Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Hello From the Other Side....Of the Hill

The year that I turned 29, I decided to throw myself an epic birthday weekend, at Disney World.
At the time, we lived in South Florida and made the 2ish hour trip to Disney, on the regular. We had yearly passes and were regulars at a handful of the hotels on property. We were often joined by an assortment of friends and family and somehow, over the years, it had become my "job" to do all of the scheduling and arranging and reserving of rooms.

TBC was 2 1/2 and TGC was creeping up on her 1st birthday. With 29 approaching, I knew that 30 wasn't far behind, and I just couldn't stomach the idea of no longer being a 20-something. So I decided that 29 would be the last birthday I would acknowledge.

Which, honestly, if you know me is a really sad state of affairs.

I love birthdays. I mean like big-puffy-heart-open-mouth-kiss LOVE birthdays. I love to plan and throw parties. I love to plan surprises. I love to hunt down the perfect gift. I. LOVE. BIRTHDAYS.

So, 29 was going to be *it*. Go out with a BANG. And gosh darn it, I wasn't going to be the one to plan the whole thing for everybody else.

I decided to book a room on the concierge floor of the Yacht Club at Disney, and let everyone else know that that is where *I* would be for the weekend...and the rest of them could figure it out on their own.

I had my plans in place, I was going to my favorite place, and that was that.

And then, mere days before my birthday, Disney called to cancel our reservation, due to the impending Hurricane Frances.

My lovely birthday plans were, quite literally blown away by a massive storm that would go on to spend more than 36 hours tormenting us. We were plunged into darkness and left without power for more than a week.

(In the spirit of her "mini-me-ness", TGC also got a doozy of a storm for her birthday, Hurricane Jeanne.)

And so it was, that 29 came and went without much fanfare or ado. Unless you count rain, tornadoes, flooding and power outages as fanfare. If you do, then it was a *rager*. And we can't be friends any more.

As 30 approached, I was much more focused on throwing a suitable soiree for TGC. We'd gone all out for TBC's 1st and 2nd birthday celebrations and I felt guilty for her getting such short shrift.

Apparently, my preoccupation with her party arrangements was the perfect cover, because Mr. Man pulled off an incredible surprise party for me, and gifted me with beautiful diamond stud earrings that never leave my head.

Earlier this year, I turned 40.

I can remember feeling vaguely ill, just thinking about 40, when I was resisting turning 30. It seemed such an awful, horrible, sagging age. Something you would almost use as an insulting adjective when describing someone..."oh, well, she's 40..."

Interestingly, I spent the year between 39 and 40 getting increasingly excited about my birthday...about my new milestone. Quite honestly, I couldn't wait for September 2nd to roll around.

I'd spent the majority of my 30's, trying to look and feel like I was still in my 20's.

I'd colored my hair to hide the grays.

I'd dressed myself in clothes that were more readily associated with the college crowd than the soccer-mom set.

I fought being a 30-something tooth and nail.

And my 30's fought back. They were not easy years. It was not until my later 30's that I finally started to hit my stride and feel more comfortable in my skin.

At 39 and 2 months, I decided to stop coloring my grays.

At 39 and 4 months, I decided to stop straightening my hair on the regular and just let it be curly.

At 39 and a half, I went through my wardrobe and got rid of anything that made me feel even remotely foolish. Shirts that had snarky sayings...skirts that were too that screamed "Emo teenager".

I replaced these things with clothing that made me feel comfortable both inside and out. And that's not to say "mom jeans"...that means clothes that make me feel like me. A little bit sparkly...a little whimsical...a whole lot of practical...and just girly enough.

The closer it got, the more I solidified my plans, the more giddy I became. Come on 40 and just get here already!!!

It had been years - 10 of them, to be exact - since we had really thrown down and celebrated for one of my birthdays and I decided that it was high time to do something about it! Me being me I could think of no better way to celebrate the occasion than to run a race, so I registered us for the Rock n Roll VA Beach Half Marathon. We rented a beach house and invited friends and family to join us, on Labor Day weekend. (I'm sure I'll post about that at some point...)

As the actual day of my birthday approached, I felt like a kid marking off the days until Santa arrived.  Even though I knew that I wouldn't actually feel or look or really be materially different in anyway, once I was 40, it was something I was looking forward to.

The morning of 40 dawned and my phone started buzzing. I looked at it, expecting to see a birthday text of some kind.

And it was. By merit of the fact that it was a text that I received on my birthday.

My ex-stepfather, the man who had been present for the bulk of my childhood, had passed away from a short but awful battle with cancer. At 5:43am on my 40th birthday.

Later in the day, I would be taking to the PIC and telling him this and he shared that a member of his extended family had also passed that morning.

As lunch time approached I would hear from my next door neighbor that her beloved father had passed away.

It seemed that the light of my birthday was doing its darnedest to be dimmed by the sadness and grief of others.

I braced myself for a swirling emotional let down. I prepared to switch gears and give up on the glee as I attempted to process what all had happened...

...but, something deep inside of me still felt warm and glowing. I was still happy. (quick aside...autocorrect just tried to change "still happy" to "slithery"...I was half tempted to leave goal for the day, find out what it means to "feel slithery") If anything, I felt peaceful.

..for which, I immediately felt guilty. I mean, how could I feel peaceful when so much badness had just crashed my party. People around me were suffering, and I still had a smile in my heart. What kind of person did that make me??

It is now 2 months, 1 week and 2 days since I turned 40. I've thought a lot about the events of my birthday and my surprising lack of an emotional response. I've always fancied myself an empathetic person, but my lack of reaction has had me questioning that. Am I less caring than I want to believe? Am I cold?

...until last night, as I was drifting off to sleep. I had a last waking thought that has eased mind...Perhaps my lack of sadness over these passings is not about me at all. Perhaps it is more about them and the relief that passing must have been for their souls...especially my late stepfather's. I think that my peace may be their final gift to me. Rather than having my birthday be another day of suffering and pain for them, they went home. Their suffering is over. Rather than seeing my birthday as their death day, perhaps I should be looking at it as the day of their homecoming, the day that their souls made their way heaven.

Now tell me, what could be more joyful and peaceful than that?