By Dr. Dina Evan

Last month I turned 80, so my body is pissed, my mind hasn’t noticed and my spirit could care less. It’s a conundrum.

I grew up in an empty room
My mother’s two best friends were Coors and Dixie whose two best friends were my mother and Coors. My Dad was never there because he had best friends in bedrooms all across town. You might be expecting me to say my life was hard, and if you had asked the 13-year-old who left home to make it on her own, I would have agreed. But this 80-year-old feels like this incarnation was literally an amazing life class and the biggest blessing ever.
For instance, my mother was one of my greatest teachers. She gave me a chance to find out how strong I was — and am. My only regret is that I never got a chance to tell her because she died when I was 20, long before I even knew it myself. She also taught me that when your tool bag is empty you are only able to give what you gather as you go. She had an empty tool bag, just as I did for years with my own kids, some of whom are still as angry with me, just as I was with her until I realized her tool bag was as empty as mine.

When I think about my life looking back, it’s like a huge beautiful bouquet of people and experiences that came angrily or lovingly to teach me about life. It wasn’t until I hit my 40’s that I realized that in order to graduate from this school called earth, the best and often only question is…What are you here to teach me?

Because it’s never about anyone else. You see my life and every challenge in it is about me and your life is all about you and what we came here and signed up to learn for ourselves and our own souls’ evolution. And, if you have had many painful or difficult lessons, that just proves how brave you are because you signed up for every one of them.

So on this birthday, was a thank you letter to my children…those who love me and those who don’t until they are 80 and experiencing life as I am now.

Thank you for teaching me I could get jobs to support us, put myself through school, get a couple of degrees, do what I love, and live on purpose as we went from hovel to house. Thank you for tolerating me and all the years that I couldn’t give what I never had. If you get still, perhaps long after I am gone, you’ll realize that even with an empty tool bag, I have loved you with everything I had to give and still love you with all my heart. You taught me how to do that.

It’s also a thank you to Barbara who asked me to start this column 26 years ago and who has allowed me to share my deepest feelings, my metaphysical, spiritual, and psycho-therapist (as some of my clients lovingly call me) beliefs, and my love for all of you for all these years.
It’s also a thank you to each and every client who invited me to walk their path with them and who trusted me with their pain, on their journey to enlightenment and healing.

It has been a privilege and an honor and you have taught me, and are still teaching me, so much with your courage. It’s a thank you to every friend who helped me shine a light on my own path and who cheered me on as I fasted 37 days in water for Equal Rights Amendment, and as I married a thousand gay men and lesbians on the steps of the I.R.S. This past birthday is a chance to be grateful as Whoopi Goldberg and I wiped away the tears and walked the brave, dying men in wheelchairs who had AIDS to the Capitol rotunda to demand funding and support.

It’s a thank you for a hard lesson I signed up for and every gift from the Universe that I received that gave me the courage to get through them all. Frankly, the greatest birthday gift is being able to say thank you for everything and all of it. After all, in the end, all of it makes us exactly who we are.

Dr. Evan is a marriage, family, child therapist, and consciousness counselor. She has presented nationwide seminars and workshops, written several books, and created meditation CDs for couples, individuals, and mental health professionals. Visit or call 602-571-8228.