For the last few months, I’ve been joking that I should get a do-over for this year and continue to be 49 until the world gets its shit together. The truth is – as crazy as 2020 has been – it has helped prepare me to enter the second half of my life.
Last year for my birthday, I traveled half-way across the country to the Sanctuary at Camel Back Spa in Arizona and I treated myself like royalty. I went for a mindfulness and meditation retreat and hours of spa services that turned my body into Jell-O and brought my mind closer to a sense of long sought-after peace. My birthday dinner was with four women from the retreat who I had never met before and who all turned out to have amazing life stories and journeys - one of whom has become a good friend. What most people don’t know as they read my posts is that I had run off halfway across the country to spend my birthday with strangers because I was mostly broken. My long-term relationship had ended, and I was in the process of trying to figure out who I was by myself. Who was I without this man who had been a part of my life for 17 years? I went into my 49th birthday with the need to be among strangers as I tried to unearth parts of myself long buried and heal my heart. It definitely jump-started the process.
My current Facebook profile picture is from my birthday last year. It started with room service breakfast and a mimosa which was followed by a whole morning of spa treatments including a mud wrap, massage, facial and hair mask and head massage. I came back to my room to find the spa had left me a bottle of champagne and a dozen fresh baked chocolate chip cookies. I took my profile picture mid-bottle and somewhere around the third or fourth cookie.
I came back from the trip rejuvenated and convinced (mostly) that I was going to be ok. I have survived worse events in my life than a broken heart and I had definitely found the right place to begin the healing. I spent every night in my private outside tub drinking champagne and looking up at the stars and imagining the next chapter in my life. I recognized how privileged I was that I had the opportunity and means to run away and create the circumstances for a hard reset on my life and that most people do not have that option.
When I returned from my trip, and after I had begged the cats’ forgiveness for my absence, I looked around and quickly determined that everything had to go. Every nook and cranny of my house had memories attached to my ex. I donated everything. I pulled up the carpets and replaced them with hardwood floors. I took all of the art off the walls. It all had to go. My family, friends and coworkers surely thought I was a bit of a mad woman (which I was but I was a mad woman with a purpose). I wanted a blank slate to start over again. I wanted to shake the Etch-a-Sketch of my life completely clean. I slept on a blow-up mattress for several months while I imagined my new life and shopped. There was one rule. Every item that I bought – right down to a spatula – had to make me smile. There needed to be bright colors and joy. I slowly began to design my home with only my joy in mind. I reclaimed my space.
At the same time, I was exercising like a beast because heaven forbid, I go into my fifties not only single but of out shape. I began to brutalize myself over what I ate and what I weighed and how hard I worked out - which was at complete odds with the peaceful, Zen-like world I was trying to create.
As it happens, life had a plan to bring me back to earth, back to center, back in balance. In January (which feels like a lifetime ago), I was putting the last touches on my redecorating efforts by hanging a bright, colorful Kate Spade shower curtain and new shower curtain rod. It became a knock down drag out fight between me and the tension rod – the likes of which haven’t been seen since Snoopy battled the lawn chair. There was cussing and tears on my end and the complete refusal to stick to the wall by the curtain rod. Finally, I said “fuck it” and decided to drink wine. I stepped off the stool, lost my balance and fell with a loud thud. My head landed between the sink and the toilet. I narrowly missed receiving one of those fatal blows to the head you see in movies or read about in books (in fact there is one featured in my book Killed It – I can work a book promo in almost all of my posts and I will because I have no shame.)
I knew instantly my foot was broken (I would later find out that I'm an over achiever and broke it in three places). I have a lot of first hand experience with broken bones – a broken elbow crossing the street on Good Friday in 1991, three broken ribs from being thrown down by an ocean wave while in the Bahamas, a broken nose doing laundry (dryer lids are evil assholes) and a broken toe from an angry (possibly drunken) flounce into my bed room on my 21st birthday.
I slowly drug myself across the floor to get to my phone (which was two rooms away) as if Michael Meyers was after me – and called my sister and her husband, Daryl. It helps to have a physical therapist in the family. His expertise was definitely needed to get me down the stairs as I sobbed uncontrollably.
January 25th began my year of isolation, almost two months before anyone else would join me. Luckily, I work from home but everything else changed. There was no way I could navigate my steep pitched open Brady Bunch stairs with a cast on my foot. I learned quickly that I had made an excellent choice in my new couch. It became my bed, my workspace, my dining room, the cats’ main napping area. I lived seven weeks of my life on that couch while I rolled around in my office chair to get to the bathroom and the kitchen.
Suddenly, I had to learn to be dependent on people which has never been easy for me. Asking for help was almost painful because I have never wanted to be a burden on anyone. But I did. And as a result, I found out that it was comforting to lean on another human for help. If someone offers to help, most of them really do mean it. If you need help, take them up on their offer. My sister brought me groceries and took me to her house to shower since my bathroom was unreachable due to the staircase from hell. Also, I wasn’t quite ready to visit the scene of the crime. Sheila, my best friend brought me food and wine and tales from the world outside including her adventures in learning how to tap dance and sing in front of an audience to be in a musical.
I wallowed in self-pity on occasion as I felt the weight I had struggled to lose start to creep back on and bringing with it several extra friends. But for the most part, I didn’t drop down into a well of depression and anxiety which I have a tendency to do. Thanks to me, my therapist got some practice in telehealth Zoom sessions before Covid hit. I found myself repeatedly whispering – “let yourself heal” – and I meant more than my foot.
Freedom came in the form of a hot pink knee scooter. Sheila would help me navigate out of my house and in and out of the car in order to take me to Nomada, my favorite bakery, owned by some of my favorite people. I would set up at one of the tables every Sunday for five hours to eat (calories be damned), write, read, watch people, and visit with my friends. Those trips saved my sanity. But my freedom was to be short lived. I got my boot off and was ready to drive again three days before Covid shut everything down.
During the early days of Covid, my life reverted pretty much back to normal. I had progressed enough to crawl up and down my stairs and sleep in my own bed. I had made amends with the shower curtain which Daryl had finished hanging without incident. I had everything that I needed to nest comfortably. All of my furniture brought me joy. I was thankful that I was not trapped in a house full of old, painful memories everywhere I looked. It was if somehow, I instinctually knew that I had to create my dream home immediately because I wouldn’t be leaving it any time soon. And I’ve not left the house much this year. I pick up my groceries, I order in food, I have two single friends that are in my “pod” who I will go to their house or they will come to mine so that there is at least some actual interaction with people. I have Zoom happy hours. While the weather is still nice, I have occasionally gone to Nomada, masked up, and sat on their outdoor patio to eat their fabulous food, write my get out the vote postcards, and people watch. It takes all of my effort not to yell “put a fucking mask on - you motherfucking ratlickers” when I see selfish people acting as if the world hasn’t changed.
So, I’m going into this birthday with a different mindset from the last. I can’t run away to a fancy spa, there will be no party or celebrations other than with my cats. I’m perfecting the art of drinking champagne and eating cake in the tub. I’ve found peace through meditation, yoga, Ayurveda, and an eerily accurate Jyotisha astrology reading. I have everything I need for spa days at my house with masks for my face, hands and feet, and a foot and neck massager that leave me limp and in need of a cigarette afterwards. I take a bottle of champagne to the tub and sing poorly along with whatever music I tell Alexa to play for me.
I’m hearing the voices of Ally and Tristan Malcom talk to me again as I gear up to write the sequel to Killed It. Creativity is finally finding its way back in my world again. It had left me for a bit. I’m finding my way into some magic, not the bunny out of the hat kind, the charging your tarot cards under the new moon kind. The tearing up 20 years of journals and burning them under the new moon to release their energy from my life. I’ve gotten in touch with my inner thirteen-year-old self and rekindled my love for stickers and I’ve gotten over the anxiety of being afraid to permanently affix them to things. Yes, I gave myself a sticker for that life-changing achievement.
Everything that has happened since my last birthday has prepared me to go into the second half of my life stronger and more at peace than I was last year. I’m a bit heavier weight wise but I’m much lighter emotionally. I have gotten to know myself better – you have to with this much solitude – and I discovered that I am quite delightful, if I do say so myself. At least I enjoy my own company and that is the most important thing. I am starting to use the home gym I created but I am not killing myself to obtain some “perfect” body. I’d much rather be healthy and rocking a caftan than look great in a pair of leather leggings.
I’m going into this year with a sense of urgency about participating in democracy and trying to be a more responsible citizen of the world in terms of recycling and volunteering and listening to the needs of others and figuring out how I can help even if it is just donating money. I’ve learned to appreciate the slow quite moments of life – like throwing a shit ton of sunflower seeds on the front porch for all the wildlife. Watching the cats watch the birds, squirrels, chipmunks and voles while I drink my morning tea.
Last year, as I soaked in my private outside tub at the spa and drank champagne, this was not the life I had imagined for myself. Honestly, I can’t even remember what I had envisioned. But it is all working out as it should. In my astrology reading, I learned that my spirit in this life decided not to bring any merit with it from prior lives for this journey. My first response to hearing that was “why the fuck did I do that? Can I send for it now?” However, the more I settle into this life that I’ve created for myself, the more it becomes clear that maybe my spirit had the right idea – I can get through anything on my own with the help of my dear friends. If things go wrong (which clearly 2020 has taught us that they will) then I will just continue to follow the sage wisdom of Miley Cyrus – “can’t stop; won’t stop.”
For my birthday – please get out and vote. Democracy depends on it. And if anyone finds a very fashionable bag of merit laying around could you please return it to me?