WOW!! I am now officially 60. Still alive – healthy, happy, optimistic, and ready for whatever come next – 70, 80, 90..
When I entered my 40’s and 50’s I asked friends to give me a surprise party. To this day each of those celebrations remain a source of joy, connection, community, and of course, love. I know how much time an effort goes into planning an event and let me assure you the folks who undertook those gala events poured their hearts and souls into making sure they were truly Surprise Parties. Some of you who may be hearing this for the first time are wondering – what the hay! Yes, bold requests on my part. Why on earth would someone make such a wish? Upon reflection I can honestly say because I was afraid of being alone upon entrance to those decades, those life markers that denote moving on. Interesting statement a woman such as myself who has the most remarkable, kind, caring, loving circle, she was afraid she would be alone and wanted a guarantee she wouldn’t be.
On my actual birthday when I turned 40, my Dad was in Sudbury the day before and I begged him to stay to share the day. He didn’t. My child heart if I could have found the words at the moment when he dug his heels in and left, would be as Leila would say, “You broke my heart.” I remained silent. My Dad did surprise me by paying for the party. You know by now how much I loved and continue to love my father, which do you think I would have preferred? Time with him or the money?
Friends from work reminded me that life will bring fantastic surprises, so Miss Anna and Miss Leila were surprised with a birthday dinner this year that included people in my life that represented the decades – children, youth, Barsanti family, friends, students, education, and my newest family Greater Sudbury Police Service. This menagerie of people was truly representative of the circle of my life.
I put this out there for you to share a bit of what can appear to be confusing for a person on the inside. How is it that someone like me can even have a sense that I am alone? Seriously, been in the world of work since 12 years of age and can honestly say loved every single job. The work was rewarding, however the work was not the reason for loving the jobs; the people I was privileged to work alongside were/are the incentives, the pull that brings me joyfully present each day. My beautiful huge extended family, well simply put they are my touchstone, my connection to my roots, my reminders of what is important. The friends I am blessed with, well they are more than, they have become part of my family. They have made me richer and stronger and more determined to be a better person. So why pray tell does the vulnerability of being lonely haunt me? In the 20 years that have passed since turning 40, I am better able to accept me and trust life to unfold. Let’s be clear life unfolding comes with choices, deliberations, and continued reflection on my responses to what is happening around me.
Entering my 60s required some thought on how October 21st would mark the occasion, something a little more intimate; afterall I am not alone Leila would be a part of the equation. Where could the child’s heart go? Why Disney of course! UNBELIEVABLE! Truly an experience that was as heartwarming and memorable as the entrance to the 40s and 50s!
Leila continues to be best travelling buddy ever seriously she is simply amazing.
Now to give you a synopsis of the day, the simply perfect day I had planned to welcome the next decade. Leila and I would leave the ship, Disney Dream and experience Atlantis in Nassau Bahamas. What could be more idyllic? All goes according to plan or does it? We are talking about ‘Anna’. Before beginning our itinerary for the day we had a walk through tour to become familiar with the resort. We got our locker and towels, then headed to one of the water park adventures – tubing together, I in my sunglasses, sunhat, and locker key and Leila with her sunglasses and sunhat lazily enjoying the sun and scenery until the three quarter mark when a rush of water turned us upside down. I quickly grabbed Leila who was crying because of the surprise turn of events, held firm to hold on both to the tube and Leila as I watched my sunhat continue the journey. The lifeguard jumped in and became Leila’s hero. To hear her tell it he saved us both. Well, he did retrieve my hat. We get back up on the tube, not much choice climbing out not an option, plus if we did with my geographical challenges we would still be in Nassau looking for our chairs. Leila eventually relaxed and we finished our passage. We left to go to our lockers to prepare for the next exciting adventure, interaction with the Sea Lions. As I attempt to open the locker I discover, are you ready the key is gone. Yes, swallowed up by the churning water. Oh, and Leila no longer owns her Spiderman sunglasses. To go to the Sea Lions I need the ticket; to get the ticket I need to get into the locker and for a mere $50 US, this dream can come true. To make matters worse Leila points out her new booboo. She not only was scared by the turn of events, she got scraped and if you know Leila you don’t go anywhere until there are Band-Aids placed over the hurt.
Okay we are ready to head to the Sea Lion interaction. We arrive; get into our wetsuits, and head over to see the sea lion. What a wonderful education and experience! The group is small to provide ample time for experiential learning and Q & A. Got a big smacking kiss and lots of hugs from our sea lion. And as with all experiences on this trip there is a professional photographer capturing the moments. Oh wait; I can’t purchase my photographs because I left my credit card in the locker on the other side of the resort. Not a problem will come back later.
Leila and I swam some more, ate lunch, and then headed back to pick out some memorable photos. You have to picture this; the temperature is hot, very hot. The resort is large, very large. And Leila, God bless her has to come with me no matter where we go. Lots of walking and distances seem further when you are sweltering. We arrive to pick out the photos, I pull out my credit card along with the number for our order, and then they ask me for ID. I ask why didn’t the person tell me that before when she gave the reservation number. We are sorry she didn’t, you need your ID. Wait Leila really has to go to the bathroom and is pulling on my arm. I burst into tears and blurt out, “This is my birthday, and I just want to have a perfect day.” Now the poor woman feels bad, she wants to do something. Leila is pulling on my arm. The woman says come back. Oh wait it gets better when we are in the washroom I lean over to help Leila and my sunglasses fall into the toilet before we flush. Leila remains calm, I sob even harder. Back to the photo shop. Now there are a few young women together. I tell them this day is not going the way I thought and shared my sunglass dive story. They feel really bad for this hysterical newly born 60 year old so begin to come up with a solution, “Do you know your passport number?” “Do you know your license number?” Of course, not! No worries – Happy ending, I got my photos they just couldn’t bear to see me suffer any longer and Leila well she entertained the entire staff for the next 10 minutes regaling them with her unfortunate tumble and about life in general.
When we arrived back to the ship there was a Happy Birthday greeting from Disney. At dinner Leila and I celebrated with our table partners, 2 moms and their children. What a perfect setting for evening dinners, like travellers. The table staff sang Happy Birthday and served me with a delicious piece of cake. The evening ended with a live show, Disney Villains.
Why do I share this long drawn out version of the day? For one I want it recorded for Leila. Mainly, life has twists and turns. We laugh. We cry. In the end our response belongs to us. Life is not a bowl of cherries; life is like an hourglass only we really don’t know how much time is in ours. For me I need to realize life and my responses to life are all part and parcel of internal influences that impacted on my sense of self along my journey. Rather than get upset, be gentler on my soul take the time to inquire as to why being upset is the option for the moment. Leila is certainly helping me along the way. She stays calm in my moments of turbulence. She mirrors for me what can be. When I am with her, I am reminded what I want to provide for her is stability, safety, opportunity to be true to her, and a knowing that life can be what you want it to be. She simply has to believe.
Some may think of 60 as getting older, but it’s actually an amazing time
in a person’s life where they can take stock of who they are and
celebrate each new day with a renewed sense of self!