A friend of mine remarked this week that they would be getting a post from me today as is my custom. I also read up a bit on past birthday posts this week for some inspiration and insight into where I have been. The pressure has been quite something. 😉

As is my custom, I write about the year behind and ahead on the day that marks my coming into the world. Today marks the beginning of the end of three decades worth of orbits around the sun. One more until a trilogy of orbits is under my belt.

This past year has been full of very little for me personally. I did not do anything big or amazing. I didn’t go on any trips. There were no significant breakthroughs or insights into my psyche. I spent the last year simply being. And it was good. And it was bad. But mostly neutral.

At one point during a prayer group as we were doing some pretty deep contemplation and sharing what we saw, I had a picture in my head of me sitting in a chair in the middle of a massive hall (think of Moria from Fellowship of the Ring). Around me were scenes from the lives of my friends in larger-than-life dramas of tragedy and triumph; sweeping events in the course of their lives. And me, just sitting in my chair watching it all unfold as though at the theater.

I didn’t feel like a passive observer, though that’s certainly what it looked like. I felt a sense of being there to observe from a vantage point that no one in the scene could have; apart from the drama and sweeping changes sitting in a calm, peaceful emptiness. This is what my year has been. People have married and people have died. Cars break down, babies are born, projects are started and finished. There is laughter and there are tears. And all the while I have watched in peace and solitude.

From all of this, I did learn one thing. While the things I feel are mine and mine alone, they are also felt by people the world over. The stranger we meet on the street feels those same feelings of joy, triumph, and sadness. The co-worker we see every day can be as happy or hurt as we can and for many of the same reasons. The anger and hurt that burns inside of me from time to time can burn the same in anyone I meet. So too can the love and kindness that so rarely touches us. Only the actions taken seem to differ.

There’s nothing stunning about that lesson.  Nothing odd or unusual, except perhaps the stage of life it came to me during.  And yet it has started to shape my year ahead in unexpected ways.

The orbit in front of me is one of milestones.  This is my 30th orbit around the sun.  Something of great significance as another decade comes to a close and new one begins.  This is the first time people have begun to tease me about being old; a new experience, indeed.

But I don’t feel old.  Not by a long shot.  While I don’t have the energy I used to (and I’m fairly confident that if I were to eat a bit better, I’d be closer to having the energy of days gone by), I don’t feel 29.  I feel closer to my early twenties.  The world is still opening up to me with opportunities and new adventures.  There are many roads yet to be traveled.  There is a lot fun to be had and no reason at all not to have it.

This last year, I pulled away a bit from the anchors in my life in certain ways.  The church has become less of a geographic center of my existence.  So too has my work.  In so doing this and being willing to perforate the boundaries of my life, however slightly, the potential for joy in this life has only increased.  While church retains a central role for my spiritual and social life and work likewise retains a social, financial, and professional role, they are no longer the only places for that to happen.

This pulling away slightly from anchors has served to increase their importance.  While I may have pulled a bit too far away in some cases, friendships have grown in surprising ways as the fertile soil of life has shifted and been enriched with a diversity of experience.  I believe now that we can easily find ourselves so deep in a routine of what we do that we not only forget why we do things, but that all things around us can become infected with the stagnation of our lives.  Routine is good and can keep us grounded, but it may also be routine that gives no pause to enjoy the sun rising and setting, no thought to what the wind blowing across our face can mean to our soul, no comment to the suffering and joy of friend or stranger, no solidarity with those who are tormented for beliefs we take for granted.

I am young still and my race is not yet begun.  And yet life is too short to spend it in a routine.  The lives of my friends and family are unfolding around me in a drama no human could conceive of in its entirety.  And life is too short not to join in and write my part into the play.

The year behind me was mostly uneventful and I have rested and grown a bit and aged a bit and youthed a bit.  Once more I don’t know what the next orbit has in store for me.  But I will be looking harder for my cues in the Play.