This is MY forty.

Spincycle Diaries:  This is MY Forty…

A friend of mine, relatively to her forties, posted an article about being forty on Facebook prefaced with the comment, “I’m not sure I agree.”  My interest was piqued…

this-is-40-movie-wallpaper02When I was turning forty, I was more focused on my actual birthday than what it would mean to be in my forties.  My initial thoughts centered on how I would celebrate this milestone:  would I have a big party or fly away to some exotic locale – “Instagram-ing” every second?  Would I bring the kids or leave them behind?  I imagined all sorts of different outfits to wear to my great, elaborate party or otherwise, on a day filled with shopping, visiting museums and walking from Battery Park all the way up to Columbus Circle in New York City, alone, with Mr. Niceguy – stopping for burgers and beers along the way.

Yes, turning forty was definitely the focus – so much so that I had neglected to stop and think what it would actually mean to be in my forties.  Of the articles I’ve recently read, one author made a statement which rang very true for me:

I’ve never managed to grasp a decade’s main point until long after it was over

When I take a look back, I can see that my 20’s were full of learning and making mistakes, adventure, and romance:  I lay the groundwork for what would become a wonderful marriage and exciting career.  My 30’s brought a new set of challenges as I got deeper into my profession, started my own family and questioned the kind of person I wanted to be and the kind of legacy I wanted to leave.  So what will my 40’s be about?  With time growing ever more precious I’ve decided that I’d better figure this out toute suite! 

Probably the very first thing I’ve noticed about being forty is that I’m certainly making a much bigger deal of it than Mr. Niceguy ever did!  In all seriousness though, I’ve come to realize that it’s really important to appreciate the present.  All the worrying, the planning, the preparing – these are all distractions from the now, from the moments that we can never again have:  a first step, the first A on a project, basking in a moment of brilliance, or an unexpected ‘thank you’ for a contribution when you weren’t even expecting to be noticed.  Building a storehouse full of vivid moments is what will sustain us in the future and help us to keep going when times feel particularly tough.

This brings me to another realization:  many articles stated that we should not make comparisons between ourselves and others – comparisons only get us into trouble.  I believe this is true but given the right perspective, comparisons fuel motivation.  Like the other day, I saw Supermom in the parking lot – you know her:  fab, fit, forty and so together.  Supermom effortlessly juggles all the aspects of her life, is ever so charming and eloquent with her kids and never, ever appears frazzled, in other words, my antithesis.  After trying countless low carb diets and exercise routines, trying to keep on top of this project and that, and reading all the parenting books I can get my hands on, I’ve come to learn that although my thighs will always “kiss”, I will inevitably forget about a deadline and quite often, will make some parenting expert cringe, thanks to the Supermoms out there, I strive to take better care of myself, not sweat the small stuff and be a better mother.

My last realization is that in truth, I really have no idea what I’m talking about.  I mean, on most days, I feel like I’ve somehow reverted back to my teenage years, worrying about how to cover up the zit that just popped up on my forty-year-old forehead!  I do things I shouldn’t do, say things I shouldn’t say, even try hard to be one of the “cool kids”!  Like, this can’t be how a forty year old would behave, can it?  Turning forty has highlighted some of my deep-seated insecurities!  Should I spend more of an effort on my appearance and dress more appropriately for my age by ditching my Converse and jeans?  Should I act more grounded and finally start reading the newspaper instead of quoting the Vampire Diaries or the Bachelor?  Should I stop pretending that I’ll one day become President or Secretary of State?!  Should I start acting “my age”?!

No, I believe I should not.

Forgiving my presumptiveness, here’s what I think I know about being forty (and perhaps beyond).  That none of it matters.  While I have no clue as to what it means to be in this “club”, I wouldn’t be true to myself if I didn’t say that I want to have a hand in its design.

I can say with certainty that by the end of this decade, I will seek out my children more than they seek me out now, I have to make more time for romance (despite the constant tornado called life swirling around me, no book takes the place of a night out with Mr. Niceguy!), I will have to work harder than ever before to not feel left behind by some new technological gizmo and that I may need to finally trade in my sneakers for more sensible shoes.  In the meantime, I’ll continue to make mistakes and cringe when I think of them (like hitting myself on the head while closing the trunk of my own truck in front of all the Supermoms, or the daily insert-foot-in-mouth-itis with which I’m plagued), or continue to pretend like I know what it takes to set world policy (there are worse things than pretending to be President!).  Most importantly though, I’ll learn to focus on what’s really important:  my present, and the fact that as time ticks on, surrounding myself with a circle of true friends and a loving family that I helped to build, along with my not-so-grown-up spirit, are really all that matter.

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Pride and Prejudice…the spincycle version

One of my all-time favourite movies is Pride and Prejudice – the BBC version.  I’ve seen it more times than I can remember and at first, I thought the title should’ve been, “The Charming Mr. Darcy” (swoon).  But after watching it many, many more times, I came to appreciate its meaning…how both Elizabeth Bennett (the heroine) and Mr. Darcy both prejudged each other given their circumstances and ingrained thinking.  In the end, they realize that their prejudices were ill-found…

It’s just past 7:30 and I’ve decided to skip the 3 year old’s soccer game this morning  and instead decide to lounge around…beep-beep-beep-beep…

Hmmm…it’s Saturday.  Who could be texting??  I can’t really be bothered…I mean, it’s the weekend…everyone should just chill and relax, like me.  I can be the Queen of Relaxation – when I want to or more like, when I allow myself – I can be so good at it.  Mr. Niceguy has taken care of everything and the 7 year old is downstairs playing video games (sue me, it’s summer vacation).  Beep-beep-beep-beep…

Why does it keep beeping?!  It’s breaking my focus.  My concentration.  My zen.  Oooommmmm….

Beep-beep-beep-beep…

Ooooooommmmmmmm…..

Beep-beep-beep-beep…

OOOOOMMMMM!!!!!!!!!…..

BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP…

OK!  OK!  I’ll just check it…OH NO!  Texts from my mommy friends…Oh.  My.  God!!!  The playdate is TODAY and I forgot that I was supposed to get up early and prepare!  Quick scan fridge…nothing.  Pantry….nothing.  Basement pantry….boxes of mac & cheese and our emergency if-the-world-comes-to-an-end cans of chili and space age/military grade, vac sealed meal replacement kits that Mr. Niceguy bought from some kind of disaster readiness website.  How could I let this happen?!  Incidentally, I’m more ready for the end of the world than I am a playdate!

Not a problem.  I can put it into full gear – besides, I’ve had a few hours minutes seconds to relax.  I am recharged, refreshed and raring to go!

T-minus 1hr 45mins:  In car, 7 year old in tow, pull up to grocery store.  Veggies, fruit, cheese, bag of chips (again, summer, sue me), juice, and a diet coke for me.

T-minus 1hr 30mins:  Need more caffeine!  Hit up a Starbucks…can’t do the day without my latte fix!

T-minus 1hr 24mins:  I wonder…if I add up all the time I wait for the baristas to prepare my lattes how long would that be…and why can’t they ever get my name right?? What if I started pulling some Bart Simpson name pranks…

T-minus 1hr 23mins 30secs:  REALLY?!  I don’t have time for this!!!  NEED MY LATTE!!

T-minus 25mins:  At home.  Fruit chopped, veggies chopped, cheese cut, house tidied up, beds made, teeth brushed (I had no time!), hair straightened (this could be a blog topic all on its own) we’re ready.

T-minus…THEY’RE HERE.  Kids all run into the basement and chaos ensues!  And moms can all relax, put their feet up, and dish!

I’ll digress now and say that I have chronic foot-in-mouth-itis.  I frequently say things that I shouldn’t say…and consequently, do things that I shouldn’t do.  For example, when kicked under the table to keep quiet or go along with something, I have often blurted out, “hey!  Whatchya kick me for?”  And after each occasion, I remember that perhaps I should’ve tried to be a little more incognito – and perhaps I should remember that my actions (and lack of discretion) result in the “outing” or inconvenience of someone else.

Sometimes I’m like a toddler with no filter.  I chalk it up to honesty and being an open book, but one mustn’t forget about tact…

So at this playdate, a few weeks ago, I said something I really shouldn’t have said.  Something that I didn’t even realize was in me.  And I remember the moment, the instant the words were out of my mouth:  I felt hot, I felt a flush rising from my chest to my face and head – I felt so uncomfortable that I just wanted to black out (like that may have been an easier out and I could’ve blamed my momentary lapse in judgment on something medical).  What I really wanted to do was to rewind, go back in time, and never utter those words which were made so carelessly and without any cognition. Thankfully when I apologized, she accepted my apology.

This was all the result of an ill-conceived bias…like group think and blindly following along with a majority’s views.  Like being under compulsion (Vampire Diaries reference here…and yes, I’m still addicted).  It can make an appearance at the most unexpected times – and when it’s someone like me, with no filter, it really can pop out of nowhere.

For example, when walking into someone’s house for the first time and there’s underwear in the middle of the floor.  Look, this really has happened to me and it made me feel totally uncomfortable.  It made me question what I thought about that person. Like who leaves their underwear on the floor knowing that they’re expecting company?  Who??  Feels a little intimate…no?

And now I was the one that had dished out the uncomfortable.  I was the one that had put someone else in a very awkward position.  I was the one who had “left underwear on the floor.”  And for a penance, have been feeling absolutely horrible – despite remedying the situation.  I’ve totally beaten myself up and cringe every time I replay that careless, awkward moment.  (You know that face…the “oooh” smush face and shrugging of shoulders made when thinking about it.)

But I think it’s time to move on and time to take it a little easier.  We all make mistakes and hopefully, we learn.  After all, that’s what I would tell my boys.  That, and I am fortunate that my mommy friend could look beyond this one instance.  She has taught me the lesson of being more gracious – and she was tolerant of my toddler-like ways.  Just like Elizabeth Bennett changed her views when she ran into Darcy after he had taken a swim in his “underthings”, the next time I see underwear on the floor, I swear to be more discrete, shrug it off and not jump to any conclusions…oh, and save everyone’s pride, including my own.

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Trust me…famous last words

“Trust me”…whenever I hear these words I feel like doing the opposite.  Similar to “relax”, “everything’s going to be ok”, “it’ll only take a minute”, and “it’s nothing serious”.

Seems to me (and my suspicious mind) that these statements, these combinations of words, have all somehow come to be used in instances to disguise situations where their meaning is not quite the same as their intent.

I have trusted to my own detriment.  Trusted that my contributions were being valued.  Trusted that what I was saying was being heard.  Trusted that someone else would have my best interests at heart.  I have also tried to “relax”, believed that “everything’s going to be ok”, that “it will only take a minute” and that perhaps “it’s nothing serious”…and I have come to terms with the fact no good can come from hearing these words.

Where is all this coming from?  Why am I feeling so suspicious now?  Why am I on heightened on alert?

Years ago I attended a corporate retreat – the kind with all sorts of team building exercises and presentations, too much drink, tons of new people, staggers to breakfast completely hung over with a bunch of strangers with whom you have to network and remember, etc.  For a global company like the one at which I work, these kinds of “retreats” can really be quite extravagant and this particular event was so overbooked that attendees were asked if they would be willing to share a room.  I volunteered as soon as I heard that for my sacrifice, I would get “special recognition”.  Who doesn’t like recognition???  Well, aside from not having any space of my own, my “special recognition” wound up being a gift basket – a SINGLE gift basket to SHARENOT the kind full of spa goodies, fantastic condiments or gourmet cookies.  No.  This one had weird cheese product, pate and cheap wine – and all I got was regret and a bag of peanuts.

In any case, it was at this particular retreat, after a Myers-Briggs assessment, where I learned I was an extrovert…

…the act, state or habit of being predominantly concerned with and obtaining gratification from what is outside the self…extroverts tend to enjoy human interactions and to be enthusiastic, talkative, assertive and gregarious…energized when around other people…prone to boredom when they are by themselves

So what happens when an extrovert, such as me, is immersed in hours upon hours of one thing?

Theorizing for a moment…at its most basic, Carl Jung’s theory of extroversion and introversion may suggest that sticking an extrovert in a room full of say, happy-go-lucky people, would probably put the extrovert in a similar (if not the same) state.  To continue theorizing, what happens when you expose an extrovert to hours upon hours of the Vampire Diaries?

For the past 4 years, I had been under a complete rock…after discovering the Vampire Diaries, I can’t stop.  I have finished over 20 hours of viewing in the past 3 days – which makes it two entire seasons over the past week.  And when have I found the time?  Between the hours of “they’re finally asleep” and the “crack of dawn”.

All this TV viewing has been in an attempt to forget about the stress:  2 summer colds (one for me and the other for the 3 year old down who’s throat I had to shove horse pill sized antibiotics 3 times a day for 10 days – it’s 2013!  Is there NOT a one-pill solution???!), lots going on at work, and all the usual stuff that comes with being a career woman and homemaker!  I have been feeling completely run down.

So, to survive I found the most unexpected salvation:  pretending to be like a vampire.  WAIT!  Not the sucking blood and killing people part.  The detached, heightened awareness, super strength part.  Like, when I get really mad and upset – say because I’ve been told to trust someone who clearly does not deserve it, or relax in a situation where surely one cannot relax, I remember to keep my powers in check.  I remember to be magnanimous, to have a grand presence and above all, spare those who seek to cause me distress.

But all of this has also manifested itself in the physical:  I walk taller, sneak about, I’ve been making these odd facial expressions like I can read more into a situation and see through people, and just the other day, while enjoying a sandwich over lunch, I snapped my head to the right, took a sniff and knew someone was eating ketchup 7 feet away from me… I have to fess up a little secret here – this is not all attributable to the vampire thingy:  I have a nose like a bloodhound and an absolute LOVE of ketchup, which in fact, was the only thing that helped keep my meals down during two pregnancies.  It is the perfect condiment – why didn’t they include a bottle of 57 in the gift basket??!!  

Last night I watched a marathon of 8 episodes – at about 45 minutes an episode, that’s about 6 hours’ worth – from 10 pm to 4 am.  And when I was finally falling asleep I saw flashes of light, and heard whooshing noises and footsteps.  Completely freaked, I forgot all my vampire strengths and woke up Mr. Niceguy:

Me:  Wake up.  PLEASE wake up!!  Shhhh…I think there’s someone in the house.  I saw flashing lights and heard footsteps.

Mr. Niceguy:  Ok, take the phone, if I yell, dial 911.  Don’t hesitate. [Seeing the terror in my eyes]  Just relax.  Trust me.  Everything’s going to be ok.

Me:  What?  No!!!  Where are you going?  Please…

Mr. Niceguy:  I’m sure it’s nothing serious.  I’m going to look around…it will only take a minute.

Me:  <GULP> [Oh. My. God.]

I stood completely rooted to the spot, between both boys’ bedrooms in the dark hallway.  I couldn’t hear him anymore.  And I couldn’t see him.  Did I really hear those things?  Did I really see those flashes of light?  And more than that, should I have let him go?  Can I really trust this situation?  Where is he?  I know I have to keep cool, I know I have to keep my wits about me…what’s taking so long??!!

And before I know it, he’s back.  And he’s checked everywhere.  And there’s no sign of anything or anyone.  And everything’s ok.  And the rules don’t apply here.  I can exhale.  I feel trust, I can relax, everything is ok and it only took a minute to realize that it’s nothing serious…or is it???

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