Counting down to 50...

 Counting down to 50. Image property Rebecca Hart Ryan/The Entertaining House

Counting down to 50. Image property Rebecca Hart Ryan/The Entertaining House

I don't often talk about my age - It's not something I avoid and certainly isn't anything I'm ashamed of. In fact, it's something I have learned to embrace and I am actually looking forward to ending this decade with a quiet bang and entering a new one with grace, calm and confidence. There mostly likely will be no pomp and circumstance on the first of June in 2017. It will be the start of a monumental year - my oldest will be leaving the nest to go off to college. There'll be no grand celebrations, luxe travel plans, fine jewelry or anything lavish... I'll be dealing with the intricacies and complexities of everyday living. Because of this I will gently celebrate the each month as I count down. It won't be anything terribly exciting or epic, just a small token - something small I can do for myself as a special treat... A glass of champagne, some oysters on the half-shell... a manicure or pedicure, perhaps. Last week as I crossed another month off the list, my daughter treated me to coffee at Starbucks.

Life has it so that we are stretched and pulled in so many directions and unless we force ourselves to do so we don't often enough slow down and appreciate what there is... and even the small stuff is worth celebrating. Don't you think? And so taking a moment to celebrate the end of my 40s each month until I turn 50 seems to be a perfect solution. 

As for Birthdays themselves, I've stopped expecting them to be anything other than an average day.

I remember my 45th Birthday as though it was yesterday, and relatively speaking it was. It was a day like no other. In prior years it would have been accompanied by a few presents and a sweet and delicious cake with candles on top. I was very newly divorced with a newly ex- husband still reeling over my wish to break the family unit apart. He wasn't about to go out of his way to do anything particularly kind nor was he about to help the children do so.

June 1st 2012 fell on a Friday. It was the end of the school year and as we were all settling into our new lives, I was busily driving the children around to all their end of the year activities. My older two were off at a pool party and at the end of the day I drove over to bring them home. A few of us were invited to stay for a few nibbles and a couple of bottles of bubbly were brought out. Champagne on my Birthday, how nice! I thought to myself. But no one knew it was my Birthday. It was as though I had a secret - but not the good kind, like when you're hiding some wonderful news from the world; a pregnancy, potential job offer, winning the lottery. My Birthday wasn't exactly a secret, but I wasn't about to suddenly blurt out "Today's my Birthday!" Many would. Not I. 

Eventually it was time to get the kids back home. Wrapped in their towels, still wet, I got them all into the car - home was a mere 5 minutes away. I was parked closely (too closely) to the curb, which was granite, and as I turned my wheel to back up and pull out of my parking spot, the front right tire rubbed against the sharp edge which slashed a most enormous tear in rubber. We could hear it hiss as the car dropped several inches. Needless to say I didn't handle it too well. Sadly that ranks up there as one of my most memorable Birthdays. It was the first year I got no presents, flowers or home made cards and it was from that point on that I have learned not to have any expectations - high or otherwise. When a great Birthday does happen, believe you me I am incredibly grateful. 

I would love to be able to say that my 40s were my greatest years. Mine were not. I say this not for sympathy, empathy or pity. It is a mere truth. Maybe, in time, my views will change.

As I look back I see it as a very trying decade - oftentimes an exhausting one. It was certainly a decade of personal growth - It was one that saw many hurdles, struggle and even some success. At just 42 I asked for a divorce. Two years later my marriage was legally over. Most of my 40s were spent learning how to be independent all over again while taking care of 3 young children.

But I was raised to always look for the rainbow in the storm - to seek out the good in the unpleasant. Now as I prepare to bid farewell to this decade I look back with a knowledge that I have made a great many mistakes and have had a lot to learn - and still do. I've had to figure out how to manage on my own when there were so many things I took for granted - those things my spouse handled. I have had to figure out things like taxes, and car registrations, home, health and life insurance policies that I have significantly messed all up along the way. Not to mention all the things on the home-front I used to be able to pass off... I have had to figure everything out from unsticking sticky windows, getting rid of mice, and flying ants and fixing flat tires (AAA!) to figuring out how to zip up the little black dress when no one is around to help. I still have to figure out the work/home/parenting balance. As I prepare to exit my 40s I do so with more knowledge, self confidence and independence. And then I wonder, have I become too independent? But I'll save that for another time...

I have learned to stop caring so much what others think and what others say. I have learned that not everyone has to like me. I have learned that I have do not have to please everyone. I have learned to say No. I have learned to say Yes. I have learned that I don't need to conform. I have learned that I am much more of a free spirit than my upbringing might suggest. I have learned that it's OK to be me. I have learned that I like me. I have learned to speak my mind and be straightforward. I have stopped sugar-coating. If you ask if the pants are flattering and they're not, I won't lie. Hopefully you'll thank me for this. I have learned that there are many things I like about myself. And there things that I don't. I love that I'm strong willed and determined. I love my sensitivity. 

As I look back I see that my divorce has defined much of this decade. I'm not really sure how I feel about that.

I've experienced more than my quota of stress. I have experienced struggles I never anticipated, and many that I thought I would have long ago outgrown. I've made unforeseeable sacrifices and experienced unforeseeable joy. I've felt intense pain and experienced incredible moments of happiness. Things haven't and don't come easily to me, to us. 

Despite the challenges, some say that's what life is truly about, my 40s haven't been all bad - quite the contrary. I've found my voice and learned to use it. I've learned to take chances, follow my heart, pursue dreams, and I rediscovered dating - There's got to be a book in there somewhere! I even fell in love. What I must not overlook, and most importantly, my 40s has been a decade of second chances and renewed hope. At almost 50 and I wouldn't change a thing - past or present. 

I am determined to make this last year count. I am determined to reach those last goals - to be the best that I can possibly be - as I am eagerly looking ahead to a new decade filled with hope and possibility. After all, without this what do we really have? 

I want to be able to shout out "This is 50! Doesn't it look great?!"