Blowing Out the Candles

candlesOn the eve of my 4o-plus-somethingish birthday, I cannot help but reflect upon the lessons I have learned this year. In theory I’m an expert.  In practice, however, that’s another story.

I do believe that the difference between theory and practice is the key to successful living though darlings, because bridging that gap is the difference between annoying should-sayers, and the people who shine brightly and inspire the rest of us.

Grace has been a concept I’ve wanted to put into practice  throughout the past few years. There are  times I have failed miserably; my birthday breakdown at a bar while trying to sort out my mother issues; my insecurity as a partner, my ability to maintain a positive attitude in light of the every day demands of living. Yah, I’ve failed a few times.

But I have learned a few things from all of that bluster, and I’m old enough to take the liberty of sharing them with you;

  1. I have spent way too much time on my hair.
  2. We allow ourselves to be led by a false economy and fabricated news. Does it feel right? Do it. Does it feel wrong? Don’t. The world would be a better place if we all followed the golden rule.
  3.  If you love your body, it will love back. At a certain point you realize your body feels better when you eat this and not that; when you do this and not that.  It loves water and apples and decadent butter cream chocolate from your favourite Chocolaterie. It does not like to listen to people incessantly rambling about fad diets or extreme routines. Love your body, let it gently communicate to you, and it will love you back.
  4. Kindred spirits aren’t terribly hard to find, but it’s terribly hard to be vulnerable enough to get to know one.
  5. Create things. Anything. Creativity is your human spirit making itself present in the world. Let it sing, paint, write, carve, stitch, bake….whatever! Let your mind wander and your spirit reveal itself.
  6. Do not let bitchy people ruin your day. Attitude is contagious – be sure to protect yourself.
  7. Nobody’s watching. Seriously. Just relax.
  8. Change is scary, but constant. If you can be excited through the fear, you have life licked.
  9. You need friends of all ages; older ones and younger ones, and people who transcend age. You need nurturing and affection and the awesome healing power of human touch.
  10. Flannel jammies, hot tea and a good hobby to keep you occupied are three simple things that are highly under-rated.
  11. Always, always, always buy the shoes.
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Happy Birthday To Me: I Don’t Give a Rat’s….

Birthday GirlI don’t get it. You know, the people who guard their age like the Hope Diamond? What is with that?

For the love of all that’s holy, give it up you pretentious nit-wit!

Life, if you’re lucky and appreciate the journey, is a grand adventure, of which not a single one of us is guaranteed another day.

Years ago I denied a very creative, photog of a lover the privilege of taking pictures of me a la mode. “One day you’ll wish you had pictures,” he said. I should have listened to him. I miss that twenty-something body. I miss the perky firmness of all of the soft spots.

I should have taken his advice. He was older. He knew.

Sure, money might buy you life-extending medical care, a bimbo with a boob job, or a gigolo with a gigantico jiggler, but none of us get out of this circus tent alive or with parts that don’t break down. I figure you may as well appreciate some of the gifts that come along with loss of skin turgor, middle-age spread, and loss of your faculties.

For instance, as I look at turning another year older in a few days, I realize that I no longer really give a shit about what people think of me. I know who I am, what I stand for, and where my ethical boundaries are. I’m a good person.

I’m more confident, and even more certain that I fall short of perfection and always will. At this age, I know that I will make mistakes, and I’m not devastated by it. In fact, I appreciate, however inconvenient it may be, that mistakes have always been one of life’s most effective (if not efficient) teachers.

A bad hair day no longer makes me wish I could disappear. I don’t worry about taking sick days because I know that the only thing that heals me is rest.

If he doesn’t call back, or ever again, I know that it wasn’t meant to be – in other words, I’ve learned to temper my romantic expectations.

I know you can’t get blood from a stone, so there’s no use trying. I know that life goes on even when you’re blinded by tears and wounded with a broken heart. Nothing lasts forever; the bad stuff, or the good stuff.

When someone asks me how old I will be on my birthday, I tell them. You may think I’m too old, or too young to understand you. You might think I’m crazy or brilliant. Perhaps you have an opinion about my hair, my make-up or my weight. Frankly darling, at this age, I don’t give a rat’s ass…

…and that’s such a liberating feeling.

Happy birthday to me.

What Will You Choose???

"In art and dream may you proceed with abandon. In life may you proceed with balance and stealth." ~Patti Smith~

“In art and dream may you proceed with abandon. In life may you proceed with balance and stealth.”
~Patti Smith~

Tonight my darlings, I offer you a list of things I would do all over again and perhaps  for the first time.

It’s up to you to decide which may be which. Either way, I hope it’s an inspiring list.

What will you choose to do with your one precious life?

How will you decide to move forward each and every day?

When you reach a certain age, celebrating your birthday becomes more than a celebration, it becomes a spontaneously choreographed victory celebration.

Christ, we’re half-way there,” my gal-pal told me today as she finished reading the birthday card I’d written for her. Following which we exchanged stories of our lives; children, men, home…

What I wanted to tell her was that, if we’re lucky, we’re just half-way there. Based on genetics and historical data, my life is two-thirds caput.

When you frame it like that, perspective becomes brutally clear and time becomes even more precious.

We discussed our priorities, wishes, lost opportunities, and we  both came to the same conclusion. As strong, intelligent, very delightfully succulent women, we decided that the things that were important to us in our 20’s were over and done with.

Oh, don’t mope. It’s not that bad. What we meant was that we have seized those moments and have no regrets. Instead we each have a list of wishes that we’ve checked off. Sure, it sounds a little like we’re finished with all of the great, wonderful, and awe-inspiring things that life has to offer, but that’s not true.

What we have, instead, are lives well lived. Lives in which we have done exactly as we’ve pleased, with all of the gratitude, regrets, miracles and mistakes that anyone could ever ask to have. We know the thrill of travel, passionate love affairs, birthing and raising children. We will not dignify a mid-life, ‘what-if’ crisis. We are too freaking fabulous for that.

We know the value of a life well-lived, of choosing joy every, single,freaking day despite imperfect conditions. We don’t have the dreaded bucket list. A bucket list is for someone who didn’t have the courage to live while they had the benefit of exuberant youth and no safety net. They missed the point. A bucket list is for those who court fear and bow to the status quo.

If you live in the moment, you know joy as you know your own self. You  have a smile that spreads into your bones, and you know exactly what I’m talking about.

So, as I had a long hot soak in the bathtub tonight, with a glass of Ironstone and a head full of memories and desires, I thought about the things I would do again, and what I still wish for.

Here is your promised list

  1. Quitting a job to follow a dream
  2. Being flat-out in the darkest of country nights next to a handsome stranger on a mission to spot falling stars, wearing make-do baggy sweaters and wool socks
  3. Being kissed against the wall of a beach bar by a stranger in the rain in a foreign country
  4. Skinny dipping with a lover in a hot tub and laughing so hard tears come
  5. Taking a last-minute vacation with my bestie and living like there wasn’t a tomorrow for just a few days
  6. Fall, deliriously in love and keep that falling-in-love happening until I’m so old and wrinkled that I don’t even know how to spell the word.
  7. Decide that life is too short to wake up feeling inadequate.
  8. Road-tripping on a moment’s notice across borders, with nothing but a few dollars and a great playlist.
  9. Saying good-bye to people who are vampires of joy, energy and my happiness.
  10. Saying yes.

Say yes darlings. Just say yes to life. I promise, you will slide into old age, delirium and death a very, very happy soul.

Some Things Never Change

ladies nightLast night was officially the final celebration of my birthday.

Tonight my head and my tummy are telling me that I’m not as young as I used to be, and that maybe, just maybe that last half-bottle of wine was a bit too much.

Moderation be damned, it has been far too long since I laughed that hard. It doesn’t matter how old you get, how much education you have, whether or not you’re a mother or a wife, we all have a spiritual need to laugh, be silly, and lighten up.

Some things never change. We talked about our careers, finances and the men in our lives, or in my case, not in my life and we laughed at one another’s stories because we totally ‘get‘ it.

We took silly pictures and checked out who’s who with regard to available single men that may be interested in dating yours truly.

I’ve known some of these ladies for a long time now. I’ve seen them when they were carefree, and when they were fighting to get through very dark times. To see them laugh; fall back and belly laugh – made me happy. I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday gift than the company I shared last night.

One by one my pals said their good-byes, until finally one lady fell victim to the chesterfield’s seductive pull. Myself and another pal ended the night with some one on one gal talk. It’s been too long since we’ve seen one another, and it was nice to have a few quiet moments to catch up with one another.

Our conversation wove through the evening and the wine bottles. We talked about haircuts and clothes, men and old flames. We laughed about the absurdity of everyday life, and what it means to be a mother, wife and singleton. It wasn’t much different from all of those nights that my best friend and I used to come home after high school dances and talked about boys, school and what kind of life we hoped we’d have in the future . It’s just that now, my gal-pals and I have way more experience to draw from and that much more perspective.

Each of us has the trappings of what we thought it meant to live life as an adult, but all of us are still just girls at heart; still dreaming, hoping and trying to get through our days.

 

 

You Are Someone’s Happiness

fortune cookieMy birthday is usually a good enough excuse to socialize in excess. I generally socialize in excess anyway, but a birthday is always a good excuse.

This year however, my cherished weekend meditation retreat got pushed from the spring to the fall, and I had to choose to either usher in my 41st year in silence, or with a crazy bunch of gal pals.  Given that I’ve worked very, very, very….ok way too much, I opted for the weekend retreat. Silence is, after 40 years – golden.

I’ve studied religion, worked with clergy from every faith, and practice the best someone as freakishly amazing as moi can. Bourbon and man connoisseuring can really bite into a gal’s time on the cushion though. So, between that and all of this working business, I committed to sit for the weekend with my friends from a sister-sangha.

Lately my mind has been going a zillion miles a minute, and my mouth is exhausted from trying to keep up.  A weekend of silence seemed like a darn good idea.

“This isn’t the same,” I told my bestie  as I committed the atrocity of speaking on the phone during retreat. The monastics weren’t there, and I’ve been spoiled, having  my practice guided by learned robes.

When the first morning bell sounded, I  thought to myself, “I’m going to shove that bell up the bell ringer’s @$% if they tap that thing one more time”. I opted to skip the morning sitting and meditate on the inside of my weary eyelids. I did however make it in time for the breakfast bell. It’s astonishing how strong the pull of hot oatmeal and granola can be when you’re on a vegan retreat.

I opted out of guided walking meditation, and instead walked the leaf and snow dusted labyrinth on my own. I was so looking forward to the silent weekend, but could not keep my mind quiet, and I found myself resentful of the whispered questions from the new aspirants.  Special note to anxiety spastics like myself; do not forget your happy, quiet pills at home for  mindfulness retreats weekends. Between figuring out that there was no caffeine in the coffee, and owning a chattering brain, my meditation was as uncomfortable as it needed to be to force me deeper.

My first hours of meditation looked like highland dancing while sitting on the floor. I’m sure the others wondered if I had ants in my pants, and wanted to hold me down so that my shuffling didn’t pollute the meditation hall. Everything about my thoughts and body were, ‘wiggly’. Wiggly isn’t something that should enter the hall, but it sure did yesterday.

I was drawn to the optional  meditation instead of free time, and just as I thought I had wasted my birthday weekend coming to a retreat led by lay practitioners, it happened; that magical moment in mindfulness meditation where you unearth the corner of something that is the archeological equivalent of the discovery of Lucy  and you just know, it’s going to crack you open to a new level of being.

Amazing.

It is always amazing, and that’s why I keep going back.

I uncovered the corner of something that has been blinding me for a lifetime. I will keep that little piece of wisdom to myself as I examine it more deeply, but I will share with you that I was reminded over and again of the kindness and necessity of a sangha. The combination of the two was poignant, and it will guide me back to the cushion, to that space of deep looking between perception and reality.

Anxiety still humming despite my discovery, I forced myself to make time during the long drive home to stop in and visit a friend. We share a birthday week, and it was a milestone year for each of us. He passed the 50 mile marker, while I’m just behind at the 40.  When he cracked open his fortune cookie it read, ” Your life will be filled with happiness.”

You are someone’s happiness,” my little strip of white paper that spoke blue text smiled back at me. I slid it across the table after he read his out loud.

We laughed, and hugged good-bye.

As I sped back on to the highway, I smiled at the fortunes. It’s true. Everyone is someone else’s happiness. Sometimes that someone may even be yourself.

 

 

Ode to 40

laughingwomenI never wanted to be that pulled-skin-forced-grin

cliché of a forty-year-old-mother trying to look 16 again.

No thank you. That’s not for me.

I’ve got some living under my skin, sad lines, and happy ones

and pounds put on around tables overflowing with friendship and laughter.

I never wanted age to harden me or my heart

I always wanted to be the kind of woman a friend could open her soul to

a child could sink into for comfort

and a man could grab on to for dear life.

No thank you, popular-girls who are over the hill now

I do not want your thighs or your men or your designer sunglasses.

No, instead I indulge in my own deep contentment;

not bitter, not wanting, not comparing

My spirit and my heart have known one another for a very, very long time.

 

Ms. M’s Mid-Life Crisis or How to Stay Young Despite Your Age

ImageYou know who you are Ms.M. I’m writing this just for you, and the hair you don’t quite know what to do with. You and your wavy hair and bright red sports car.

You know who you are.

You are NOT having a mid-life crisis, you are merely fighting to give breath to the fabulous woman inside of you who is a bit fatigued from day to day grind of being another amazing woman who does it all.

You are not having a mid-life crisis. You are merely taking advantage of your free time and hard-earned wisdom. Just as I do with my late nights and thorough enjoyment of a good, hard, cuddle when it pops up. Ah-hem….

You see, although birthdays keep sneaking up on me, I am not having a mid-life crisis. My little flings and busy social calendar are merely acts of a wise woman who knows what it’s like to live fully.

After all, you can attest, can you not marvelous Ms. M, to the fact that as we age, memories of the risks we took, the loves we fell into at first sight, and our impulse holidays are the best memories we have?

What else keeps us company on long, cold, winter nights when we’re left to our own devices? Well, besides wonderfully attentive menfolk that is?

Surely you’re a woman of discerning tastes, dry wit and a bit of a hedonist like the rest of the tempting women I know? Don’t play coy with me. I know another great dame when I see one.

So, rest assured, you, nor I, are in the middle of some tacky mid-life crisis. We don’t do that kind of common thing now do we? Certainly not! We are women of the world, full of mischief, just a bit more sophisticated than we were say, last year, or ten years before that.

Raise a glass to our quirky friendships my friend! Take every opportunity to make your memories, and even as importantly, to share your outrageous stories with another woman to keep them young at heart as well.

Thanks for the chat today Ms. M., and for the huge complement. Was I really glowing? It must be the company I keep. Next time it’s your turn to tell me something deliciously devilish.