My usual birthday tradition is to reflect upon and then write about what the last year of my life has taught me. I spend the actual birthday solo and introspective, to pay attention to the lessons that sometimes fly past our busy lives. And yet, this year, I did not get the chance to carry out this tradition. It was not a calm and reflective birthday. It was spent in reactive mode. Our daughter had been born a week earlier and she had spent 4 days in the NICU with jaundice, and Megan was in the hospital for high blood pressure. We had finally returned home and spent two days settling in. And the morning of the third day, my birthday, a home health nurse came to the house for a mom and baby follow-up visit. After checking them both out, she looked at Meg and I and said, “I think both of these ladies need to go back to the hospital, and soon.” Amelia’s jaundice levels were rising again and Megan’s blood pressure was at a moderately scary level. We didn’t blink, we packed a bag, packed Amelia and took off for the hospital.
Once we arrived, we got Amelia checked into the NICU and took Megan down to the ER to get admitted. Her blood pressure was rising and between the two ladies, there was little ability to do anything but stay focused and walk one step at a time. By the time Megan was taken back to be seen, her blood pressure was at a very scary level. They put her on a 24-hour dose of Magnesium right away. This would help her pressure to come down and also would keep her bedridden for the entire 24 hours, meaning she would be unable to see Amelia in the NICU. Thus began the rest of the day of bouncing back and forth between the NICU to see Amelia under the blue lights to reduce her bilirubin levels, and Megan stuck in bed not able to eat or move around. Meg would pump and I would run the milk down to give Amelia a bottle. The party planned at the bar was cancelled and the usual fanfare of the birthday was replaced with caring for the two most important things in my life.
An interesting side note to the day: For some reason, I woke up the morning of that very day and my phone was acting up. It would not allow any voicemails to be left. The calls would come in but the phone would tell the caller that the mailbox was full. I tried restarting my phone and clearing my past messages but nothing worked. As fate would have it, I would not see or hear any of my community on my birthday. As someone who derives a great deal of joy from community, this felt like a blow. I came to see later on that maybe this happened for a reason. Maybe the universe was helping me to stay totally focused on my family this day. And to tune out the rest. By choice or by force. Some of my most needed experiences come by forces outside of my control. The next morning, when I woke up, my voicemail was working fine.
Over the course of the next 5 days, we lived at the hospital and slowly my two beauties improved. I was bummed that I had missed the chance to reflect on what I had learned over the past year and then, a day after we returned home, I realized that I knew what I had learned. And it was well-summated by the final day of the past year and the first days of the new one. The time had come to set up residency outside of my comfort zone. Not just dip out of it for a moment, but to move out there and slowly expand the boundary. I do a good deal of public speaking. To adults and often to kids. I talk about facing your challenges. I talk about accepting your truest self. And I talk a lot about going outside of your comfort zone. It is one of my go-to aphorisms. I talk about how the best things in my life have been found when I venture outside the boundary of my comfort zone. I talk about how it is uncomfortable out there. I talk about how fear is pulling you back inside your comfort zone. And I talk about the patience needed to sit in that uneasy space and make it yours. To go beyond what is tested and safe and find the destiny that is yours only if you venture out. I talk about this topic a lot. And yet, sometimes I feel like I am talking about it far more than I am walking it. I have come to remember recently, that with the birth of my daughter, the growth of my marriage to Megan, the evolution of my business to the next level, and the overall expansion of my responsibilities, that I am truly living outside of my comfort zone. We are certainly not in Kansas anymore.
And that is the wisdom I have learned from my birthday this year: that the time has come to go beyond talking a good game. The time has come to walk it. To remind myself that no matter how set in your ways or comfortable you are in your routines, that we are able to break new ground. That it is never too late to up your game and increase your level of experience and consciousness. That doesn’t come easy, but I have never had better reasons in my life to try. A great deal of walking the walk lies ahead of me in my year 47. Thank God I got a brand-new pair of New Balance 1540’s a few weeks ago.