As I enter into my 41st year, I felt a sudden desire to return here to my blog and write. It has been awhile. I have shared poems and other words on social media, and a few here as well. But, it has been some time since I have sat down to reflect, write out a blog post, and share with all of you. As I pause now to write this, I don’t know exactly what I want to say. But, I simply trust in the feeling that led me here.
Turning 40 was a pivotal moment for me last year. I am not normally one to believe in “milestone” birthdays or anniversaries. And yet, something about turning 40 indeed felt different. I was aware, for the first time of stepping into the next decade of my life. I felt open to the lessons that the year would bring to me. And I felt eager to open up to all of life, to learn what I needed to learn, at this particular intersection.
I had some highlight moments for sure. Here are a few of them:
Going back to school to study Narrative Medicine, including a solo trip to Columbia University in New York to meet my co-students: I was transported back to my own college days, surrounded by the stately buildings, the city streets, the backpacks and sweatshirts. It was a weekend of deep and rich learning amongst the howling wind, rain, and snow. I especially remember staying up late in my hotel room, the sounds of weather and city around me, writing in my journal to get it all down. I also was able to facilitate two Narrative Medicine workshops, one with UC Irvine med students at their annual retreat in Lake Arrowhead, and one with a group of parents who had children who suffered illness or trauma. What an honor to receive the stories that were shared with me.
The Carlsbad marathon and the Orange County half marathon: There are few things more invigorating then running with a crowd full of people through the streets, sometimes chatting, sometimes silent, but always together. And it feels wonderful to push my body to its own personal mental and physical limits. While running, I always feel like I am following in the footsteps of my father, the one who inspired me to start running to begin with.
Poetry: Poetry opened its arms to me this year. Poetry has given me a chance to express my emotions and experiences in the rawest form possible, without the need to explain the whole backstory, if you will. Perhaps even more than the final poems, the process of writing poetry has given me a chance to connect with unknown parts of myself. Also, I know nothing about poetry. I am not sure I am good at it. But it is good for me to do something for the love of it, for the surprise of it, for the love of it, for the very learning of it, rather than for the accomplishment of it.
A solo writing retreat at 1440 Multiversity, with one of my favorite poets and authors, Mark Nepo: In the California redwood forest, I remembered here how beautiful it is, being read to. How silence and nature will catch you every time you fall. I remembered here that moments of connection are possible anywhere, even with complete strangers. And I remembered here that life unfolds at its own will, often out of our control. We hold on tight to life, wanting it to go a certain way, wanting it to stay in a narrow zone that makes us feel secure and comfortable. And yet life is nothing like that. When we surrender to that, we feel at once terrified, and at once open to the idea that life can bring us more than we ourselves could ever have planned. Here, I learned how to hold on a little less tightly to the things I thought I wanted.
A newfound love of cooking: Over the last year, I have started experimenting with baking and cooking, which is new for me. Apple crumble, peach crumble, cherry crumble. Tofu tikka masala. Vegetarian fried rice. Stuffed shells. Peach and heirloom tomato and burrata salad. Homemade granola. This surprises me. There is something about the act of creating something with my hands, something that nourishes and sustains myself and others, that feels beautiful and needed right now. Cooking also connects me to the hands of my mother and grandmother, both of whom are amazing cooks, and use food as a way to love.
I recognize as I write these down, that there were so many other moments too. Moments of loss, of grief, of confusion, of anger, of letting go, of uncertainty. Moments of parenting and relationships and friendships that brought me to my knees. Moments of professional crises and questioning that held no clear answers. None of the moments, “good” or “bad,” were predictable, they simply arose. My greatest challenge was perhaps to see beyond the label, and to meet my experiences as they were, for what they were.
What did I feel? What was I meant to learn? How could I grow through all of it? Who did I need to hold close?
What I continue to know is this–that what remains fundamental to me, is my desire to stay connected. Connected to you, connected to me, connected to my greater purpose and meaning. Through it all, as one surface experience goes and another comes, that is the thread that holds steadfast. Such connection arises when we can know and speak our truth, ask the questions that whisper to us in the dark, and receive the energies present from within and without. Like anything else, discovering how we connect is a practice like any other.
No perfection. Just practice.
I don’t know what 41 will bring, but I didn’t know what 40 would bring either. I feel open for all of it, and grateful to still be here. That is not an opportunity that everyone has right now, and I feel profoundly aware of the privilege of having a voice, and the responsibility that comes with using it.
Thank you for being a part of my journey over this last year. I look forward to sharing the ride for as long as we are together.