When I was 17, graduating from high school, I was bemused at those who filled in their “senior form” for the yearbook that they wanted to be accountants, engineers, secretaries. An ordinary life, that was what they hoped for.
I was the kid with the paragraph next to her name – drama, speech, newspaper, French club, Student Council, choir …
I was voted “Most Talented Girl,” probably because I won awards for UIL. But, you know, the “Most Talented Boy” could ride a unicycle.
Disclaimer: I can’t ride a unicycle.
Also next to my name, it said something about how I was either going to be a journalist or a stage actress. Not just actress, mind you. No-ho-ho, much too snobbish for movies or (cough, cough) teeveeee. Only the stage.
Well, life happens. I decided that being an actress … well, I saw some extreme self-focus, and decided it wasn’t for me. (This was before blogs had been invented. I’m sure my younger self would be appalled.)
And I decided I wanted the white picket fence. I graduated, got into Big Bidness. Turns out, I had a talent for putting out purple prose of the advertising sort. Became a nationally published copywriter, hawking jewelry that also required me to come up with form letters that apologized for when the golden roses fell off of the sparkling, genuine silver rings.
This led me into marketing, and coming up with great campaigns, many of which played upon the emotions of proud parents. “I love you, Son,” read one of the most popular.
Eventually I retired my pen and by then, my graphic design portfolio. I had the white picket fence, complete with the toddlers trying to scale it.
The Husband and I went through a rough patch. Not between us, but life, in the form of a company collapsing, a lawsuit.
We survived. We were glued, through the phone, on 9/11. 9 months later, we had child 3.
My graphic design skills were still in use, for free, by my church and my district. That district called and said, “We’ll send you to GA.” I went to GA. I received a call I could no longer ignore. I began seminary. A month later, I found I was pregnant with my 4th child. Just like the others, planned, and still, amazingly, right on schedule. Well … might be a little early.
Took a short break from seminary. Bought a house. Had a baby. Sold old house. In that order. Sweat, sweat, sweat.
Ready to go back to school. At Christmas, we toasted our plans.
Two weeks later, I took my baby in to the doctor, just a strange little bulge.
The earth cracked apart.
A year and a few months later, God tapped me on the shoulder and said, I love you. And I want you as much as you want me. And it’s nobody’s fault.
And a couple months after that, I went back to seminary. And I healed.
And a year after God tapped me on the shoulder, life kicked me in the gut. And ripped out my heart. And it was much, much worse this time.
And still, I finished the semester.
And then I went in the hospital. Every couple of weeks. And I told sweet stories when her fair fell out, about sweet little birds making their nests out of the hair. And I baked cupcakes. Lots and lots of cupcakes. And I grew fat.
But the warrior didn’t lose weight.
And we survived. All of us. All six of us, and all those around who loved us.
And I immediately went back to seminary. And Weight Watchers. And planned for a big trip. And then another trip.
And did it all. And then … I could stop fiercely treading water.
And I began to sink.
But sooner than I imagined, my feet touched bottom. I wasn’t as far from shore as I thought.
I touched bottom, and pushed off. Made it to the surface. Swam to the beach. Lay down.
I’m still crying.
But I’m also still breathing.
Today, I turn 40.
I am thankful for my life.
A friend, for my birthday, wished me gratitude. Most days, I am awash in it.
And those days that I’m not … are short.
And the next day, I am thankful yet again. For an ordinary life. Because now I know.
There is no such thing. There are only extraordinary lives.
Each and every one.