Birthdays. It's one of the hardest parts. My first birthday in this afterlife was just three months after my fiancé died. I didn't even want to think about my birthday much less have one. We had decided to go to the Grand Canyon that year for my birthday, since I had never been to a national park. Refusing to spend my 30th birthday in bed, I decided to take the trip anyway. So in late September, his mother and I hopped on a plane and headed for Arizona. It felt like exactly the right place to be, and the exact right person to be there with. On the morning of my birth, there we stood, silently overlooking the canyon… both feeling a connection to this deep wound in the earth because of our own deep wounds of loss.
That year, I didn't want to see anyone or speak to anyone on my birthday. I didn't want my friends or my family. I didn't want to gifts or cards or balloons or a party. With the exception of his mother, I wanted nothing more than to be totally cut off from my life and to just sit silently with my heart. So the canyon proved to be the perfect location for that… after all there isn't even any cellphone reception in the park.
Last year, I had a small party with only a few very close friends and my fiancé's family. It was a small step towards re-entering life… towards being able to allow joy in again. Of course it was also full of a lot of sadness and weeks of dread leading up to the day. I was worried constantly about how dreadful the day was going to be. How painful it was going to be. If I was going to have a total breakdown. If I was even going to be able to get out of bed. But all in all, the day was filled with love, and a small party of those who matter to me most.
This year however is what I think I will always look back on as the birthday of re-entering life. I had plans for this weekend again with my close friends and family as last year, but then I did something else. Something BIG. At the last minute, I invited a bunch of friends from the gym to come out for dinner and drinks last night. There's a few reasons this was such a big deal. Firstly, because none of us have yet to hang out outside of the gym, so there was a big risk no one would even show up. But more importantly, these are really some of the first new friends I have made since he died, due to the fact that I left Dallas very soon after he died. Yup. NEW people. AFTER people.
You all know how scary and difficult and stressful that transition into letting new people into your world is. They didn't know our person - and we don't quite know how to fit these two worlds together. But, I took a deep breath, and sent out the invite, trusted that it would work out for the best.
The last reason - and biggest reason - that this was a huge deal was the fact that I even WANTED to do it in the first place. That's right. I wanted to celebrate. I wanted to celebrate with new people and old. I wanted to finally open myself up to allowing the new world and the old world to collide a bit. I wanted to embrace joy fully. Holy cow… how did that happen?
Not only did a few people come out, but quite a few. Probably 8 or 10 people showed up, and we had such a fun night. Honestly more fun than I've probably had all year. And to my complete amazement - even despite having quite a few drinks in me - I did not ever get emotional. I stayed fully in my joy the entire night, and never did it even occur to me to actually get upset. By the morning, I was so shocked that I had been so busy having fun that I never had a moment to be sad.
There was something really beautiful about the fact that these people were brought into my life because of his death… because of my moving here right after he died. It made me realize that every step of letting the new joys of life in actually keeps him even closer to me. Somehow it seems to solidify his place in my life even more strongly. Somehow, it is still like he is right in the middle of all of it. And I'm slowly beginning to see that letting more of the new life in doesn't actually mean that any part of me is left behind, but that he comes with me as he brings new people into my world that never would have otherwise been part of it. I'm definitely marking this birthday as a pivotal one in my new life.