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The Conspiracy of the Universe

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In the middle of last week, I felt a sudden and overwhelming urge to see my family. They all live 100 miles away or so and have busy lives, with jobs, kids and hectic social calendars. It had only been a month or so, but I couldn’t help myself. I didn’t send out an S.O.S., or even a guilt trip. I simply sent out an invitation via text message:

 I am missing my family something fierce these days. Is anyone free to come meet me in San Clemente this weekend? Saturday or Sunday?

They had early morning soccer games and late night concert tickets, home projects and volunteering commitments, but miraculously, they all said yes. Sunday morning they were willing to drive forty miles to see me and my family. The only ones missing would be Keara, away at college, and my parents, who are currently crossing the Atlantic on a Disney cruise. Since we were going to be near some of our best friends, I texted them the invitation as well. I immediately heard back:

We are around all day. We will join you wherever you guys end up. Just let me know! Yippee!

Well, that’s awesome, I thought and I went through the rest of my week with a smile on my face, knowing that Sunday would be a good day. But as the week went on, the thought of Sunday started to lag. Our family was out late Friday and Saturday nights; I was speaking at our church on Sunday evening and nightly school, work and social events are lined up for the next six days. I didn’t need an additional hundred-mile roundtrip, beach extravaganza to be happy.

What was I thinking? I asked myself as the alarm went off on Sunday morning. (Alarms should never go off on Sunday mornings!) But we loaded up the truck with surfboards, wetsuits, fins and frisbees and headed up the coast to meet our crew.

Of course, the day was fabulous and worth every ounce of effort. The sun never really came out, but as you can see, it didn’t slow us, or our fun down.

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My baby sister, Amy and I, always make our own fun!

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As we piled in the car to head home, I pulled out my phone to send a birthday text message to a very special person.

Twenty-five years ago yesterday on September 18, 1991, I gave birth to Sarah Moses, my first-born daughter and twenty-five years ago today, I gave her up for adoption. She had been on my mind all week as this milestone birthday approached. I had already sent off a birthday card and made plans to meet up with her mom, Dee. Sarah is finishing up grad school in Los Angeles, so getting to see her is always a challenging proposition!

I could have called, but instead I wrote:

Happy Birthday darling girl! I can’t believe you are 25 today. I am thinking of you, love you and spent the morning with my brothers and sisters who all held you the day you were born and loved on you. My best friend Laura sends her love. She was there that day as well and she gave me a big hug for you. You are always in my heart Sarah Moses and I hope you feel my love over the miles.

I hit send and then I laughed.

What had I done? Somehow, unconsciously, without ever making the connection, I had gathered around me the very people who had been present to me on that beautiful and heartbreaking day, a quarter century ago.

On that day, I was physically and emotionally exhausted, in love with my newborn daughter and letting her go. I had told my mom in advance that I wanted my family to come meet her. Even though she wouldn’t be a part of our lives, I wanted us to celebrate her birth together. It was a school day, so my dad drove my 14 and 11-year-old siblings, Tim and Amy, a hundred miles through rush hour traffic to be there. Charlie, my older brother, was at school at USD just around the corner, and he brought his then-girlfriend, Laura, with him to lend support.

When we got home from the beach, I pulled out my photo album from the day of Sarah’s birth and found the family photo that included the baby girl who celebrated her twenty-fifth birthday yesterday.

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September 18, 1991

I sent it to her with the caption: Your birth family on your birth day!

I also discovered pictures of moments I had forgotten, showing the tenderness with which she and I were both held that day.

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In The Alchemist, Paolo Coelho writes: “When you want something, all the universe conspires to help you achieve it.” Though I loved the book, I never really believed the message. There are too many examples from my own life and those of others that seem to refute it, but yesterday, my experience was undeniable.

The universe conspired to bring me something I wanted, even though I didn’t know why I wanted it. I put it out there, an invitation, and twenty-five years later to the very day, I was again surrounded and held with tenderness and love, in joy and celebration of being a family.

Last night, I looked through all the photos I took at the beach yesterday, of my siblings and Laura (yes, the then-girlfriend, but still dear friend), and their spouses and children, and I saw the Universe conspiring again.

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Some of my crazy beach crew kids from the Bush,Wilson, Gebhard and Kirkpatrick families

Before we packed up, I made some of the kids pause for a picture. They did and then they started to pose themselves. They were laughing and falling, clamoring for the shot before they dropped their friend or cousin or sibling on the ground. I stared in disbelief at the photos last night at what I didn’t see when I was taking them. They were holding one another, like babies in their mother’s arms, like each of their parents had held Sarah on the day she was born.

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Top: Molly holds Maddie B. while Finn photobombs Bottom: Maddie B. holds Sia G. and Nick holds his cousin Cole (who also just happened by!)

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Molly and Wyatt Wilson take turns, while Nathan holds the love of his life, my sister Amy and Nick shows off his feats of strength by taking on Finn.

Last night as I lay in bed with Tim, I almost wept in surprised gratitude for the way it all came together, the way life unfolded and encircled upon itself, all in one day and in one fell swoop. I am so glad the Universe responded, even though I was blessedly unaware of the reason for my call.

I think that’s how the Universe conspires. It doesn’t necessarily bring us what we want to be happy, but it brings us what we need to be whole. It doesn’t respond to the dreams we broadcast out loud, but listens instead to the whispered longings of our soul. And when it shows up, whatever “it” is, we have to be open to it. We have to let go of what we think we need to be happy, so we can be present to the healing that’s possible in that moment, through the seemingly random confluence of people and places, songs and situations that filter through our days. Call it synchronicity, or quantum entanglement. Call it Love, or call it God, but no matter what, call It to you and then look for it to come.

 

P.S.

As complete and beautiful as yesterday was, I wish Keara Moses, the daughter named in honor of, but NOT as a replacement for, her older sister, could have been there with us. I also wish my mom and dad could have been present. To see all of us together brings them such joy. Pam Kantrud, is another significant person from my life at that time. She was the mother of the family I lived with while I was pregnant, and she was there on Sarah’s birth day too, counting my breaths, rubbing my back, and cooing over the beauty of my newborn baby girl.

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My mom and Pam, my fearless “midwives” who guided me through Sarah’s birth

And Sarah? Do I wish she was there too? Of course I do, but that’s a story for another time. In all things related to her, I work to find the delicate balance between loving her as my daughter and knowing she is someone else’s pride and joy, of calling her family, but respecting that she has her own. My own family, large and small, has all been able to spend time with her and I hope there will be ever more opportunities for that.

And finally, Tim. As I’ve mentioned before, he was there that day and every day since, holding my life in a tender embrace.

Tim Kirkpatrick

 

A Birthday Life

 

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I know this is a kind of strange and unpleasant image. It wasn’t exactly where I thought I’d start this post, but it’s kind of fitting.

I woke up this morning, feeling under fire, kind of like you do on a Monday morning, when the weekend has sucked up every last ounce of your time and energy. I set my alarm, said my prayers, and started making lunch for my kids. There was only a heel of bread, enough turkey for one kid, expired mayonnaise and an apple that looked good on the outside, but was turning dark in the middle. But don’t worry! After fifteen years of making lunches, these things are not a problem. It’s a simple matter of sleight of hand and a confident presentation.

But twenty minutes later, as I was cleaning up the kitchen, a lesson caught up with me. As I poured expired milk down the drain, I saw the brown center of the apple, peeking out from under the dishes. Oops! That was a #signoflove, but who’s got the time? I dumped out the cold coffee pot. It didn’t move. I turned on the water and hit the garbage disposal button, but still Love didn’t budge.

Okay. I get it.

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If Love remains in the compost pile of a dirty kitchen sink, then Love remains in the compost pile of our lives. Apparently, this was a message I needed to hear.

Yesterday was my birthday. I turned 45. I looked in the mirror. I didn’t love what I saw, so I looked around and I liked that a lot better.

I saw a husband, who is also my best friend. He’s the provider of stability and sound advice, but also the purveyor of all things creative and silly.

I saw three kids, each unique in their gifts and their challenges, but unified in their love for me and each other.

I saw countless friends and family who remembered me with texts, messages, phone calls and cards.

I looked around this morning and saw that I didn’t have a birthday “day.”

I have a birthday life.

Everyday, I can wake up and celebrate.

In the predawn darkness, I have a warm body lying next to me, a heart keeping time with mine.

In the silence and stillness of the morning, I sit with God and remember I am Loved.

In the busyness of my days, I have work to do and a healthy body and mind to do it.

In the fall of the evening, I have the privileges of my life to be grateful for and the hope of getting to do it all over again tomorrow.

Amidst all those daily routines, I also have access to hot coffee and cold beer, not to mention clean water and fresh food. There are sunny skies and good people in my life who bring me laughter and conversation and full-bodied hugs, any time I need them. The Pacific Ocean is only ten minutes away and I have a car with gas in it!

Who gets to live this life?

I do!

That’s what I remembered this morning.

This life is a gift. It’s mine; it’s the only one I’ll ever get and I want to celebrate it – all of it – even the stuff I didn’t ask for.

No one gets everything they want, or keeps everything they have. I may prefer to smile, but tears have something to teach me as well, as do hard conversations and unpleasant truths. While I tend to shove those packages to the back of the pile, sometimes they’re the greatest gifts of all, because they give me the opportunity to rediscover who I am and who I want to be.

At 45, I just want to be grateful, but I’m not always.

I just want to be here, but I often fantasize about being somewhere else.

I just want to Love, but instead, I close up shop when I’m feeling lazy.

At 45, I have a birthday life, but I don’t appreciate it as much as I should.

So, that #signoflove in the dirty sink?

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Yeah, thanks for that Universe, as well as everyone else who reminded me of my birthday life and helps me live it. You’re the gift that just keeps on giving and for that, I’m grateful.