Today is my birthday

Today is my birthday.

Yesterday I was thinking about my life, why I sometimes feel like I am about twenty thousand years older than I really am, and what in the world I am going to do with the rest of it. In truth, four decades after it began, it seems as though I am only just now coming into a place where I feel like I can really be who I am. That is a sort of freedom I never really thought I would have, and it is amazing and a bit unnerving if I am being honest. The space I am in now is like a proverbial blank canvas, and I can really make it whatever I want it to be. This fills me with an almost overwhelming sense of excitement, and the ideas that run amok through my brain are…well, they are a lot sometimes. 😊

That’s probably not surprising for those of you who have come to know me well over the last couple of years, since many of you have been instrumental in helping me to come back to myself more fully.

When I sit back and ponder my life, remember where I have been and reflect on where I am heading, sometimes I have to pinch myself and sit down.

By the time I was ten years old, I had come to understand that I would never be accepted by most of my family of origin because of their religious opinions. I had seen religious establishments reject people and families, and excommunicate members who left without their blessing. I had found my own faith, and tested it thoroughly, and had come out to at least three related adults. I had experienced unimaginable violence against my person, become an addict, and had attempted to end my life on at least three distinct occasions.

Between ten and twenty years old, I experienced being unhoused for reasons of my own safety, intimate partner violence and other violence against my person. I continued testing my own faith and navigated coming out to others including the related adults I had already come out to. I watched friends grieve school shootings and saw towers fall, I saw my peers and their siblings get called off to a war that has yet to really end. I became a parent through periodic temporary custody of some of my relatives to keep them from system intervention. I got out of an exploitive situation and got clean. I graduated high school, started college and a mentoring group and entered my career field.

Between twenty and thirty years old, I graduated with a bachelors and also a masters degree, I continued mentoring families and teenage girls, and left abusive relationships. I was forced to allow the temporary custody arrangements to expire, to report significant abuse and neglect in a home and a church, and to watch as the system failed the children all over again. I experienced terrible therapists, and terrible faith leaders too. I worked hard and became very respected in my field, began connecting with legislative work. I started placing boundaries with people who weren’t respecting who I am, learning that boundaries are okay in the first place. I started looking at my own life, and my patterns of relationships, trying to make better choices. And I started healing, surrounding myself with people who supported me in my growth, and allowed me to be part of their growth. I began working in anti-trafficking, and cofounded a community organization that significantly changed the landscape of anti-trafficking in Nebraska.

For the next ten years, I worked hard and began learning to play hard too. I influenced legislation, some of which I could take back. I came to understand my childhood experiences as they were, and became public about them. I did a lot of inner healing work, and I am still working. I started to see things more clearly, to find language for my experiences and for the things I was taught growing up. I found myself surrounded by people who value me for who I am, and see my worth outside of what I can do for them. I continue working to connect with people who challenge me to grow, to show me the truth and to understand life more clearly. I experienced grief of friends and family passing on from this life and those who chose to leave my life, and I experienced (and still do) the love of those who became family. I fell in love with a whole person who loved me back, a woman who has done a lot of her own inner healing work too. I got married to that incredible woman, and we challenge and love each other deeply. I became a “grandma” about the same time that I became a parent to a kid that my wife and I are raising together. I teach pre-preschool and am working on curriculum that can be shared. I wrote and published two books, and have a couple more in the works. I coproduced a podcast, am working on season two, and own my own business. So far my family and I have  survived and thrived through  a lot, including historic flooding and a pandemic which has not ended yet.

Every day I wake up in awe that this is my life, that in spite of everything I am still here. Surrounded by love..

Today is no different, and yet today is a milestone kind of a day.

And I’m grateful, deeply grateful, for it. All forty years of it.