Ok, so here is an article I have never written before; an article acknowledging my birthday. I have been one of those people who would rather skate through this time of year ignoring that I am getting older and not wanting people to make a fuss about my birthday.
Today, as Christine, Minnie and I walked around Black Mountain enjoying the morning sunshine and glistening snow, I pondered for a moment why I was so reluctant to celebrate my birthday. As I considered the question I thought in many ways that my reluctance was actually contrary to what I encourage others to do, which is to take time to acknowledge and celebrate the milestones in your life. I believe that too many of us have our heads down focused on our responsibilities and plowing through our ‘to do’ lists without taking time to acknowledge what we have accomplished, celebrate those achievements and be grateful for the life we have. I want to do that differently this year on my birthday.
As I thought about my reluctance to celebrate my birthdays I realized at least one of the profound reasons I chose to do that through the years. Here is what came to me.
My father died when I was 15 and he was 38. I grew up feeling his youthful death was completely unfair to him and to our family. I thought he was an exemplary father, husband and human being. He deserved to live a long and productive life. I on the other hand have had lots of shadow judgments over the years about me as a father, husband and human being and often felt undeserving of my longevity. I actually had a belief in my twenties that I would die young like my father before me. As I look back on my life in my twenties and thirties I can clearly see the self sabotaging power of a belief that said I am not deserving of life. I can see how my choices were impacted profoundly by that belief. One of the biggest choices I made in those years was to pick up my father’s dream to be a minister and become what he wanted to be rather than truly consider what I wanted to be. Deep inside of me that created soul pain. I felt restless and unfulfilled because I was not being me.
The belief that I was not deserving of life went through a dying process in the very first Medicine Game I ever played. I was in a group of 82 participants and I was one of those individuals convinced that there were other people in our circle that needed medicine more than I did. I must have had more than sixty individuals come cruising by me saying, I have no medicine for you. For the most part, I was feeling quite self righteous about that and almost willing each participant to bypass me and move on to the next person beside me. How noble and self sacrificing of me. However; a shift began to happen for me when a program assistant standing behind me followed up each participants statement of I have no medicine for you, with your dead. Without medicine you die. Earlier on in the game I thought this was perfect, it was exactly what I deserved. Amazingly, as I stood in the circle, I was aware of the fact that I was the same age as my father (38) when he died, so, I assumed that this was some kind of prophetic fulfillment of my belief that I would die young. Except…there was another voice inside saying very quietly, I want to live. As the game began nearing its end that sacred voice within began getting louder. Almost imperceptibly my energy shifted and my hands began to reach out desperately for someone to acknowledge my need for a bean…for medicine. With about three people left to pass by, someone reached out their bean and placed it in my outstretched hand. The statement I was supposed to make in that moment was, Terry receives medicine; however, what I said instead was, Terry chooses life.
As I consider that turning point in my life, I want to acknowledge that my longevity or in fact your longevity is not about whether you or I deserve it. It is about being grateful for the life we have and the time we have to enjoy it. I want to celebrate however many birthdays I have left as a way of declaring Terry chooses life.