is only there to mask the raw vulnerability I experience with the pain of this heartbreak.
Life is messy.
I want to highlight that LIFE is messy.
Sometimes we can become stuck in the unhelpful thought patterns of “ I’m the mess. I’m unlovable. I’m too much or not enough.” Trust me, been there. Done that.
And it’s SO unhelpful and untrue! We are humans, no matter how much time we spend trying to convince ourselves that we're not. We are feeling beings in a world chalk-full of unpredictability. This year has done a great job of showing us that. Turning on ourselves and subjecting ourselves to ridicule because of something falling apart outside of our control is like yelling at the dog for you getting a math problem wrong.
I am writing this to myself as much as I am writing this to you. We have a choice in the ways we want to respond to the unpredictability and obstacles that surround us. We always have this choice. The choice to mourn or celebrate a birthday. The choice to react or respond in clashing perspectives of reality. The choice to roll with the punches of unpredictability or to swing at the air in anger until you're out of breath.
I recognized this choice in my romantic relationship and vowed to continue to do so in August. I recognize my choice with dissolved friendships, no matter how much this transition stings right now. Instead of perseverating on the pain, I can show myself compassion for my grief, while encouraging myself to look for the beauty in new, ever evolving friendships.
I am worth that. You are worth that.
What choices have you made lately?