(Requisite disclaimer: Yes, I only read it once…i just needed to get it on paper, so forgive typos, poor grammar, etc…or don’t.)

Last year around this time, I was so struck by turning 35 that I sat down and wrote a list of things I knew for sure. There were 11 of them. Each one was a thing or act or accomplishment that I was distinctly proud of and felt some sense of relief in saying out loud. When I was done and I read the list back to myself I remember being overcome by a sense of transition and growth. I felt like I had arrived at a place that I didn’t even know I was on my way to. That list inadvertently opened up a world of self-discovery that became extremely important to me at precisely the moment I finished.

I almost knew instinctively that I would write a sequel. I even began thinking about it back in the spring when my best friend’s birthday came. I remember trying to reflect on my year thus far and coming up with a sort of contrived list of randomness like – “I can fill out a ball gown” and “I have decorated my home with great taste”…even as I jotted down these sort of empty achievements they fell flat in my mind. The things I listed at 35 were real – even the whimsical, were real, hard-earned, and meaningful in one way or another to me. This new would-be list of 12 (because that’s how contrived it was – I thought – “I’ll one up myself from last year, genius!”) was so insincere that I just stopped altogether and left the task alone. When my birthday came this year I didn’t even think about it. As a matter of fact, my life has been so “topsy turvy” – if you will – lately, that I barely thought about my birthday at all. But tonight, after what has been one of the longest weeks of my life, I sat reading in my living room and I was struck with a thought that led me back to this task.

I actually don’t have a funny list this year. I don’t have a list at all and what I have to say may or may not tickle you…but its honest and it’s me – today.

This year has been one for the record books. There has been significant change in several areas of my life. I have a magnificent new job and I feel fulfilled and appreciated for my work for the first time in a decade. My daughter started Junior HS – which is just unbelievable to me because according to my calculations she is still about four years old. And, I have a man in my life that is in a word – wonderful. As I sat thinking about these occurrences I couldn’t help but to think about how I feel like they are connected even though they seem so disparate.

My work, as anyone who really knows me, knows – is very important to me. I love the idea of working hard. I love to see something from inception to fruition and know I played a role in making it happen. And, I love to learn and then master something new. It is my absolute delight and my new job allows me to do that everyday. In the past, I have put my blood, sweat and tears into work only to have it go unappreciated and frankly uncompensated. Neither of those is an issue at this job and I love that the most. I have been humbled quite a bit doing this work too, but I have come out all the better for it. The kind of chin check this work gives me helps me grow as a professional and brings me closer to being even better at doing the work I truly love.

I love my baby. I don’t even have to write that because if you know me well enough to read this, you know that. She is growing up very fast now like someone was waiting at 11 and just put some duct tape on the fast forward button. She is my height and her feet are bigger than my feet! She is also “blossoming” quickly with things growing out of places that make me nauseous. Her taste in clothes, her taste in music and her taste in rules have changed drastically in a very short period of time. She is “funky” at times and she seriously irks the mess out of me at least three times a week. But as much as this pre-pubescence just makes me crazy, I love watching her grow. I love giving her the space she needs to discover exactly who she is – and she is doing just that. I love seeing the independence in her eyes when she is given another little freedom here and there – I remember that so well from that age. She has morphed from a little girl to a little lady in less than a year and while it is painful to watch sometimes, it feels like the kind of pain that you’re grateful for. It’s a bit of sadness for me each time she wants to stretch her pretty wings a bit further, but I am struck with a tinge of joy at the same time. Our relationship feels complicated at times, but then it shifts right back and feels as simple as the baby I just love.

Last year on my list of eleven things I made a bold claim, I said that at 35 I knew how to:
10. Appreciate a good man.
Good men aren’t exactly as hard to find, as they are hard to “de-fine”. All of my girls describe this supposed anomaly differently. By my own definition, I have run into quite a few and although they weren’t my soul mates or husbands…I did (and do) appreciate them for who they represent in the world. Learning to appreciate a good man has definitely prepared me to be appreciative of my own – when he comes. And chile’ he’s coming.

I’ll be darned if he didn’t.

I didn’t even know this man was thinking about me at this time last year, didn’t know if we would ever find our way back into each other’s lives or if we did would it still be the same. But he did – and he was determined that it would happen. I love him for that. The biggest surprise to me this year has to be that I would reach my next birthday and be head over heels in love – and getting married. (What? Stop playing.) It even feels weird to write it and read it aloud. In just a short period of time, I have (re) met the man who will be my husband and that reality has also helped me to put this year of my life into perspective.

It has been all about love.

I thought when I started thinking about this that it was all about him, but love has been an overarching theme this whole year.
My appreciation of, my desire for, my expansion into, my tug of war with, my cautious understanding and trepidation about, and my bold exclamation of…Love.

I was reading the breakdown of love in Corinthians 13: 4-8 in the Bible and was so struck by how this small passage covers so much ground. It is significant for each of the life changes that have occurred for me in the last year. Love is so difficult to comprehend and so simple at the same time. I know God is Love. And yet, as I have to go about my life dealing in and out of love in relationships with people and situations, it just doesn’t feel that simple all the time.

If I have learned anything else this year, it is that: Love is complicated and love is simple.

But I have also learned that love is a verb. It is kinetic always moving and always working. When you’re at your best it loves you back and at your worst it loves you through. It is real, it is tangible, it is messy, it is raw, and it is powerful.

And there is nothing wrong about it.

The verse says it never fails, and it doesn’t. We fail it.

This year I figured out a lot about myself by looking at how I love and why I love and what I love and when I fail and succeed in love; what it means to me and what I do in spite of and because of it.

I got all of that in the last year and some of it in the last week.

I am so very excited about what’s next. If it’s God’s will my work will be taken to another level in the next few years; my baby will continue to grow and develop into an even brighter star than she is and I will have a wonderful man to share my life with and make even more dreams come true for us both…

I don’t have a list this time because there is only one thing I know for sure at 36 and that is that each of these things will begin and end with love.