I am 36 today and it feels huge. True to my nature, my “milestone” year doesn’t fit with tradition of the “big ones” like 21 or 40 or 50. As I go through the highlight reel of just my 30’s, I realize I’ve made questionable/hard decisions that have yielded extraordinary new chances to live better for a lifetime. I give 100% credit to God who keeps redeeming and rebuilding me. In the words of one of my favorite bloggers, I never have my shit together, but somehow it doesn’t matter because it’s in the messes I make for myself that God does his best work.
Straight out of the gate at 30 years old, I had cosmetic surgery. I don’t regret the surgery, but I do question if I’d make the same decision today. I never saw my decision as a symptom of a deeper mental health issue until I found myself in anorexia recovery four years later. Now, I am in a season of learning to love my body as is. I am connected with my physical self, and I finally understand and appreciate all the work my body does to take care of me even when I mistreat it. Optional surgery was a life-altering decision; I live with the result every day, remembering how far I have come from the inner-unrest of my past and appreciating the different perspective I have today.
At 31 I had an affair and subsequently experienced a marital rough patch. I don’t want to relive those years, and I pray my marriage doesn’t experience anything of the like again; however, if it weren’t for the two years that threatened to destroy my marriage, my husband and I wouldn’t be what we are today–grateful, humble, and in love. It was a lot of work to fix what was wrong; it’s still work to keep it strong. Nearly 15 years together, 12 of those married, my husband and I are are more in love today than ever, yet experience has taught me I cannot take love for granted. Love doesn’t just happen. We make the choice every single day, in the bustling mix of kids, work, commitments, projects, and appointments, to look each other in the eye; to wrap our arms around each other; to say I love you; to say us first, then the rest; to acknowledge I see you and hear you and you matter; to say I’m sorry; to say thank you.
The timing of my newly strengthened marriage couldn’t have been better because the two years following that season were tumultuous for my health. At 33 I was diagnosed with celiac disease, which exacerbated the full blown eating disorder I was living with but wouldn’t be treated until I was 34. Physically and mentally, I was very ill and in danger of dying.
Even so, I ignored my body and became a Taekwondo student that season. My intention behind the decision was to do something fun and bonding with my children, especially my daughter. (Shortly after I joined, I had to take a three-month medical leave to enter anorexia rehabilitation.) Little did I know the Taekwondo studio would become my training ground for perfectionism recovery and a supplemental space where God continues to show me what my body and mind can do as is. Technique-wise, you won’t find me winning competitions and awing crowds in demonstrations. I am clunky and slow and often mis-torqued in movement; however, I am the strongest and most mentally resilient than I ever have been.
My daughter and I are T-minus six months away from our earning black belts together. Mission almost accomplished!
At 34 I entered anorexia recovery, which continues today. This has been my biggest challenge (after motherhood, of course) I’ve ever faced. I depended on anorexia for over 13 years to help me maintain the illusion that I had my life all together, but it nearly killed me. You won’t hear me use the words “I’ve overcome my eating disorder” because while I am better and don’t need the disease, the eating disorder voice is always quietly hanging out in my head. Complacency is dangerous.
With my recovery came a passion for mental health and suicide prevention advocacy. True to God’s nature he’s taken my fears and experience and rebuilt them as a platform to lift up others who find themselves struggling in mental illness.
Shortly after my 35th birthday I asked my dad to go to counseling with me, which we did earlier this year. You cannot heal in the present without visiting your past. Part of anorexia recovery meant taking my dad’s hand and walking together through some painful memories from my childhood. It was eight intense weeks of raw honesty and emotion that yielded understanding, forgiveness, and fresh space for us to grow in relationship going forward. I know my dad loves me and he’s got my back even if we don’t agree on things. I feel confident and valued knowing my dad has my back, which is imperative as I continue to learn and express who I am without the crutch of perfection. A girl always needs her dad. <3
My 30’s so far have been my best messiest decade. It’s the decade where God is carving away my self-made facade to reveal who I really am as He crafted me. With both discomfort and gratitude I appreciate the process, yet I am still learning how to rejoice in the results. So, happy birthday to me! And happy birthday to you if we share this day or even this season. May your fresh new year be blessed with something beautifully unexpected.
<3 Peace and love.