Birthday Weekend

So I turned 45 this past Friday. Wow!

Right now the girls and J are in the kitchen making me dinner. I’m not allowed in the kitchen, so I might as well write an update.

A lot has happened this year, it seems. My god. A year ago I wasn’t in a great place, mentally. I remember falling into a deep dark hole a few days before my birthday last year, although its not something that I could completely see until after emerging from it. A combination of things contributed to it, but it was real. This year – maybe a tinge of melancholy (I’m prone to it, Fall brings it on) but nothing like last year. Thank god.

It’s been a hell of a year. We’ve turned a corner with the girls, they’re much more independent and “grown up”. When I see friends with young kids, or even imagining how my new nephew will be, it’s hard to imagine we went through that three times. Of course, getting older brings with it new problems. But we did a ton of travel this year (with more to come) and the girls have done very nicely, overall. We’re talking about our next major tip to India after this, and we all want to go to Japan. Maybe not 2020 (we already have Alaska and a couple of family weddings), but maybe 2021. (Savi says, “We can have sushi every day.”)

Professionally,. not much has changed. My career is stagnant, although that’s a compromise I’ve accepted (and have to reconsider and reaccept every so often). As far as writing, I’ve created less content than I wanted to for the blog, which I’ve lost momentum on. A chicken in the egg problem – if I was hitting more of an audience i’d be more jazzed to write, but I havent so I only do it when I feel especially motivated or especially guilty. I’ve lost momentum on writing altogether, although I have hopes that I might do some fiction writing in Africa. I’ve got some ideas that I’m putting some structure under. I should have significant downtime, which I’m looking forward to.

Personally, this Africa trip is coming at a good time, I think. I need to find who “I” am a bit, and some time away will help me sort that out. I mean, I’m a dad and a husband and a worker, bubut that part of my life is underdeveloped. (Funny, I remember a time when I was working when I felt as if THAT was overdeveloped, but everything has a season, no?) Then a few short weeks back and then a huge family trip to India – which will be an altogether different (but great) experience.

I’ve done some learning about myself this year, I think. About what I need and how I react, what my defense mechanism are and how they served me and how they no longer serve me. Like my reaction to feeling ignored (or rejected) can be vehement and visceral, even if the reality isn’t what I perceived – and the collateral damage can be worse than whatever slight. Recently, I’ve also decided that I have held onto the monniker of “nice guy” entirely way too long. In other words, I do things and adjust of myself in order to be called “a nice guy”. Or at least to feel like a “nice guy”. This means that I shy away from confrontation, I ignore my own needs and wants for others. But I’m feeling less of that. It’s showing up most notably in my inability to let white privilege go, to soothe over racial/ethnic disparities and to call it more bluntly.

So if there was a theme this year, I’d say it would be integration and acceptance. To stop denying the more selfish/self centered/self serving aspects of myself (which, for far too long, were parts that I rejected as sin) and to accept them as natural and needed. To stop trying to fill those areas which I deemed as defective, and to see the beauty in them. And, when necessary, to cordon them off and find another path to where I want to be, as opposed to insisting that I should be able to go that way. Its taken some time to get to integration, and I’m not altogether there – but I’m much closer than I used to be. Which doesn’t mean that I think of myself as perfect. In fact, the opposite -it’s the accepting that I can be a nice guy *and* an asshole, and that’s not a dilemma.

It’s a good time to be reminded what I’m grateful for, as opposed to looking at the lack – which is my natural inclination. I can easily look at that, it’s a bit more of an effort to look for gratitude. I’m grateful for my family of course. They are THE organizing principal of my life (although I’m learning how much I need to take care of myself in order to take care of others, something I’ve embodied.) . . I’m grateful for the few deep friendships I have, ones that fuel me in connection. My mens group, as well – a resource of fellowship and support and strength. (Where else can I bring in the concept of race and being a person of color in a group of white men?)

I’malso lucky that I have a wife that is supportive of what I want to do, esp. this trip. Not many wives would not only allow their husband to go for 3+ weeks, but encourage it. To take on single parenting like she is, for that long. She also made efforts to make my birthday special, even if her natural inclination is to downplay events like that. She organized a trip to a dim sum place today, because she knows I’ve never been and have wanted to go. (Result? Deliciousness, although having chicken feet once in my life is enough.)

I hear the clanging of the dishes. Time to get fed, by the people that feed my soul every day.

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