29 year old me….

Today is my 41st birthday.  I love birthdays — mine and everyone else’s.  I think we should celebrate all month, instead of just one day.   Last night, I had a group of women over — not to celebrate my birthday — but just to celebrate our friendships – most of them very new.  I didn’t even really want anyone to know it was my birthday and didn’t include it on the invitation, but a couple of people knew already.  One of the women brought me a cake — It said “Happy 29th Birthday”.  I laughed and said that it was the 12th anniversary of my 29th birthday.  But, as I reflected on it a little bit, I realized that there really isn’t any part of me that wishes to be 29 again.  In fact, when I was 29 — I was at one of the lowest points in my life.  Here’s what 41 year old me has to say to 29 year old me.

Dear Stephanie,

You’re 29 today.  I know that life isn’t what you thought it would be.  28 started out so awesome.  Remember that surprise party your husband threw for you — at Oregano’s in Scottsdale?  What a great night.  You were surrounded by friends and were actually in awe of all the people that were there.  You and your friend Julie had the time of your lives — she made you laugh so hard, you nearly peed your pants.  But, that was pretty much par for the course when you were with her.  You were healthy and happy.  Sure, there were a few bumps in the road – you had decided you wanted to have a baby.  That proved to be a little harder than it seemed.  You grieved the lost pregnancies, but it finally happened — and 28 was the year you became a mother!  And, then it all seemed to crumble.  Your baby was premature and had a heart defect. Your best friend, Julie was diagnosed with lung cancer.  You begin to wonder if your marriage is going to survive the stress.  Here you are — 29 years old and wondering if the things that bring you the most joy are going to be taken from you.

I’m not going to lie.  You think it’s bad now and it’s actually going to get worse.  You will see your baby go through 2 more heart surgeries.  You will beg God not to make you bury and infant.  Just when you think things are getting better with his health, he will start having seizures.  You will lose your best friend.  You will have to leave the job you love because you just can’t do it, you have to put your family first.  Basically, 29 is going to suck.  Luckily, we don’t have crystal balls, so you don’t have to know what’s in store and you just keep swimming, just keep swimming (oh wait…that movie hasn’t come out yet.  You’ll get it eventually).

But, I’m here to tell you that it gets better.  Your marriage will not only survive — it will get stronger.  Your son, the one who is so developmentally delayed right now, is going to thrive.  You already know he’s smart.  What you don’t know is that he’s an artist.  A musician.  And, he’s funny.  He is so funny.  He’s also a lot like you.  He’s going to challenge you and frustrate you, but he’s the greatest gift you’ve ever been given.  All of this pain and  heartache is someday going to be a distant memory.  And, yes…there is going to come a day when you don’t even think about his heart defect.

Losing Julie is going to be really hard.  There won’t be a day that goes by that you don’t think of her.  And of course, you’ll never replace her in your heart, but there are going to be people who “get you” and make you laugh just as much as she did.  You haven’t even met some of the best friends you’re ever going to have.

It’s not always going to be easy.  Money will be really tight.  You’ll wonder how the bills will get paid.  But, I promise you that you’ll always be provided for.  And, there will come a time when the money won’t run out before the next paycheck comes.

Best of all, the relationships that are so strained right now?  They are going to get better.  They’ll be restored.  The resentment you feel in your heart is going to be replaced by forgiveness and love.  I know you don’t believe me now, but it will happen.  It won’t happen overnight — it will take years.  Be patient.

That heartache you feel right now over Jake?  You’ll feel it again, but in a very different way.  You’ll open your heart and love.  And you will  lose.  Your heart will break into a million pieces, but it will change you in ways you could never imagine.  It will make you a better person.

So, the years ahead aren’t going to be easy.  But, they won’t break you.  You are strong.  You will be surrounded by amazing people who love you and will lift you up when you’re in a pit.

And, when you turn 41, you’ll look around and realize that life is better than it’s ever been.

“I am lucky
to be what I am!
Thank goodness I’m not
just a clam or a ham
Or a dusty old jar of
sour gooseberry jam!
I am what I am! That’s a
great thing to be!
If I say so myself,
–Dr. Suess