In about four hours, I will be 32 years old. That seems so old when I say it out loud. It also sounds really old when you hear yourself saying it to the 25 year old boys that make up the bulk new fall crop in your ward. Roast.
To be perfectly frank, I'm not sad to see 31 go. I was just reading some of my restless "what am I doing with my life?" posts from the fall of 2007 and I realize now that I definitely, definitely set myself up for a pretty humbling year. I don't think you can ask the universe for an opportunity to grow without accepting that it might just knock you right over first.
And so tonight, I'm doing something a bit unusual for me and for this blog and I'm writing a fairly religious post. I am usually fairly private about this kind of stuff because it's so personal. But I feel like I can't write in any honest away about the way I'm feeling about this last year without it. So off I go. You've been fairly warned!
It's not a big secret that this year has been a tough one. And I say that with the full acknowledgement that I have a very good life and have been blessed in more ways then I can count. I understand that many of my struggles seem awfully superficial in the face of poverty and war and economic despair. So I am keeping my year of personal disappointment and struggle in perspective. That said, I started crying about something last Saturday morning and I have been at it on some level every since. I'm worn out from a year of wanting a change, praying for a change, holding my breathe through job interviews, major decisions about a move that was evenly split between pros and cons, the move itself and all the mixed emotions, seven months in a city I just can't seem to gel with like I want to, family and friends that are almost all too far away and a job that I am not rocking like I am used to rocking. I'm worn out and tired of hearing myself complain about it in conversations with friends and blog posts and certainly tired of whining about it in my prayers pretty much every night.
So yesterday in church, the Second Counselor in our Bishopric and his wife spoke. It's always a treat to hear her speak-she was a big time journalist for years until they got married and she decided to leave her job to raise a couple of cute cute kids. She's a good speaker anyway but since she got married when she was a little older and had a great career before that, her talks resonate particularly well with me. She basically talked about how being a good kid and doing everything right and trying your best doesn't mean that life will always be smooth sailing. Which is something I think most of us get intellectually but then when we find ourselves in the midst of a major trial it feels like "why is this happening to me?? I'm trying so hard! I'm doing what You asked!" And then it's really easy to just feel like you've been left alone. At least it is for me. She talked a lot about learning from these dark hours and shared a story about a chicken hatching exhibit she took her kids to a few weeks ago. As they watched the little chickie struggle to get out of her shell her daughter turned to her with big sad eyes and said, "we have to help her mommy!" And of course she had to explain like many, many mothers have to four years olds the world over that the chick needs to get out of that shell on it's own if it's going to be able to grow up healthy and strong. I've been wondering today how many times in my life I will find myself back in that shell and thinking about how I want to make sure every time I learn a little bit more about how to crack out of it. She closed her talk just reminding us that the Lord really doesn't leave us alone but sometimes it's up to us to quiet down so we can hear His voice. I cried through the whole talk. And not just a little bit-the big heaving sort of crying that you can't pass off as being tired or having something in your eye. I'm sure there were plenty of folks in the room that appreciated her talk but it felt kind of like she was talking right to me.
I really tried to have a quiet day today but I have this overactive brain and I just got so overwhelmed by work and life that I ended up at my friend Matt's house pouring out my guts to a guy who has been a wonderfully wise ear and shoulder since my first Boston tour of duty. He ended up giving me a blessing and it was like peace and calm could finally find a way into my chaos. I came home feeling like there are still a lot of question marks and things to worry about but I feel certain of God's nearness in my life, of His concern for me and His willingness to help when I ask for it.
People sometimes say that religion is a crutch and I guess to that I say, well OK, I'll take a crutch if that's what I need to go from feeling desperately sad to wildly hopeful and peaceful in the space of a few hours.
31 was really hard. Productive, growing, stretching, but hard. I'm ready for 32 to be less dramatic.
I'm leaving you with a performance of one of my very favorite religious songs. I've always loved the lines
"Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love, Here's my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above"