I've always loved celebrating my birthday. Truth be told, I love almost everything about the day. It falls on June 19th and I've always felt there's something auspicious about that number. I read once that I'm on the Gemini/Cancer cusp which makes the date feel even more special. I love that its in the last days of spring and that I share it with Phylicia Rashad. Most of all, I love the party. I always gather my friends together and break bread, reflecting on the year passed and birthing new possibilities for the year to come. It's not about the presents, though I'll hand it to my husband, he always delivers something brilliant.
This year is different. The last fifteen months have been the most challenging of my life. The passing of our son Kaidon was a serious blow to our hearts. Six months after he transitioned, we received a call from our social worker and agreed to foster a little baby that needed extra care to recover. Three weeks after his arrival we welcomed his older brother into our home, a toddler who was also in need of extra attention and love.
My experience in fatherhood doesn't match the vision I've carried since being a teenager. The fostering process can be agonizing and stressful. There are moments I feel powerless and unable to properly serve the children I've committed to protect because of regulations, red tape, and laws that don't seem to make much sense.
On a daily basis I meet the best and worst parts of myself.
My birthday often falls on Father's Day, or at least lands within a day or two of the Hallmark holiday. The bittersweetness of the day wafts through our home. It brings the memory of Kaidon to forefront of our minds and also shines a glaring light on our hesitation to fully celebrate the experience with our foster kids because we're not totally sure in what direction this case is moving. It has a similar vibe of running into an ex at the grocery store; the one that got away. You'd love to give them a big hug but aren't sure if its appropriate or good for your heart.
I'm also inching towards forty, a milestone that tends to make one take stock of their life and reevaluate the action plan if necessary. The arrival of the kids completely shifted the trajectory of my professional life. My weight fluctuates due to lack of sleep and exercise. I recommit daily to being a dad and remind myself that I'm not sacrificing anything. In fact, the greatest gifts of my life have been unwrapped through this exhausting, exhilarating, painful, joyful, and wild experience.
As a minister I'm always curious in the spiritual. I don't believe in coincidences, so it's no random accident these boys have come into my life. What have they taught me? What am I willing to learn?
Kaidon taught me to stay in the moment. Love is present and available with each breath we take. When I venture into the future I miss the opportunity to be in love right now. I'm grateful I learned this before he passed away. Each day I dedicated at least fifteen minutes to mindfully hold him and simply be in love. Kaidon taught me about the true nature of life and the freedom available in the grieving process. That bit of wisdom feels like having a super power.
All of the kids have taught me about forgiveness, both of myself and others, and they've given me the opportunity to find the seeds of divinity in unlikely places. It's easy to make villains of parents, social workers, and the judicial system - but at what cost? The price of finding an enemy is always my peace of mind.
I will not have a party for my 38th birthday. It's the first time in many years that I won't send out invitations. Instead, I'll go on a date with my husband (a rare and wonderful thing) and be in love with him. Then, we'll come home and kiss the boys goodnight and be in love with them. We will sleep-in the following morning or at least as long as the kids will let us.
My greatest gift this year is my willingness to release the attachments to any specific outcome. The life of my dreams may not look like I thought it would but when I stay present in this moment, I find that it's already here; I'm living it and I'm loving it. Happy birthday to me.
Jesse Brune-Horan is a Spiritual teacher and happy living expert. He's the co-founder & Spiritual director of Inspire Spiritual Community, a non-profit organization supporting the LGBTQ+ community. He's the co-host of the podcast "Alternative Styles"and lifestyle series "Super Easy with Jesse and Alison." He lives and loves in Los Angeles with his husband Christopher and their family.