So, today I begin my forty-sixth revolution around the sun. I always think a birthday is a good time to pause for a moment and consider what has gone before, give thanks, and consider how one might be positioned and equipped for what lies ahead.
“Tempus fugit”, they say, and they are right. As my daughter prepares to go to university next year, I almost can’t believe it’s over 22 years since I graduated. Sometimes it seems like you blink and a decade flashes past. Such is life.
Looking back, and considering the present, there is much that I’m thankful for: family, above all; friends near and far, longstanding and more recent; health; provision; and 45 years’ worth of experience, with all of the valleys and mountaintops, light and dark, sorrow and joy that go with it. Such, also, is life: the rich and nourishing tapestry of experience.
There are also plenty of things I regret as I look back. There are some things that I’d give anything to be able to go back and undo, or do differently; and some things left undone that I wish I had the chance to go back and do. But time flows in one direction only, and the past is the past. The best we can do is make amends where we are able, and learn from our mistakes and omissions.
And, speaking of learning, here is something I’ve learnt, and continue to learn still: that seeking after and feeding on the approval of others is no way to grow into your true self. Over the past few years, I’ve realised just how much of my life I’ve spent chasing approval and worrying about what so-and-so might think if I say or do such-and-such a thing. I regret all the times I’ve paid too much attention to those who have told me I think too much, that I should just accept things as they are and not try to over-analyse. And I regret the many times I’ve failed to speak my mind out of fear of those perceived to be in positions of authority.
Life is too short to be bound by the agendas and insecurities of others.
So my resolve today, as I embark on the gift of another year of life, is to continue to throw off fear of others, of opinion, of externally imposed unhealthy restriction. What the world so desperately needs is free people who can, in turn, free other people. I recognise that, while I may be freer than I was, there is still much I need to be free of.
I’m grateful for my past, for it is what has brought me to today; I’m grateful for today, for the blessings of daily bread and the sacrament of the present moment; and I can still look with thankful anticipation to the future, for we have a God who always draws us forward into deeper and richer waters.
[ Image: Joey Gannon ]