Looking back to move forward

I’m back.  There’s nothing quite like a birthday to help you re-evaluate your life and get back on track and this recent birthday did just that, like a nice slap in the face and that’s why I’m here.

Ten years ago I didn’t know it but I had just met the love of my life and we were newly dating. To say the last decade has been a roller coaster is an understatement. We dated for three years before he died and I lost the future I thought we had together. Since then I’ve been trying to put my life back together one baby step at a time. I made it through the grieving process and 5 and a half years later took a leap of faith and moved to New York to reset the compass and start the next chapter.

So here I am, 9 months later in the first few hours of my birthday and that’s when things got interesting.  I had just finished working an 11 hour shift which carried over into the first few hours of my birthday.  Because of my new hours, I knew I would start and end this birthday at work, so I just told myself to suck it up and move on.  When I left the office building at 1:40am it was raining so I decided to forgo the subway and hail a cab.  If only it were that easy.  After three failed attempts, one of which included the driver stopping asking me where I was going and then driving away, I gave up and headed to the Times Square station.

During my time there I learned something most New Yorkers don’t know, they actually clean the subway.  It may only happen once a year but the power washer was out flooding the hallway, with water trickling down the stairs and onto the platform where I was waiting.  Not the loveliest of experiences but I found a place to stand where I could avoid the water and buried my face in my phone to avoid seeing whatever is in the subway at 140am.

After about 20 minutes of waiting I finally pulled my head out of my phone and that’s when I realized my train likely wasn’t coming any time soon. Partially because of the worker standing on the subway track… and the sign that said my train is running express, which means it’s not going to get me close to my apartment.  Great.  Back to the original plan, try to get a cab… Again.

As I was leaving. feeling defeated, exhausted and depressed about the start of my first birthday in this magical city I looked over and saw a familiar face.  I couldn’t quite place her at first, so I looked away and then did a double take.  And that’s when I realized it was the cleaning lady from my office.  We smiled and waved to each other and both went on our separate ways.  Perfect.  The first friendly face I see on my actual birthday is the cleaning lady.  Isn’t there a saying about that?  Whatever you’re doing on your birthday or whoever you are with you will be with all year?  Great. My social circle has been reduced to the cleaning crew.

I shook it off and darted up the stairs in hopes she was my lucky charm and sure enough she was.  There were about 4 cabs at the light and one of them motioned for me to get in.  Yes! I was on my way things were looking up!  I promptly hopped in and got settled, gave the driver my cross streets and we were off.  Then I heard something I hadn’t heard in decades… Debbie Gibson singing “Only In My Dreams”.  I was a bit dumbfounded, isn’t it 2014?  Why was this song playing?  Was it in my head, and if it was… WHY?  The song eventually changed to something current but I had to question what it all meant.

How far back have I gone in my quest to move forward in life?

I’m currently working the hours and a shift I worked 20 years ago when I started my career and my friend is the cleaning lady who speaks limited English!  And why after working 20 years in this business am I settling for starting and ending my birthday at work with little time in between.

Adding to it all, just a week ago I was doing the same thing… working… instead of honoring a life cut short, the anniversary of my loves death. That is not how I want to live my life. We are only given so much time on this earth and it’s time for me to pay attention to MY life. And so begins the latest journey, full of introspection, tough questions, hard answers, and difficult decisions.

Day 1: I’m officially 40

It’s finally here.  Today is the day.  I am officially in my 40’s.

After a weekend full of events and no sleep I knew today would need to be low key, so I rented a poolside cabana and invited a few of the besties to spend the day relaxing with me.

The Pixie told our cabana boy it was my birthday, and he asked if today was actually the day and I had to pause.

I’ve had so many celebrations, and I’ve gotten so used to saying it’s tomorrow, or it’s Sunday that it took me off guard.

‘Yes, oh yeah, today is the birthday’

It was perfect.  We all sat around the table, exhausted and nearly staring into space.  We couldn’t figure out if we were still drunk or tired or maybe a combination of both.

We kept trying different combinations of drinks, and food to try to pull us out of the exhaustion.  Beer, caffeine, mimosas, food, noting seemed to work.

After it was all said and done I headed home to come down and relax from the weekend’s events.

I physically couldn’t do any more, not even go to dinner.

Looking back on the last 10 years I’m left knowing I have grown into a different person and one I really like.  Not that I didn’t like the 30 year old version of me, but this version is more refined with more wisdom and a greater appreciation for just about everything.

So many friends have touched my life, and I’m learning I have done the same for them.  What an amazing and wonderful experience.  I am so very fortunate I can’t even express it in words.  It’s like winning the friendship lottery.

I’m looking forward to taking these fabulous friends, some new, and some old with me through the next 4o years.

Day 2: The big party

It was time to head home from our very quick wine tasting adventure, and in some respects I wished it didn’t have to end.

There is something about a good group of gal pals that can make a trip that much better.

Before we left town we stopped at Randal’s Restaurant for breakfast, before it was over the owner… and head chef… Randal was out at our table getting his picture taken with me for my birthday.  Funny stuff!

Before long I was relaxing on my couch for a little while getting ready for the big night.  The party of the decade… for me at least.

As 430 hit the race to turn 40 really began.  Rush to the hotel to check in and drop off the bags, then dart over to drybar to get my hair done, then back to the hotel for quick makeup the dress and then it was out the door.

At one point during the mad rush I found myself almost nauseous and I had no idea why.  This is the biggest event I have ever done for myself.

Once I walked into the restaurant I immediately calmed down.  One by one, people started to arrive.  What an amazing evening, I was surrounded by all the people I love and it was happy.

Before long I saw champagne being handed out, the Sweetheart gave the toast and I was teary.  I can’t express to you how lucky I feel to have such amazing friends.

Following the toast, was the cake and then a special gift from my close group of friends.

The BFF, Spa Girl, Pixie, Coffee Fairy, Sunshine, Perky, Sweetheart, the Cheerleader and a few others had pooled their money to give me an airline gift card…. what?!  Who gets treated like this?

I am so lucky and blessed I couldn’t have asked for a better evening, but it wasn’t over.

The dance floor proved to be a weird experience all evening.  Sweetheart kept dragging me out there, and I didn’t mind.  I love live music and I love to dance so it was perfect.

The first time we went out a young, short guy came up and asked if I was married.  I was so confused, it was such a random question to ask, then I realized I was wearing a tiny crown.

‘oh no… I’m 40’  uh… not exactly the best response I was later told.  He told me my dress was sexy and I looked 25.  So the dance floor wasn’t half bad.  Before long I repeated the conversation with another guy in the same group, it really was kind of crazy.

Our second trip to the dance floor ended with the band asking me to come up on stage.  What?!  I played along and had a good time.

It’s so funny 5 years ago I would have been mortified, embarrassed and would have crawled into a hole or just been so stubborn I wouldn’t have made it to the stage.  So maybe there is something about 40 that makes you comfortable in your own skin.

After my stage debut I was told the surprises were over.  Although I was told the same thing before the band. but it was all good.

By the time the night was over we were back on the dance floor a 3rd time with a group of Canadian businessmen.  What a strange turn of events.

But hands down the best birthday I’ve ever had.  There is something to be said for giving up control.  I had no expectations, and wasn’t stressed about planning what an amazing concept!  Wow there really is wisdom with age!

Day 3: Staring Down 40-Fest begins

After work I rushed home to meet the girls so we can start out on the first leg of the Staring Down 40-Fest… wine tasting.

The Spa Girl, and the Pixie, met at my house, we packed up the Encourager’s car and headed over to pick up the BFF…. and we were off.

It was a short hour and a half drive, up the mountain.  We turned off the interstate on a quiet winding road, and the immediate reaction was that we were about to embark on an adventure reminiscent of a horror movie.

At least the reaction from a few of the girls, small winding roads are where I’m from, so it felt very comfortable to me.

The Spa Girl led us in the right direction, she kept saying she was smelling the wine…. aaahhh a girl after my own heart.

We hit the first winery and grabbed a ‘flight’, then we each grabbed a glass and sat down to enjoy a delicious cheese and meat platter.

Then it was off to the next winery… time was ticking away… and there was wine to drink.  We decided to make a stop and get some food in our bellies before downing more vino and it was a good call.

Harry’s Hideaway was our spot, we walked in to the restaurant and told the gal doing the seating we had 5 people.  Her response… ‘we don’t have room for 5 people’, and then we looked around.

The restaurant had a total of 4 tables in it, but she was happy to help us out by putting some tables together outside.

Many many stories came out during dinner and before long I realized why Adel had put us outside… we were the rowdy bunch.

Cars pulled up and the passengers knew it too.  A few even commented about us being ‘banished’, but we didn’t care.

Before long we had to hit the road and get to the next tasting room, to continue our rowdiness and we did not disappoint.

At the next tasting room we promptly got another ‘flight’, and we found out our host was also having a birthday, just a few days after mine.

We grabbed Yahtzee and started to play, a few little girls there with their parents were intrigued by the grown up versions of themselves.

They came over to our table and watched us, we befriended them, and before long we were all out on the dance floor rocking out to Justin Bieber played by the tasting room DJ.

And that’s when it turned south.  The Encourager is a bit crazy with the camera so she asked us to do a Charlie’s Angel pose, ok no problem… that’s cool we can do that.

After the Angels photo shoot, she ordered us to lay on the floor.  What?!  We all looked at her like she was nuts, but eventually one by one we all laid down on the floor.

We had no idea what the vision was but we certainly followed directions.  She wanted all of our heads in a circle but there wasn’t enough room so we ended up being a pile of women, with arms and legs wrapped around each other laying on the floor of a tasting room.  Nice.

I was sandwiched by the Pixie and the BFF, and I heard the Pixie say ‘the BFF’s foot is in my coochie’ and I couldn’t take it.  I was laughing so hard I was crying.

The best… or maybe worst part of it all is that we weren’t even drunk!  Sure we were happy, because otherwise we wouldn’t have followed the silly directions.

When we finally managed to pull myself up off the floor, I surprisingly found a random bobby pin in my hair… how does that happen?

I didn’t want to know.

What an amazing first start to the big weekend.  I can’t wait for the rest of it, to see what happens!

Day 4: Relinquish control for happy times

Today started with an email in my inbox that read ‘Reminder: Your turning 40!’  Uh.. yeah… I know!

It was a reminder email for the party, but it was a bit of a shock to see so straight forward.

I went on with my day, which was a continuation of my red carpet treatment for my big weekend of parties.

Today… my first ever spray tan, which seemed harmless enough.

Never mind that I had to strip down to nearly nothing in front of a complete stranger in a tiny room and let her spray me in places very few have seen.

The entire time I kept thinking to myself ‘this is ridiculous’, the things we do for the sake of beauty.  The voice in my head started to drown out the gal doing my tan.

She was rattling off care instructions worthy of a cashmere sweater…. rinse tonight… wash tomorrow but only with a mild soap ‘NO fragrance or alcohol!’, don’t shave for 3 days, pat dry, don’t wash your hands… what?!

The list went on and on, there were so many rules I couldn’t keep up with them.  Then… she told me my cats may want to lick the spray tan off me!

What in the world did I get myself into?  Am I going to wake up in the middle of the night with the 2 little guys going to town on my arms?  I determined the whole thing is very strange, but worth doing for special occasions.

There is absolutely no way this is something I could ever do on a regular basis… it’s too high maintenance.

On the drive home from work I decided I’m happy about the weekend festivities, and I realize why this year is different.

Because I gave up control of it, so I have no expectations in my head.  Whatever happens will be great because I don’t have it all worked out.  How in the world did it take me 40 years to figure this out?!

Crazy!  40 may not be so bad after all!

The birthday cards are starting to roll in too.  Today I got one from my mom and dad, filled with beautiful sentiments.  You know your parents love you but it’s so nice to hear they are proud of the woman I have become.

It’s definitely my turn to have another good birthday, and I’m certainly due… bring it on!

Day 5: The countdown is on… bring on the wine

I can’t believe I am 5 days away from my birthday.  This is absolutely insane.

I’m in full blown birthday mode… ready for the next transformation.

Luckily I had a hair appointment lined up for today.  I went in looking for a bit of a change.  Nothing too drastic.

I had been warned by everyone.  The Cheerleader said ‘you don’t want to do something that’s going to make you feel ugly… hold off!’

The Pixie echoed those sentiments, but I had to do something.

I walked into the salon and looked at my hair guy ‘can we do something different with the cut?’

He replied ‘what do you want?’

I said ‘I don’t know… maybe some long layers?”

His answer ‘that’s not going to work.’

Me: ‘um… ok…. is there anything you can do?’

He just looked at me.  I pleaded with him ‘I don’t care if it’s minor, it’s all psychological, just do something to make it different!’

He agreed, and we settled on angling the sides a bit…. although ‘I’ve had it done before’ he said.

I didn’t really care.  I just wanted a different look no matter how minor.

When I left the salon I promptly put the top down on the car and took advantage of our fabulous night.  Savoring the landscape on the drive home.

I have to say I’m in full blown party mode right now.  In 48 hours I’m going to be on an overnight wine tasting trip with some fabulous women and I can’t wait.

It’s the one part of the birthday I’m looking forward to more than anything, which is a bit odd for me.

I’m not exactly the first one to offer up a girls trip, but if there’s wine involved I’m all in.  And I know this group of girls will be drama free and that’s what I’m talking about.

So bring on the birthday…. or at least the parts with wine!

Day 6: The last supper?? Nah…

I woke up thinking I may be meeting the Sweetheart and her husband for a potential low key set up.

I pulled out a fuchsia top, white pants and cute gold flats.

Mid-day I got a text saying they couldn’t get the guy they were trying to set me up with to come, he was out of town, but they were still meeting for happy hour.

As much as I wanted to meet up with them, I held off, because I also had an email from Mr. Wonderful’s mom.  She wanted to get together before my birthday.

I have to admit I was kind of happy knowing I didn’t have to try to impress a boy tonight.  I have dingy brown with gray roots shooting out of the top of my head, and I just wasn’t feeling it, so I emailed Mr. Wonderful’s mom back to tell her we were on for happy hour.

I chose a swanky place serving tapas, light bites with wine were perfect for our get togethers.

As usual, we had a great conversation filled with laughs, and catching up on her world travels and my future adventures.

As I left, I felt a sense of nostalgia about seeing her.  The tea leaf reader predicted my life will change dramatically in the next year and that makes me a bit sad, especially paired with the potential setup.

The tea leaf reader said I would find love as early as May 19 based off my astrological sign.  That’s so soon, just over a week away.

Sometime in the near future I will have another family to include in my life, while it will be wonderful to make that addition, I don’t want to ever lose sight of my connection to her.

She represents so much of who I am as a person today based off my relationship with her son.  He taught me what it meant to be truly loved and that is priceless.

That connection is as powerful to me as the influence my family had on making me the person I am today.  The person who stood by the man I loved regardless of the circumstances.

I’d be lying if I said I also didn’t feel a bit of a catharsis leaving this last decade behind.  Sure it has been filled with some of the most amazing memories of my life.

I have single handedly knocked 3 things off my bucket list, and found true love, but there have been many heartaches to go with them.

You take the good with the bad, that’s for sure, and I will never forget any of this.  I have grown up so very much these past 10 years.

It’s crazy to even think about my carefree life 10 years ago.  I had it so good, and didn’t even realize it…. except for the jerk I was dating at the time.  That was bad… but I learned from it and here I am today.

A grateful woman with so much to offer and give to the people I love.  What an amazing journey I am on…. with amazing people beside me