A Birthday Reflection

As I sit here writing this it’s a beautiful spring afternoon. The sun is hanging brightly in the sky, the gentle breezes blow through my curly hair, and the aroma of freshly blooming flowers and cut grass fill my nostrils. I hear the peaceful chirping of birds, and I can feel the beat of my own heart. It’s in moments like this that a smile spans across my face, and the trials of the week before me seem to become distant memories.

Last Friday, I was blessed with celebrating my 23rd birthday. Given my recent struggles, it’s fair to say that I was not particularly looking forward to that day. A whole day focused on celebrating me, my presence in this world, and the food that would surely accompany this day just was not appealing to me. As the day grew closer, and the events of the week leading up to my birthday unraveled, I was met with challenges, and thought provoking, emotionally deep questions. The most touching though was “what do you want for yourself in the next year?” When I was originally asked this, my eyes swelled with tears, and all I could utter was a faint “I don’t know.” The following is a letter I recently penned to myself in response to this question.


Dear Alissa,

Yesterday was your birthday! It was a quiet day, filled with warm wishes and waterfalls of love. I know you would have rather have spent it unnoticed to resonate with how lost, alone, and meaningless you have felt in this world lately. But, don’t you see, those all are the lies your eating disorder wants you to believe. I know deep down, even though you feel alone in this world and in your struggles right now, I know you are so aware that your creator loves you, will never leave you, and is carrying you through these moments.

There has been a lot of talk lately about what you want for you throughout this next year, and figuring it out. A question that seems so unbelievably loaded when you barely know what you want from day to day and feel as though you are just trying to keep from drowning in the sea of uncertainty. You are focused too much on the miniscule picture. Step back and embrace the beautiful, bigger picture.

This next year, WHAT DO YOU WANT? YOU? Not your family, not your treatment team, not your friends or employer but YOU? Do you want to keep dwelling on all your imperfections and “failures’’? Do you want to be miserable, hating your body when there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with you? Do you want to just drift through the motions of day to day life?
NO! I want so much more. Trouble is, at the moment I’m not quite sure how to get there. I want happiness and meaning in each breath I take. I want to love this life for all it is, all it has been, and all it is capable of becoming. I want to fully unlock my passions and be so immersed in them that I don’t have time for self-hatred, but rather love. I want to find the courage for self-love, no matter how awful I feel day to day, or what I eat, or what I weigh. I want to LOVE ME because GOD made me and He only makes good. I want to open my heart and mind to new experiences. I want to be brave. I want my life to reflect an attitude of gratitude.

But where to even start? It all just seems so overwhelming for my listless mind. Maybe, the best thing I can do to get to that place, is to be present in each moment, and find something, even if it’s as simple as the gentle breeze to express gratitude for. Maybe that’s the best place to start? As Lao Tzu once said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” I will find the life that God has meant for me to have one step at a time.