Monday, January 16, 2006

Birthday Journal

Today is my birthday.

Over the past season I’ve watched the light fade (literally in the Pacific Northwest!), I’ve waited through Advent, then celebrated the coming of the Light with Christmas and the solstice. Now with the New Year and my birthday so close together it is a time of reflection and review of the past and a re-visioning of the future for me. This is a bittersweet time of letting go and saying goodbye, while at the same time opening my heart and mind to welcome new things. It is a time of death and birth; mourning and celebration.

I have never been quite so aware of this duality as I am this year. Over the past several weeks I have been stunned by the news of so many lives lost in my community. None have been my closest friends and family, but a childhood friend was killed in a car accident, new friends had a miscarriage, a dear friend lost her father, a blogger buddy lost her mom, and several other well-known and loved members connected to my circle have passed away recently. Concurrently, a number of my closest friends and family have given birth during this season.

It is almost as if life sped up around me for a moment and all the dizzying beauty, pain, wonder, and loss converged…and my heart could barely keep itself from flying apart into tiny broken pieces. So I’ve taken the time to slow down and look within at what is dying and birthing in my life…

I mourn the loss of my life as a dancer. Once a professional dancer, I lived and breathed a dancer’s life—performing, choreographing, teaching, rehearsing, touring. It was my passion.

But after taking some time off to recover from burn out and an injured back (during which time I also got married and moved to Seattle) suddenly I am realizing that the life I once knew and loved as a dancer is dead. It will never exist again. My back injury is chronic and will be something I have to deal with the rest of my life. And my new role as wife (and possibly mother in the next years), writer, and activist, has caused my focus and priorities to change. It’s not that I will never dance again in some capacity, but I am now fully accepting that it will never be the same and I am allowing the pain of that realization to sink in. It is a profound loss of a great love of my life. I grieve it.

Yet in my grief I am pregnant with a passion that has been evolving in my life for many years, now quickly growing within me. I am filled with hope and excitement as I give birth to my developing role as human rights activist, peacemaker, and story-gatherer.

It is a lovely irony for me to share my birthday with one of the greatest human rights activists and peacemakers of all time, Martin Luther King Jr. So I take this day to write down my “aspirations” for this year, not “resolutions” provoked by guilt, to stop doing this and stop doing that. Instead I revisit my mission statement and consider my life philosophy and write down some positive things I hope to incorporate into my life to better care for myself and my world during this, my 34th year on our planet.

I will share those next…


Blogger Kristin said...

Happy, happy birthday to you, Tonya! I suppose in light of the range of feelings you describe here, the happy part of this wish is better interpretted as rich, promising, full of good things, even if not all of them happy. Bless you this day and year, Tonya. I'm so glad to have met you!

8:40 PM  
Blogger Tonya said...

Happy Birthday friend!

As I read your post, I remembered something I haven't thought about in awhile. I remember how I found myself grieving even as I became a mother. In chosing to allow children to change my life I felt like I was losing a lot of what was me. Almost 7 years later I can say I still feel that way. I loved the person I was before I became a mom, but I wouldn't go back if I could. The new Life in my life has enriched and deepened my experience of God and the world. Yes, there is grief, even in new birth. Thanks for the reminder to hold the tension and be grateful for it.

8:40 PM  
Blogger bobbie said...

happy birthday tonya! being present to all of our emotions is truly important.

the expression of grief touched me deeply. i have always been unable to dance - i'm large and unskilled, my culture forbid it and i am far to inhibited to participate in something that would call attention to myself in such a way. but i grieve that - dancing looks so free and so life giving. i can't imagine having it and setting it aside like you have. i feel your pain without even having been to the place you have because you described it so beautifully.

i pray that god will bring it back to you when it is right, in a new and fresh way that is life giving.

i will also pray for what is being birthed within you - the new and the not yet - i am excited to hear of what that may be - please keep journalling your path here - it's a joy to read and experience along the way!

much peace and joy during this time of such mixed emotion. happy birthday tonya!

2:45 AM  
Blogger tonya said...

kristin, i'm glad to have met you too. thank you for the birthday blessing.

tonya, thanks for your honesty. i too am afraid of losing myself in motherhood, but i keep hearing from people like you, how they would never choose another path... so perhaps sometime in another year or so it will be my turn to take that journey. i will be depending on people like you to keep encouraging me through. thank you!

bobbie, thank you for your friendship. thank you for feeling my grief. you seem like such a beautifully free person, i do hope that you will experience some of that freedom in your physical body... even if that does not mean dancing per se... but just loving being in your skin and being you.
you are a gift to me. thank you.

2:46 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

A belated happy birthday! Many blessings in the year(s) to come, as you discover new corners to turn and views to admire in your life journey.

10:40 PM  
Blogger bobbie said...

what beautiful kind words - thank you! i'm really praying that this year can be a year to get comfortable in my own skin. thanks for the encouragement!

4:13 PM  
Blogger Hope said...

Happy Belated Birthday!!

7:44 PM  
Blogger tonya said...

thank you, michelle and hope!

6:01 PM  

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