Happy birthday! I hope you are enjoying a slice of angel food cake while you read this. Now I know this letter is supposed to be for your birthday, but I'm going to make it about me instead. As a parent, I assume this is what you want.
We're nearing the end of a long and strange year, now, a year where I did something that I've wanted to do for almost ten years. I became a writer. Not a writing student, or a writing major, or an aspiring writer. A writer. Someone who gets up in the morning, and sits down in front of their computer screen, and writes. And then gets up again the next day and does it again. Someone who sells stories to magazines, writes columns for websites, publishes a book. Someone who works a whole year and makes less than $1000. I did it all. Finally.
I know I should be joyous, but it's more of a relief than anything else. Madelyn and I have a bit of a morbid turn at times, and we often talk about what would happen if either of us died. I have no idea why we do this, but I'm sure I could make up a reason that sounds plausible. Here are three:
- We are terrified of losing the other person, so much so that we feel a compulsive need to confront that fear in a safe environment where we can deal with it appropriately.
- We are actually not afraid of it at all, so we enjoy flaunting our courage and confronting the possibility in a reasonable and straightforward way.
- We are strange, and so we think it is kind of funny to talk about strange things.
Psychology! It makes no sense to me!
Anyway, the other day I was lying in bed, thinking about what would happen if I died, and I realized I was cool with it at this point in my life. I don't want to die, obviously, but my outlook on it has definitely changed. At the beginning of the year, I had mixed feelings on the idea. Obviously the big draw is heaven. No more suffering, pain, sorrow, anxiety, fear, confusion, etc.
Let's take a moment to think about what I just wrote, the infinite joy contained in that "etc."
Sorry about that. I almost glossed over heaven for a second. I think about it far less than is good for me.
Because heaven, of course, is difficult to think about, simply because it is so far out of our realm of experience. With what can we compare it? There have been moments in my life so pure and joyful and peaceful and wonderful that I have trouble even remembering what they were like, much less imagining something so much better and greater than them. And so it is easy to gloss over, to forget, to think of heaven as some sort of consumable pleasure, rather than the kingdom of God.
I was always hesitant about dying, for I saw so much work to do here on earth. To leave before that work was done - this seemed like a great tragedy to me. And a great failure on my part. For I know how much time I have wasted in my life, how many fruitless moments can testify against me. How much time I've even wasted today.
Yet that does not really bother me anymore. Because the year is over, the book is done. I had something to say, and I said it. I have a lot more to say, of course. God is almighty and God is love, and so I will never run out of things to learn about Him, and praise Him for. I look at the future, and I am happy, thinking of all the words that await me, the stories and essays and books and letters, and (much more importantly) the people who will read them. But if that is not for me, if I die before reaching the end of this sentence... No, still alive. My last thoughts will not be of regrets.
And if I gained nothing else this whole year, that one difference was worth it.
So my wish for you on your birthday is that you might have a year like that, a year that will leave you with no regrets, a year where you will, as you always tell me, take the big slide, and enjoy the ride down.
With love always,
Your son Jordan
In case you were wondering, I write letters to my mother on the Internet because stamps are a form of witchcraft.