Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Belated birthday reflections

I don't know if I've lived up to my goals for my first thirty years, because I've never been able to envision life that far ahead. It's rather a surprise to me that I'm here already. However, my thoughts earlier in the summer about authenticity without perfectionism were motivated in part by a concern that I would turn this milestone into another impractical and depressing checklist opportunity. At least for the next week or two, I've resolved not to make resolutions and not to compare myself with people who have families, careers, and PhDs at 30.

Brooks has drawn up a gratifyingly adventurous list of all the things I've done in the last year. I also had a lovely chat with my cousin the other day (hi Lori! the book just arrived!) and she inspired several Helpful Reflections.

First of all, I realized that I have much less inclination nowadays to try to be someone else. I still don't think I do a good enough job of being me, but that's a different stage of development.

Second, she reminded me that growth is a combination of intentionality and epiphany. There is a place for analysis, and there is a place for letting things happen.

Third, it struck me this morning that almost all the blogs I've been reading this year, whatever their various issues, have in some way emphasized incremental growth over drastic and ultimately unsustainable change. The Orthodox approach to spiritual disciplines has a similarly practical bent. God doesn't usually re-make someone in a day; it's the persistence of working at it that develops the virtues and disciplines. I think this may be my next Big Issue.

I've always been convinced that I have no self-discipline, but that's because I always assumed that I ought to be able to remake myself in a week or two if I just tried hard enough. When I look even just at my summer through my normal lenses, it looks like a failure. I didn't make a dent in my reading list, I didn't pray every day, I didn't get in shape, I didn't organize my whole house, I didn't minimize my environmental impact, and my squash and cucumbers were abject failures. But if I look at the small sporadic things, I did start praying and exercising once or twice a week, I did throw away or recycle several boxes of stuff, I eat less meat and dairy, I use less water and fewer plastic bags, I got the best tomatoes ever from my backyard, and I read at least parts of books in three languages. Not to mention that I spent more time with my sister than I have in the last seven years combined. From that angle, it doesn't look too shabby.

And finally, the birthday party reminded me of how many smart and interesting friends I have, because the ones who came also represented to me all the ones who couldn't come, and I marvelled at them all.


Sister Moon said...

This is beautiful. I relate very much to your point of view.

Here's another thing you should add to your list of accomplishments. The food you served to all those people was actually hot (and delicious)...quite a feat!

Hope to see you soon!

From the girl who just turned 39 on Sunday,
Much love,

Ben, Kyri & Rachelle said...

As a friend who has known you for 7+ years, YOU'VE COME A LONG WAY BABY! The Dana I knew then didn't trust herself enough, let alone anyone else, to make a life-long commitment, she shuddered and changed the subject when someone talked about her having children, and she was worried she wouldn't make it in a "real" college.

Sometimes these days I have a conversation with you and think "WOW, this woman is my friend." I feel less of a mentor and more in awe of you and where you have walked in faith in the last couple of years. Some of your steps scare the heck out of me. I am proud of you for daring.

Happy 30th Decade!


SEM said...

Happy belated birthday! Sounds like you had a great one. :)