Goodbye to Thirty-Nine

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In the end, I heralded my fortieth birthday party with a party.

It's been almost two weeks and, like I suspected, life has gone on. Work, parent-teacher conferences, school lunches, daily commutes, dinners with friends, planning a trip, doing laundry, all the things that make life spin and days turn to week and years.

Like so many other things in life, the anticipation was worse than the actuality.

But there was a party.

A big party.

It was populated by friends and family and, when it was over, I turned off the lights and stood in the empty bandstand, the echoes of music and laughter already ghosts on the warm summer breeze.

It wasn't perfectly organized. I gave up on trying to be perfectly organized at thirty-five.

I wasn't drunk. I stopped trying to get drunk when I throw a party at twenty-nine.

It wasn't the wee hours of the morning. I stopped partying until after midnight when I was thirty-one.

Crickets and laughter floated across the lake. In the car, two children fought sleep, their bodies limp with exhaustion, their eyes purple rimmed. They had played hard in the late summer heat. At home, dear friends and more laughter waited.

I drove away and let iridescent memories floated to the surface.

Chris and Steve setting platters of grilled chicken on tables nearly bowing with food.

A crowd of small groupies grilling the musicians and fetching water and beer, their young faces split into grins of excitement.

Lines forming to pile plates with salads brought by some of the amazing women in my life.

Children running unchecked between the picnic area and the playground.

An original poem recited with laughter.

Music filling the park while passersby paused and then sat in the grass to enjoy it.

Strangers and friends connecting around picnic tables.

A tidal wave of cake and frosting.

My past, present, and future in one space.

It was an odd feeling. There were almost ninety people wandering around, eating, laughing, listening. I wandered from group to group. I hugged and joined in their laughter and spoke for a few minutes. Then, I continued, surrounded by the people who have helped to make the last forty years magical.

I felt loved.

I stayed up until midnight as I usually do on my birthday. I waited as the clock counted down the minutes and seconds of another year. At midnight, I plugged in my phone, turned off the light and went to bed feeling the warmth of that love.

That was then...

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Last night, just before I feel asleep, I felt a cool "poof" next to my ear. It was the sort of sound one hears and feels when one is spooned up against another human.

Except I wasn't.

In the few seconds between the sound and feel of air and the realization that I was alone, not only in the bed, but in the house, I had what might be technically termed "heart palpitations".

Fully awake, I sat in bed and did what any sane woman would do in this particular circumstance. I Googled. Apparently it was either a) my imagination, b) a ruptured ear drum, or c) spectral visitors. I, of course, chose to believe it was an amorous apparition.

While I didn't feel any negative vibes coming my way, I was unsettled enough to lay in bed and listen for every creak and moan of the house, half convinced I'd see a ghostly shadow emerge from my closet. All of this wide-awakeness gave me time to ponder my previous post.

Coming down from the adrenaline rush that facing things that go poof in the night helps put life into perspective.

So I didn't finish my novel by my fortieth birthday. At least I wrote one. (Two if we count the God-awful first attempt at a full length novel that is buried deep in my computer never to be seen again.) If it wasn't finished by forty, well, I'll finish it at forty. I can spit polish this sucker in a year.

Also? I'd forgotten something. In my forties, I'm not supposed to care about the unrealistic societal standards women are held to. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, I'm supposed to thumb my nose at those standards, speak out against those standards, and proudly wear my wrinkles and extra skin. In other words, so the baby weight isn't gone. I can still run two miles.

I lay in bed in my cozy cottage and while I daily pine for two bathrooms, also love the fact that my low rent also means travel, parties, good wine. Very good wine, actually. I may not know how to knit, but I have a sister and a grandmother who do.

I've wallowed enough.

Some might say I've wallowed too much.

Most might say I'm overly melodramatic. Regardless...

It's time to shake off the dust of my thirties and boldly go forward. With new goals, new aspirations, new adventures. Let's face it, kids. My thirties were a ducking roller coaster of emotions and a good chunk of them were not good.

I may be afraid of the monsters under my bed and only pretending to be an adult, but I've got a phantom friend who likes to blow in my ear.

And that's just plain sexy.

Or a ruptured ear drum.

Missing Deadlines

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There's a slight chance I'm having a nervous breakdown.

Don't worry. It's only slight.

The problem with deadlines is what happens when you don't meet them. I'm not talking work deadlines or freelance deadlines. I never miss one of those, but I also don't ever take on a project without being certain I can meet the requested deadline.

Not so much with the rest of my life.

I like round numbers and thirteen. I like numbers that end in zero, that are rife with meaning, that are far enough way for me to happily make a goal while being assured it's a safe distance forward in time.

I like new years - both of the January 1 variety and of the birthday variety. I like resolutions and goals. I like the idea of a clean slate, of letting go of the past, of pushing towards the future.

All this being said, I screwed up.

Four years ago when Chad and I separated, I couldn't handle what my life had become. I couldn't cope with the emotional landmines, the gut wrenching pain. It was far, far better for me to think forward. I created, in my fertile imagination, an entire scenario of my life at forty. Forty, after all, was so far away. I'd be fine by forty, I assured myself.

When I couldn't sleep because of the memories assailing me, I would dream of forty. I created a picture not unlike my childhood fantasies of being eighteen wherein I drove a Jeep and work cut off short shorts on long legs.

My childhood fantasies were obviously unduly influenced by Daisy Duke.

And now, I'm a week away from that date and coming to the overwhelming realization that I've failed at so many of my goals.

Yes. I am very aware that life does not end at forty, that I can still work towards my goals, that age is just a number. I do understand all of that. However...

I'm a goal-oriented Virgo.

Goal-oriented Virgos have slight chances of having a nervous breakdown when they don't meet deadlines.

How bad could it be, you ask?


I didn't learn to love running. In fact, while I can run a mile or two, I don't actually run a mile or two on any sort of regular basis.

I haven't lost my baby weight and have faced the stark realization that my baby is in first grade and I didn't even come close to losing it.

My novel isn't done. Yes, it's in beta and second draft, but it's not done. I will not be announcing publication any day soon.

I'm still living in our transitional cottage. Granted, it's an adorable and affordable cottage, but I did expect that I would have moved into something with two bathrooms by now.

I still get scared of strange noises when I'm home alone at night.

I'm not as good a friend as I thought I'd be.

I didn't learn to knit.

And now, I have less than a week and the realization that I'm not going to meet my deadlines. Not even close. A part of me wants to hole up with wine, books, and Thai food. Another part of me wants to discover the diet that will instantly make me thirty pounds light while cloning me so I can work day and night on my book while still working and single parenting.

So I'm going to throw a party instead.

I Don't Have Gray Hair

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In the continuing angst of my pending 40th, because really, what good is a blog without the ability to post angsty posts, I want to discuss my lack of gray hair and why I believe it indicates a faulty birth certificate providing proof that I'm getting ready to turn a mere 35.

I jest.

But not about the gray hair.

I mean, through some miracle of genetics, I don't have gray hair. It's the one blessing the Getting Older Fairy - as Becky so lovingly calls her - gave me. Of course, she was a royal bitch and gave me the inability to get rid of the poochy stomach, dark circles under my eyes, four stubborn chin hairs, and knees that ache after exercise, gray hair.

But that's not what this post is about. This is about another little gift the Getting Older Fairy has given me. Not just me. She's given it to all women approaching a certain age. A token of her appreciation for putting up with jerks grabbing your ass and men staring at your boobs, if you will.

Over the summer I got a chance to watch Grace and Frankie. For those who haven't seen it yet, stop reading and go watch. It's a show that is only one Dolly Parton away from sheer perfection. There was one episode in particular that made me not only laugh but yell yes at the screen.

Grace and Frankie try to get the attention of the store clerk who seems to have eyes only for the buxom young things wandering the store. In frustration, they finally walk out, Frankie shoplifting the cigarettes they came in for. Now, granted, they're thirty years older than I am, but the gift holds true. Once a woman gets to a certain age, she is rendered invisible. Now...there are a few downsides to this - as there always is - but I'm going to focus on a perk.

I realized the full extent of this power not too long ago when I walked into the movie theater not only toting my own candy, but a tightly sealed mason jar of wine. No one even blinked as I wandered past the "no outside food or beverages sign" and handed my ticket to a boy young enough to be my son.

I felt a little thrill of excitement. I was breaking the rules! And the wine tasted so much sweeter. In a dry sort of way.

Waiters and store clerks may not flirt with me, but by God, I don't have to pay $9 for a half glass of rosè.

Twelve Days

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I have twelve days until I turn 40. Twelve more days until the sun rises on a person who feels half that age. Well, if not half, at least a quarter.

I don't know why forty looms large on my horizon. Honestly, as much as I dread it, I have no doubt it will be anticlimactic. I will wake up and it will be...Sunday. With work the next day, friends in town, breakfast to make, maybe some champagne to drink. And then...I'll go to work on Monday, remember I have a parent-teacher conference, and the year will continue to cycle through.

But I'll be forty.

Maybe it's because at my age my mom had two daughters out of the house and was going back to school. I remember how proud I was of her - at her advanced age - going to college. Now? I don't feel like forty is at all advanced.

Maybe it's because at my age my grandma was, well, a grandma. Complete with knitted booties and glasses.

Maybe it's because I thought by the time I entered my fifth decade - is that right? fifth?? - I would know something, anything. Am I wiser than I was when I was twenty? Undoubtedly. Am I wiser than I was at thirty? Maybe?

I know I'm less likely to care what other people think. That was something that came somewhat gradually. It started when Chad gave me the courage to draw boundaries in my twenties and continued when he moved out and suddenly my life was spread out naked, a light shining unrelentingly on its imperfections. I couldn't hide behind the screen of family happiness any longer and instead, the world - or my world - saw every stretch mark and lump, ever fold and crease. And it was okay. I still have moments of panic when I wonder if I'm enough for the people in my life, but the feeling quickly passes and I realize I'm who I am and that's more than okay. I own the things that make me me. I'm someone who is always late, will never remember birthdays, forgets to take the trash to the curb, and can't find her way out of her own neighborhood if she takes a wrong turn.

Still...I suppose I thought I'd be an adult.

But what is an adult?

I have a job, children, a car. I pay my taxes, own matching furniture, and serve good wine at dinner. I argue with insurance companies, research braces, and take deep breaths when my children get on my last nerve. Is that an adult?

Because I also still like to swing on the playground, turn clumsy cartwheels on the grass, run into the ocean, finger paint, and think knock knock jokes are awesome. I bounce in my seat when a new episode of Doctor Who is announced and talk in depth about the Marvel Universe with Joseph. I play video games, cheat at Monopoly, and can't keep my houseplants alive. I believe in Santa.

I read somewhere that there is no such thing as grown ups. That some people just pretend with more authority. I wonder how well I pretend.

What I've Discovered While Coloring

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I'm not usually one for lists. Except when I am. But as I filled in a leaf in my new grown up coloring book, I realized some things I'd forgotten:

Coloring is fun.

Coloring allows my cerebral cortex to wander while my hypothalamus switches on.

Coloring gives me a sense of creative accomplishment while I'm bogged down in re-writes and beta edits.

Coloring opens my ears to the chatter of my children, discovering previously unknown insights to their lives.

Coloring turns me into an eight year old who doesn't want to share her pretty book with anyone.

Coloring makes me remember simpler times when life is getting too complex.

Coloring is relaxing.

Coloring reminds me that for all the urges to color outside the lines, sometimes it's nice to stay within them.

While I'm not sure how long this little fun project will hold my attention, as the dog days of summer wilt my garden and melts my brain, while the chaos of school starting and work kicks into gear, while I plan and plot parties and trips, and while I come to terms with my last month of my thirties, coloring is a welcome relief from the chaos.

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