The other day I went to a restaurant for the first time since March. I felt ecstatic, then overwhelmed and horrified. I mean, there were people there. Droves of them. (Okay, there were only about fifteen, it was a strictly outdoor venue and we were all safely placed within many feet of one another.) But still – people! All dressed up, talking and laughing, eating food and drinking drinks. Acting normal.
And for a moment, all seemed right in the world. I breathed a (masked) sigh of relief.
Tomorrow is my 43rd birthday.
Confession: I have been struggling lately. A lot. I am not proud to admit this, but anxiety has taken the wheel. I know I’m not alone in experiencing anxiety these days, and that is somewhat consoling. But tell that to me at 3:36 a.m. when I’m lying alone, wide awake in bed, staring at the ceiling fan and praying its incessant whir will lull me back to sleep. All the while, my heart feels like it’s going to leap out of my chest and bolt for the door, taunting me with maniacal threats of never returning.
The thoughts run like this: What will happen to my career? What do I do next? How do I pivot? Who will publish my book now? Why aren’t people buying my album? How will I make more money? What does my industry look like from now on? When will it return? What does dating look like? (Hint: non-existent!)
And, coupled with recent trips (yes, more than one!) to the dentist – fear in the waiting room, fear of the unknown cost; blubbering in the chair; the sound and smell of drilling; obsessively checking and re-checking the mirror – I finally crumpled.
Give me a pandemic and a truly unknown future, take away my preferred creative outlet and I’ll give you 170% real, raw Leslie. The remaining 30% is reserved for my husband on our wedding night. Snort.
Leslie cries. She makes mistakes. She is anxious. She is a perfectionist. She’s terrified of the dentist. At times, she is horrible at self-care and self-love. She’s constantly battling her bank account. She compares herself to others and subsequently feels like a failure. She isn’t sure how to pivot during this time.
Pivot. Pivot. Pivot. Oh, how I hate that fucking word.
Leslie is grateful. Leslie is strong (albeit unwillingly, at times). Leslie is determined. She works her ass off. Leslie apparently talks in the third person. Leslie goes to therapy. Leslie is learning to meditate. Leslie is witty, kind, funny, generous, helpful, capable, talented, honest, vulnerable, hopeful, compassionate, warm, loving, a good kisser, lover, writer, singer, driver, songwriter, teacher, employee, daughter, sister, housemate, friend.
Leslie is loved.
Earlier this month, I was on a Zoom call with more than eighty Biola University Chorale alumni honoring our dear friend, director and mentor, Loren Wiebe, who had just celebrated a milestone birthday.
He shared his wisdom: “Where you end up in life has very little to do with what you’ve accomplished and everything to do with whom you have loved.”
I love, and I am loved.
And that is all that matters.
Happy birthday to me.