What Have You Learned- 2017 Edition

I’m just gonna start off by saying that if you notice any typos in this post, it’s because I don’t have my glasses and every word is blurry. If that’s not an old lady thing to say, I don’t know what is… which is a great segue into today’s post. Today is my 45th birthday and the 4th anniversary of my blog. (cue the streamers and party horns.)

I haven’t been writing too often on here, but I promise there’s a very good reason for that. I am 3/4 finished writing my very first (complete) novel.  When I’m not doing that, I’m working on my ancestry research biz. { Shameless plug: http://familyresearch.strikingly.com }

But, since it’s my birthday, and the anniversary of the creation of this blog, I thought I would pop in and say what’s up. What’s up?!

Today I showed up to Bible study and discovered that my sweet friend Lisa had brought me a cake. Not just any cake, mind you, but a German chocolate cake.

See, when I was a little girl, my mom would make me one of two birthday desserts– Angel food cake with strawberries or a German Chocolate cake. Maybe it’s because I associate German chocolate with my birthday, maybe it’s just delicious. But for whatever reason, German chocolate cake remains my favorite kind of cake to this day.

Unfortunately, no one in my household likes cake except me, and most of them don’t like nuts. So, I never get German chocolate cake.

I mentioned this a few weeks? months? ago to Lisa, who made a note of that, and surprised me with my very own German chocolate birthday cake.

And I wanted to cry from sheer joy.

But not only because I get to eat my favorite cake. It’s because I have a friend like Lisa who remembered what I said, who knows me so well, who cared enough to think of me.

And today on Facebook, and via text, I was flooded with wishes and thoughts of love from friends and family that made me realize that I am truly blessed to have many people in my life who KNOW me, and care about me.

Back in 2005, BF (before Facebook), I turned 33. I was pregnant with Parker, and had been living in Southern Cal for only a few months. I had begun to develop a network of friends, but I was truly starting from scratch. The day of my birthday, a group of ladies invited me out to go shopping and to lunch. In the back of my mind I wondered how they knew it was my birthday, and surmised maybe my husband had told one of them.  I wondered if they DID know, and as the day went on, one thing became clear:

They didn’t.

That whole day was fun, a great way to spend my birthday with people I enjoyed,  and I’ll bet they would have made a fuss if they had known. It wasn’t that I was upset with them in any way. They just didn’t know. And I was too mortified to tell them.

Partly due to pregnancy hormones, but mostly due to the emotions of that day, I found myself really weepy all afternoon. I felt very lonely. I felt unknown.

I had the opportunity to be known, and I had chosen not to take it. I didn’t want to seem desperate for attention. I didn’t want to make anyone feel bad. And I was ashamed that I didn’t have any friends there who knew me well enough to know it was my birthday.

That evening, my husband made a nice dinner and afterwards I opened presents. My mom had sent me a gift, and when I opened it, I really began sobbing. My poor husband was baffled, and probably a little terrified by my response.

She had sent me the latest book in a series by a mystery author we both liked to read, and it was autographed.

It was the exact thing I needed in that moment… a reminder that I was known and cared for.

I can’t help but think one of the great tragedies of life is to go through our days feeling unknown. Many times, we are the ones responsible for that. As someone who struggles with intimacy and fears vulnerability, I can tell you, that’s a very lonely place to be.

I just don’t think we were created to go through this life alone. We were made with an innate desire to be seen, heard and KNOWN. Yet, often, fear, trust issues, life  circumstances, they hold us back. We convince ourselves that invisibility hurts less than rejection. That compartmentalizing our emotions is safer for our hearts than feeling pain. That being unknown is less scary than vulnerability.

I can testify to the reality, which is that pain is a part of the human experience, that, while unpleasant, is necessary to BE fully human, to fully experience joy and love and connection.

Some people may reject the real me, the bold me, the Katiest of Katies. I’ve let fear of the rejection of the real me hold me back too much in my relationships. I’ve let the fear of being “too much” prevent connection. Sometimes I’ve tested the waters and my fears have been confirmed. (Kind of like when I challenged my fear of heights and ended up sitting on a donut with a tailbone injury for 3 weeks). And that sucks to have your fears confirmed. But I’ve also had experiences, mostly in the past year, in which I have let the raw me, the vulnerable me, be laid bare before people who had already proven themselves trustworthy, and instead of rejection, I found love and acceptance. I found grace. I found encouragement. I found empathy. And I found connection.

These experiences have enabled me to take greater risks of vulnerability, and the rewards are even more than I could have imagined.

My birthday/ anniversary wish for each of you is that you would allow yourself to be known, to be vulnerable. That you would seek deeper connection with those you love and who love you.

I took another risk recently too– I cut my long hair off. Well, I didn’t cut my hair, my friend Marques cut my hair. He’s been cutting my hair for like 5 or 6 years now, and I trust him. I sat down in his chair and he looked me in the eye and said, “It’s gonna be okay.” And it was. It is.

So here’s to another year of learning, loving and taking risks. Thanks for being a part of this journey with me called life. I’m grateful for each and every one of you.