Friday, January 1, 2016

At the outset of a really big year...

This year feels big to me.

I'm halfway through being 35. Maybe that's why. If there is any youth in me left, I feel like it's about to eked out in the next few years, like the last blobs of toothpaste in an almost empty tube. I still look almost young, but my hair has started to gray. Wrinkles are coming. I sleep less.

Nobody prepares you for 35. There are no after-school-specials about what it's like to be wedged halfway between young-adulthood and middle-age. There are no road maps for this time--when the early thirties somehow feel so young and vibrant and nearly-linked to your twenties, yet your later thirties feel so adult and serious and nearly-linked to your forties, and you are smack dab in-between both of those worlds

It's hard to describe, I guess. But the feeling of it is starting to make me take things seriously.

I take this new year very seriously because of it. I'm starting to realize so many things. Life goes quickly. Youth fades fast. Energy dwindles. Aches increase. Responsibilities threaten to overtake all of your hours. At this age, the future is now less of an amorphous, seemingly endless expanse of possibility in front of you. Instead, you have begun to inhabit that space. There are other dreams still, but if you aren't careful, they begin to take on a different timbre--less pie-in-the-sky and filled with hope, and more realistic (aka, pessimistic).

I don't care for that. I choose to continue to believe in the power of my dreams. Even the most scary of them.

I have been feeling recently like I'm in the middle of some kind of bridge, or some kind of transition.
I feel it right now, while my family is all together for the holidays. Right now, most of the people I love on this planet are with me still. It feels flimsy and temporary--but also like an amazing gift. It feels like this very rare chunk of time when nearly all of the people I deeply care about are still breathing, eating, living--still accompanying me on this rock. Admittedly, I haven't experienced much death in my 35 years, and I feel lucky (and also a little bit ill-prepared). My parents are both still here. All four of my siblings are still here. Lolly's parents are here. All of her siblings are here. All of our respective children are here. My best friends are still here. Most of the people I love with all my heart are still with me.

I know how lucky I am for that. And I have a sense how temporary it is.

I don't mean that to sound morbid. This is not some prediction of calamity or tragedy, though certainly no human soul will escape those bogeymen.

It's more like this: last week I was in Coos Bay and I was spending time with my Mom's mom. She is 92. She is spunky, articulate and refined. She is a farm-girl who wished to leave that behind her when she grew up, and so married my grandpa. He was more urbane and academic and provided well for her, and she never looked back. I sat in her little house on the bay, and I played the violin for her on one of the instruments my grandpa made. I sat talking to her about her daughter, my mom, who is dying. And it occurred to me that besides some of her children and their progeny, all of her people are gone. No siblings. No aunts or uncles. No parents. No spouse. And she will soon lose her second child.

She is, in so many ways, alone. The last vanguard of our clan, a relic and a gift to her descendants, but largely alone in this world. She has no peer-group, no contemporaries. They are gone--all of them.

This loss is something that happens. It is a matter of course. It is part of the cycle of life on this planet. It is natural and filled with grief and tragedy, because it's also filled with love, and it is the fate of every human who lives enough years: we eventually lose our tribe.

But I am at the opposite end of that. I am an adult looking over that precipice. All of my tribe is still here. We all sit before that great cliff and enjoy one another's company, and I can see how all of us will eventually leave one by one. But we haven't yet. We have a few precious moments left where we are all together, where we can all sit in a room with each other and eat and laugh and be a unit. But it will end, slowly and gradually, in a natural progression of loss. And I can see that somehow. I can see how lucky I am to be where I am at this dot on the spectrum of time. I have my tribe now, and it's beautiful, and it simply cannot last.

I'm so grateful for that gift, and I'm so grateful that most of my family decided to be together this season.

So yes, this is a new year. And I feel the weight of my own humanity. I feel the power of my internal forces urging me to bravely fling myself towards my dreams--even the most terrifying ones--and I also feel the temporariness of that endeavor--the fleeting nature of the seconds and minutes and days that remain at my disposal.

And so I will do it. I will run toward the realization of my dreams, bumbling and tripping and falling all the way. I will not be deterred by the bruises and cuts and scrapes along the way. I will rebuke shame and its internal voices. I will be brave and do hard things. I will take risks. I will do the things I feel called to do, even the ones that leave me breathless with fear. I will speak instead of remaining silent. I will create, and then create again. I will throw my hat into the ring over and over and over in the endeavors I care about, even after met with many failures. I will take care of my body, and I will eat good nourishing food, and I will spend time with my wife and daughters and siblings and dear friends because I know that our time together is finite. I will do the things I love, and observe the beauty around me. I will work hard and play hard and rest well. I will make self-care my clarion song, so that my filled cup will overflow into the lives of as many people who thirst as I can reach. I will give and I will love and be brave and vulnerable. And I will tell jokes and laugh and celebrate and have fun throughout it all.

I am so grateful to be alive, and I'm so excited to see the wonderful things this year holds. I have the feeling this will be an exceptionally big year--probably with really high highs and really low lows. And I'm excited for it all.

Thanks for being there. Happy 2016.

Here's a picture.

We are very excited for 2016!

Oh wait. Just remembered that we took a fun one last night.
Right after the ball dropped! Happy New Near! 


  1. I enjoy your blog so much. This post made me angry - not at you, but at life.

    I am a year younger than you but I have lost my family tribe three times already. To death, so many to death including my parents. To bad luck and bad health. To dysfunction. To distance and lifestyle and economic class. I guess that is why I am in therapy, now, finally. Every new tribe I've formed has fallen apart.

    I'm glad you enjoy it and appreciate it. Losing people teaches you to see beauty in a new way, to commune with the living and the dead in a new way.

    -aged out foster kid

    1. AOFK again.

      I guess what I mean to say, also, is that your grandma is not alone.

      She communes with the saints in a way that one must grow to understand. It's holy and precious and a mystery. I'm only 34, and experienced this mystery entirely too soon. But trust me that it is beautiful and you, too, will see it and get it.

      Blessings upon you.

  2. thank you for this... indeed, wishing us all a good new year. bless you!

  3. I'm 37, and I totally hear you about the middle-of-my-thirties thing. I tend to hang out with the younger adults in my ward, and often forget that I'm not in my twenties, yet I'm also conscious that I'm nearly forty (good grief!), and sometimes life feels really, really serious. Sometimes too serious. One of my goals for this year is to savor the joys in life, amidst all the grown-up work and responsibility.

  4. This is amazing!!!! Thank you!

  5. Inspiring. Words I need to hear. It's the good life, Josh....running as fast as we can towards we want. It really is.

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  7. Thank you so much for your contagious optimism!! You are a happy warrior I will strive to emulate; lifting others, saying "its ok to feel this way", and loving those around you. I appreciate you throwing your hat in the ring.
    The 'hats' in the ring are getting fewer--/ but the ones that remain are strong and vibrant.
    Your contribution and risk will really matter.

  8. Beautiful Josh, loved it.

    But you think 35 is bad...just wait until you are 49 and ....nevermind spoilers! You'll just have to wait and see. :)

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  10. Happy New Year Josh!!!! To you and your sweet family :)

  11. Beautiful post. Oh man... I am 35 as well and this hit me right in all the feels!

  12. What a wonderful post. I can "see" you on the verge of something great! I've been where you are (even though I'm not much older than you), but in some respects, I'm on the other side. I lost my little sister when she was just 18.5 years old. My husband lost his mother when she was 65. We lost our sister-in-law when she was just 37. We've also lost all our grandparents except for my amazing Grandpa Charles, who is also 92! What I've learned is this: cherish every moment with every person you are privileged to spend time with. :) Live your life and conduct your relationships so you have zero regrets! That's the only positive thing I can say about losing so many people I love: I have no regrets; I left nothing unsaid, nor undone. Occasionally, I feel the presence of my departed loved ones, and sometimes (if I'm really lucky!) they visit me in my dreams. :) I wish you happiness, peace and strength for what lies ahead for your sweet family. While sadness comes with death of our loved ones, amazing spiritual experiences are very close at hand...write it all down. :)

  13. The line you slipped in at the end about self-care being your clarion call so that you could have the energy to help others really resonated with me. I'm realizing that when I'm not caring for myself emotionally or physically that I'm more likely to be selfish and unkind- not to mention unhappy! Being good to myself helps me be good to others. Good luck with keeping your cup full and your other 2016 dreams!

  14. Can't believe your mom Irene is 92! But yes, she is a refined lady and an elect lady. Your grandpa was amazing also. Love that you played for her on Woody's violin. Sad to hear that my childhood friend Shelly is not well, and yes, it does remind me that every life will come to an end and that everything and everyone has a "pull date." Thank you for sharing, Josh.

  15. I grew up in the Coos Bay stake! What a very small world. Thanks for offering connection.

  16. I'm only 23 years old and I feel like I'm an old woman! You made me realize that I, too, have not experienced much death in my life (which I'm 100% grateful for). Nonetheless, sometimes it's hard to kind of enjoy the moments with our loved ones until things change. We're so worried about the future that the enjoyment of actually seeing the people around us grow is placed on hold. Somethings are easier said than done.Of course I'm talking about myself-- and I believe and hope that you can accomplish the goals you've created for yourself. :-)

    Have you ever considered writing letters to your future self? You know, something like time capsule; a letter that you wouldn't read until you 40th birthday or something like that. A gift from yourself for yourself. I think it would be quite interesting to see how much you've transformed within a 5 year span.
    Anyway, sorry for babbling on. I don't know when and how I found your blog, but I do enjoy them!

  17. Thank you for this. Knowing you will make mistakes and still trying is everything.

  18. What a post! You know you're just at the beginning, right? :) I look back at 35 and realize that I was clueless, I was in the middle of 5 children with 2 more coming and life was just a fog to get through, lol. What is awesome is that you can see there is so much ahead of you. Don't stress too much over the loss to come. I've been through more loss than most people, and I don't know that it gets easier with time - but you become just a little...used? to it. I'm not sure. But you'll do fine. You are doing an excellent job with your family now. Be sure to remember that sweet grandmother as often as you can, you know she's not going to be there long.
    I'm sorry about your mother - it's never easy to lose a parent or have to watch them go. Life is hard no matter which direction you are headed. Good thing we have the Savior, right?
    take care.

  19. Great post, Josh. I am almost 50 (no idea how that happened), single, female and etc. It's all a bit shocking. My body is in pretty good shape and I've started weight lifting but still, 50. It's funny how much harder that feels than 49 when in the big picture it isn't. My mom died two years ago near Christmas and even though she was 82, I still grieve deeply. My father now lives in an expensive and beautiful assisted living facility and his own health is greatly diminished but he is safe. I find it so hard to have the generation above me pass on - I knew it would eventually come but when it does, wowza. Your mom's dying is so painful partly because of her age and partly because of, well how long it takes and how much more she keeps diminishing. Here's what I've learned about grief (for what it is worth): it sucks. At the same time, it is most definitely the deepest feeing I have ever had. I find it to be like a veil has lifted and okay, this is what life is. I have found it to almost literally feel like it goes right to the bottom of me, if that makes sense. It also cleanses in some way - and teaches me that all that I hate about myself is not so deep, not so terrible. Thanks for writing this - it seems it has opened up a bunch of floodgates for me.
    - Karen

  20. I have to admit I have been coming back to this blog anxious to hear your response to the new policy by the Church. I find it hard to interpret your silence. So I choose not to interpret it, and respect that you are choosing to keep it private. But I was certain you would have a blog about your reaction to the policy.

  21. I am just randomly going to say here that when you mentioned something about chasing your dreams, even the terrifying ones, my first thought was, "I would chase my terrifying dreams, too." Then I realized you meant the good ones that we formulate during the day, not the insane, creepy, kind I get at night that tend to make my panic about my own inner psyche. But of course I would be the only one to do that. I mean, who else seriously wants to be bullied by the Phantom of the Opera to sing 'Under the Sea' from a Little Mermaid? And then doing it, because, hello?? He is THE Phantom of the Opera!! Disobeying is not a good idea. Giving him grief about making me sing it? Absolutely, yes. But sing it nonetheless.

    Yeah. No one wants to chase after THOSE dreams. Except me. LOL.

  22. I too keep checking and re-checking your blog to hear your thoughts on the new church policy, but have enjoyed reading other posts too. Of course it's your prerogative to stay mum on it, but with so many members absolutely brokenhearted about it, I must admit I was hoping for a bit of your courage and clear-sightedness as a balm (FYI, I am fully active, heterosexual who is now in the process of looking at my temple recommend daily and sobbing because I think the time has probably come to turn it in: in the words of Thomas Aquinas, "He who acts against his conscience always sins.") Going forward and lending my support to this policy through all my church service when it is tearing families apart, punishing innocent children, and asking even adult children to "disavow" their loving parents' lifestyle is acts against my conscience on every level. Why I'm giving you this rant, I don't actually know - - - just because you've made your blog a safe space, and the church itself as an institution has decided for a certain subset of God's children, it will not be a safe space. I'll keep checking in, and appreciate the weekly blogs, on . . . well, the topics of your choosing. Crazy how the author should actually get to choose what he writes about, eh?? Keep up the good work! (-:

  23. I am also curious how the church policy has made you feel, especially in the wake of the suicides. Since I moved into my current ward, there has been a lot of negativity towards those who struggle with same-sex attraction, and that has made it difficult to want to go to church anymore. My attendance has been slipping and I find it more and more difficult to wake up for church each week. I feel so conflicted.

  24. Thank you for your courage. I'm so glad you're back.