It feels like a short time ago, not a full decade, that thirty loomed and me and my ten-or-so closest girlfriends crowded a table at the restaurant then known as 'Lobby' which was the place to be in 2003, and ushered in my third decade. We were dressed in either black, white, or pink, and we ate things like thick, small steaks that night, and we had alot of champagne, and sometime after 10 pm, when Lobby would turn into a nightclub, we stuck around for that, too. There were pictures (this was just about the time digital was coming in) and there were cellphones, and there are a few of those friends who have either moved on, be it due to lives drifting apart, actually moving, or who have gone on to live a bit of a different life where different needs crowd in and friends are more like accessories, not people. But the memories remain.
I blur by other birthdays in my thirties, some with a boyfriend, most with a gaggle of girls, intent on taking me out and getting me fed and watered (re; drunk) so that the next passing year could be counted on to be even more fabulous than the last.
I remember the family side of birthdays. The bbq'ed steaks and ice-cream cakes (a tradition for my August birthday) in my parents backyard in Ajax. The generous gifts, the dog begging for cake and steak. Later, my sister's kids so excited to blow out my candles, open my presents, taking photos as a family, enjoying what was usually a fantastically sunny day in the last official week of Summer, this fleeting season. Though, as I age, all seasons seem fleeting, but winter takes its time somehow.
I remember thirty-five, my colourful blue and sand beach dress, thirty-six, little Italy. Thirty-seven, the birthday party I threw myself at my condo, putting thirty-six, a vastly challenging year, to bed. I had invited my parents to come but even by then my dad wasn't up for it. But at least I heard his voice on the phone, my last birthday with that joy.
Thirty-eight I welcomed quietly, with Mike, my engagement ring winking the promise of our upcoming wedding that brightened my thirty-eighth year so blindingly. Thirty-nine was spent in Maine, travelling. My mother-in-law made brownies. I stared down the last year of my thirties. It had its own lessons to teach me, as every year does. This years were hard.
Fast-forward to forty.
I started thinking about forty a few months ago. I'd put on some weight and was having trouble shaking it off, much more trouble than I normally used to. But something else was different too--I'd stopped the obsessive mirror-gazing and just really didn't care as much as I used to. Grooming was and still is a cornerstone of my life--my hair is tinted just so to hide the white (not grey, white). I manicure my own nails, pedicure too. I don't leave the shower without moisturzing my skin. My face is washed twice a day. I wear classic, beloved pieces of jewellery. I wear skirts with respectable hemlines, I own slips, my heels for work are kitten. But I had a midsection I never used to have.
Spinning. Yoga. Running (ever so slowly). Caloring cutting. Yea, it helped, but I had some accepting to do. One is that I love food, good food, and I can't (won't) give it up. Two, it's called middle-age, and if starving yourself is not on your list of things to do as a valuable, non-self-hating member of this society, then you have to leave that body of your youth behind. It's not that bad. I'm happier now than I was when I was thirty. Alot more happy. Back then, despite the smiles pasted on my face in every photo, secretly I worried. Where was I going in life, did I have control, could I gain control, could I KEEP control?
Now, I know, there is no controlling life. There is only going along with the current for the most part, steering yourself away from an upcoming waterfall if you can, and if not, taking a deep breath and going over it gracefully. Praying for the water to part and the wreckage to clear for a path to the nearest handy shore.
So forty, as a birthday, was spent with Mike, and my sister and her kids, with our friend L., and with some of Mike's family and friends too, which made things very special for me. There was that ice-cream cake, and the kids blowing out the "FOUR-OH" candle on top. There was the watch my husband bought me, on my wrist, in all the photos, blinking out.
So I leave my thirties behind. Yes, as friends before me had said, they were great years. They were also hard years, with real adult challenges, ones that I'll sadly face again, hopefully not for a very long time. So I don't fear forty, I really do embrace it. When I look at the photos from my birthday dinner, wearing an orange-floral dress, my half-bangs over my right eye, my hair long and straight, the way I like it, I see a very happy face peering out. Not wondering what to do, how to do it, or when. Just..living life. Each day, every day, no matter what challenges present themselves.