By the time the celebrations were done and I finished writing this last night, it was too late to give it the mandatory once over. So here we are, a day later than usual. On my birthday last year, it seems I was thinking of people, then, too. I’ve got a lot of gems in my life. Despite my often captious interpretations and unwittingly specular – and unfiltered – observations. Despite my chronic, intractable belief that I am unlovable. Despite my hangups on who acknowledges my birthday and who doesn’t (even in the social media age). Despite my indefatigable social anxiety. Gems.
It’s excruciating for me to write this. The reasons are deeper than this, too, but I both don’t want to leave anybody out and don’t want to turn this into a competition. Also, what I say cannot possibly be all-encompassing but I risk hurting feelings by who and what I might leave out. This is the double-edged sword of acknowledgement: if I take people not remembering my birthday to mean they don’t care, then how are people who do not feel acknowledged by this post supposed to feel? Yet I have been given too much to stay silent. I’ve called out my best friend and my husband already. My meandering through seminary joined my path with others, one who persistently invites me along on coffee shop outings, homework sessions and campus events. That I’m surprised this still happens is about that pestilential belief I mentioned earlier. This friend has an exquisite and unflagging care for people, spiritual and relational acuity and courage to be both discerning and honest. She is a safe person. One of the rare ones that you kind of know instantly is safe. Another former classmate is just as pure, never fails to ask how I am, in the way that indicates she wants the real answer, dares to be real herself and whose descriptions of the common stuff of life are original and funny. There are other former classmates I don’t see nearly enough, who I miss and who I do hope to get more time with.
Some gems have been brightening my life for half a decade or more. One who has sustained listening to my anguished tirades and has handled my lashing out with sangfroid care. One who is Pure Gentle in human form, who I can deeply trigger accidentally but who will persist in friendship with me. One who is Unwieldy Joy in human form, who is the big brother I never had, whose song-big gift of rejoicing demands exuberance from you, whose gladness to know you will, even if temporarily, sideline your most committed self loathing. His wife is fiercely soft yet has stayed my friend when I’ve lashed out at her, she loves justice just as much as I do but is somehow far kinder about it than I am and clings to hope in ways I can only dream of. One whose Rolodex of inside jokes and ways to genuinely laugh at anything while sharing my increasing horror at the world couldn’t have entered my life at a better time. One whose passion rivals mine and whose well-sharpened opinions challenge and refine mine.
One whose humor, commitment to love at the same time as being in agony and radical, nonjudgmental welcoming sutured my soul and helped me walk through one of the most shredding periods of my life. One whose expressive individuality, prophetic nonconformity and humility in seeking accountability and support has said to me, “You are not alone” over and over again. One who prays like she’s giving blood. One who can simultaneously play and praise like a child and love and nurture like a mom. One whose hands have healed both my fear of touch and some stubborn physical injuries and whose avidity for finding and sharing small pictures and stories of God’s great love reminds you that there is always cause for jubilation.
I can’t possibly name all my friends – another reason this is painful. Who am I that these people would be part of the light along my way? Some of these names are painfully corny; some you might recognize: Deep Seer, Lovely Seeker, Stubborn Grace, Sweet Girl, Technicolor Joygrit, Tenacious Feather, FringE, Compassionate Server, Refreshing Stream, Twin, Lighthouse, Mama, Light Ribbon Dancer, and all you luminous jewels who share your angle of light with me, thank you and thank God for you.