Dear Nefoos: On My 40th Birthday

White boy with brush cut mid-jump on a trampoline

Dear Cubbie, Dodger, & Rex,

Today I turn 40 years old.

To you, that sounds ancient I know. But trust me, once you turn 40 it won’t sound or feel old at all. In many ways, it will feel like life has just only begun. For now, I’m thrilled to be your middle-aged auntie who loves zip-lining down old Welsh quarries, wearing hip Nomad leggings, but also loves to be in her pyjamas by 9pm, snuggled up with her friends Netflix and Ben’n’Jerry’s.

What life lessons can I share with you on this day? Right now, you aren’t thinking about lessons at all. Right now, you’d rather be double-bouncing your brothers on the trampoline or building the master of all pillow forts.

Lesson #1: Always make time for pillow forts

Some things in life will come to seem childish to you. And it’s okay if you want to put those things aside as you mature into new activities. But it’s also important to remember to play — remember the simple things that ignite your imaginations in ways that the most complex video game could never hope to do.

Build your forts.

Bounce on your trampolines.

Go outside without any shoes on.

The joy these small treasures bring is powerful.

What else can I share with you? My head’s spinning at the moment, because not only am I turning 40 today but I’m moving away from Lac La Biche/Caslan for good, and on to Edmonton. After thirteen years in this area, I’ll be pulling up roots and putting them down in new soil. It’s scary.

Lesson #2: There will be dreams that don’t pan out. And that’s okay.

I know you’re already nurturing private dreams for yourselves — about what you will become, about what you want to do — and that’s dreadfully important! As you mature into your angsty teens years, you’ll develop more, tweak others, and polish then all up before splashing headlong into the great wide world to make your marks.

Know this: some of those dreams won’t happen. Disappointment will come.

Some dreams naturally fall away. We forget about them in the amnesia of our growth, and in the whirlwind of relationships. Sometimes these dreams are re-ignited later in life and appear as new jewels to us because that forgetting has been so long and so deep.

Other times, we have our hearts set on certain things — future, family, finances. And sometimes they simply don’t materialize.

Grieve the disappointment well. It’s okay to do so, no matter what anyone else might tell you. Desiring families of your own is a grand thing! But ‘family’ is a far larger community that simple biology. It’s taken me years to believe that, and even now it can be hard. That I’m moving closer to you boys is one of the greatest excitements about this adventure. Having you close by brings me joy and comfort.

I’m not saying all of this to stop you from dreaming. Dream on! Throw the nets wide and then go even further. What I am saying is, free yourselves from the expectations of the world, of faulty dogma, of anything that would tell you that you are not enough unless you meet a specific set of criteria.

When life does knock you down, grieve the experience — all that did or didn’t happen. Without a healthy grieving period or ways to mourn all that could have been, we stagnate and slip into numbness all so we aren’t hurt by love or dreams again.

Above all, don’t fear the disappointment. Don’t shut yourselves off my from you dreams for fear of losing them. By doing so, you’ve lost them already. Dare to dream. Risk the loss or the never-to-be, and celebrate all that is and does become.

Lesson #3 — Shut up, holler, and shut up again

You’re already learning well that we live in a broken, hurting world. Sometimes those wounds seem far away from us, but more often than not we inherit those wounds that have caused pain for generations of people around us.

And as more pain bubbles to the surfaces of our consciousnesses, we see and hear more of that destructive black and white rage responding to that pain. Now, more than ever, we need people who listen and who want to listen to the world’s pain.

So, my dear boys, shut up.

When someone shares with you their experiences of racism in Canada, choose to open your hearts, minds, and ears, desiring to affirm those experiences with all of who you are. Don’t pretend like you can relate or understand. Our identity in this area already confirms that we don’t and that we can’t. Be humble enough to accept this reality.

When someone confides in you that they are LGBTQ2S+, keep your soul and ears wide open to that person, affirming their narrative, refusing to interrupt or add your own story. You will learn all too soon that identity scares the powerful — scares them enough to shame, destroy, neglect, and oppress others simply for being who they are. Refuse to give in to fear. Rather choose love above all things.

When someone calls you out for using racist, homophobic/transphobic, ableist language, swallow your pride, listen beyond your own feelings, and receive the truth being given you. It will be hard. But we need people who choose this hard path over and above the pampering of own egos. This may be difficult to understand now, but the truth will reveal itself to you as you grow.

And once you’ve listened, holler.

Shout.

Cry out.

Don’t hold back.

I can’t apologize enough to you for passing on to you a sick and dying planet. What we are going to do about the mass global warming, I can’t say. It seems money and comfort drive our fragility more than a desire to live in harmony in creation. Speak out against climate injustice. Live in such ways that Mother Nature is honoured.

Speak to other white folks about inter-generational trauma, about privilege, about racial justice rather than reconciliation. Use your platforms to support the voices of people of colour.

Speak to straight, cisgender folks about the power of community with LGBTQ2S+ people. Refuse to accept homophobic/transphobic teachings in any arena. Challenge government policies that still deny full access to medical and family services for LGBTQ2S+ people.

As it says in Isaiah 58, shout it all loudly and don’t hold back.

And then…

…shut up again.

Learn to know when to drop the mic. So many people have lived in cultures that were denied using their own voices for centuries. Learn to know when your voice is needed, and when you need to refrain from speaking. Amplify the voices that have been denied being heard rather than your own.

For sometimes, silence really is golden.

Lesson #4: You’re loved

As always, I love you. I won’t ever be able to say this enough. I love you for you, who you’ve already been, and who you will be. You are lights in my life, and I thank God for each and every one of you. I’m grateful that I get to be one of the voices expressing love and God into your lives, and I will continue to strive to be that person of trust for you.

I leave you with words of my favourite hymn — words that were written in 8th century Ireland:

Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me save that Thou art
Thou my best thought by day or by night
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light

Be Thou my Wisdom, be Thou my true Word
I ever with Thee, and Thou with me, Lord
Thou my soul’s shelter, Thou my high tower
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Pow’r of my power

Riches I heed naught nor vain, empty praise
Thou mine inheritance now and always
Thou and Thou only be first in my heart
High King of heaven, my treasure Thou are

High King of heaven, my victory won
May I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heaven’s Sun
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall
Still be my vision, O Ruler of All

It’s time for me to drive to the city and start moving my things into my new apartment. I’ll see you at the birthday party later today. We’ll celebrate together with lots of love and cake!

See you soon!

Love,

Auntie Erin

  One thought on “Dear Nefoos: On My 40th Birthday

  1. Jailyn Corbin
    September 8, 2018 at 9:19 am

    Beautifully written and happy birthday.

    • Erin Thomas
      September 8, 2018 at 8:43 pm

      Thanks!

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