My birthday (January 3rd) has always been caught between the just-after-Christmas and New Year’s resolutions craze. Many years, people go back to work or school on my birthday. People are still sluggish, yet being pushed back into routine. Talk of dieting and actually working out repeat year after year. I try to make room, for yet another celebration, after all the celebrations seem to be over.
I read this blessing in John O’Donohue’s To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings last year. It’s simple and beautiful. It’s a reminder to me that the greatest gifts are to be found on the journey-the good with the bad. They are all invitations: to savor, to grieve, to delight, to play, to be silent. Many many people have made my journey beautiful. This year I’m especially grateful for those old and new friendships who have journeyed the past 3 years with me, the hardest years so far.
I’ve experienced living in a culture that does not have a category for chronic illness. A culture that does not have rituals for grieving, like they do for celebration. A culture in which friendships are more disposable than treasured. A culture in which I am seen more as broken, than having inherent gifts, even when I couldn’t be productive.
Even living in this reality, I have found many safe spaces and safe people. I am thankful for the cultivation of friendship, for letting go of a 40 hour work week, for finding contemplative spirituality in a round about way, for giving myself permission to be quiet, not loud. For allowing myself to heal and take my time.
And to all those people who have witnessed and are witnessing my recovery, thanks for choosing to see and thanks for believing in me. May you be blessed.
For Your Birthday
by John O’Donohue
Blessed be the mind that dreamed the day
The blueprint of your life
Would begin to glow on earth,
Illuminating all the faces and voices
That would arrive to invite
Your soul to growth.
Praised be your father and mother,
Who loved you before you were,
And trusted to call you here
With no idea who you would be.
Blessed be those who have loved you
Into becoming who you were meant to be,
Blessed be those who have crossed your life
With dark gifts of hurt and loss
That have helped to school your mind
In the art of disappointment.
When desolation surrounded you,
Blessed be those who looked for you
And found you, their kind hands
Urgent to open a blue window
In the gray wall formed around you.
Blessed be the gifts you never notice,
Your health, eyes to behold the world,
Thoughts to countenance the unknown,
Memory to harvest vanished days,
Your heart to feel the world’s waves,
Your breath to breathe the nourishment
Of distance made intimate by earth.
On the echoing-day of your birth,
May you open the gift of solitude
In order to receive your soul;
Enter the generosity of silence
To hear your hidden heart;
Know the serenity of stillness
To be enfolded anew
By the miracle of your being.