A Birthday Letter from my Late Mother
Today is my 37th Birthday. Normally on these milestones I try and take a trip to escape into nature and do something adventurous or scary, sometimes with friend, but oftentimes, alone. Today I am sitting at my desk, on lockdown because of the global pandemic. I don't even know if I'm happy or depressed--and didn't even realize today was my birthday until last night. So what better time than now, to reflect?
I've been journaling since I was 15. After my mother died in 2017, I sometimes write letters to her, instead of journal entries. Today, for the second time ever, I decided to write a letter TO me, FROM her.
I can't explain how this works except that when I do it, the words just flow through me, and the tears fall in the most exquisite streams, and I remember my connection to the heartbreak of her loss. But more importantly, I hear her voice, and I somehow I knowthe words come from her, not me.
So, I wanted to share this with the world on my birthday. Because the best gift she ever gave me in life, was her encouragement. The best gift she gave me in death, was her strength.
And both of those gifts always came in the form of words.
Congratulations on your new apartment. Congratulations on your renovation. Congratulations on launching your mobile game, and realizing your dreams. Congratulations on moving across the country yet again.
You started in the South. You've gone all the way North, and now you are headed West. You are covering this country with your stories, exploring the world and figuring out where you fit. That journey of self-actualization is just that. A journey. So stop spending so much time focusing on the destination.
This journey of 1,000 miles is not a straight path. I know, because my own path led me in so many different directions. I often felt lost, and hopeless. I often asked myself if I was on the right path. And now, after completing my own journey of 1,000 miles I've come to realize that there are no wrong paths. There are dangerous paths. There are paths that will lead us to places that are hard to come back from. But none of them are really wrong.
Even the painful ones exist to teach us something.
At the end, when ever word has been said, we end up where we end up. If we are lucky, and listen to God or the Universe, we end up discovering the majesty of our destiny.
If we fall prey to our own vices, and ignore our inner moral compass--if we stray so far off the path that we forget to look for it, we end up somewhere else entirely. But do you know what I realized from 66 years on Earth?
None of it really matters.
You are but a speck of stardust, floating in the infinite. The span of your life is but a blip in the scheme of things. You have lived, and loved, and cried, and dreamed fro 37 years. You will continue to do so. Every mountain you climb will show you something new, just before you decide it's anti-climactic and move on to plan the next summit. But I encourage you to stop.
At that moment. At the top of your current mountain, there is a moment you will never get back. A specific sense of accomplishment. A moment where you can be present, and for a space of breaths know that you completed your goal.
Please take the time to appreciate those moments. For the lowest lows in life are that much less bitter, when balanced with triumph.
I'm sad that I cannot be with you on your birthday. But I know you can hear me singing the birthday song to you, and I am supremely proud of you for all the choices you have made. Ever since you were a little boy I have stood in awe of you. This cerebral, quiet, shy, sometimes condescending boy (defense mechanisms, right?) who felt more at home exploring the fantasy characters in his head than engaging with the outside world.
I had hoped, for a time, that you would be a simple man. Someone who could just be happy with whatever life put in front of him. I worried at times, as I told you, that you would end up alone. You never really showed an interest in finding a partner the way your siblings have, and I, in my own sphere of understanding grasp and respect the idea of creating your own 'gay family', but question whether or not your support system can fulfill the void in your life, left by love.
But then, before I say anything, I shut my mouth. And I clear my head of any preconceived notions of who or what I believe you should be. And I let you be you.
I decided long ago when I had children, to give up control. To let you, be uniquely you. And do you know what? It was the best decision I ever made.
Your biggest flaw, Gary, is that you are too hard on yourself. I can understand this inclination, as I lived for 66 years and learned something in that time, of human nature.
But if I could leave you with one piece of advice on your 37th birthday, it's to stop and smell the roses. Because you are just fine. And if you could see yourself the way I do, you would know that you are exactly where you are supposed to be.