I think it was this weekend five years ago my husband orchestrated my 50th birthday party with the help of my best friend who graciously held the party at her home. It seems longer ago than five years, and considering all that has happened in that time, it qualifies as yet another of my lifetimes.
It began with crazy giddiness over not having to go to work any more. Of being in the house by myself to do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted while everybody else had to work — a feeling almost immediately tempered by intense guilt about not going to work, not having an income, not having a plan. Of having a husband who respected me enough to say, okay, let’s see how it goes. Surely I could be a thrifty person. I was raised by a thrifty mother and so could easily help us spend less money. I remember thinking since I’d never have to go anywhere anymore, I wouldn’t have to pay for clothes, have my hair done, purchase shoes or purses, be tempted by expensive make-up and face cream ever again. I remember that woman, the me with splotchy skin and roots a mile long. When I remember her, I smile. She was a bit wild and laughed a lot, much like someone who has been trapped for a very long time. I miss her.
Another of my schemes to help save money involved my vow to read every book I owned I hadn’t read instead of purchasing new ones. I made a list. I even kept track and tried to score them in an attempt to keep myself focused on the fact I was reading something that sort of reminded me of the inevitable cans of solid pack pumpkin shoved to the back of the pantry each year after the holidays and never surface again. Not even on subsequent holidays. My stint reading passed over books lasted a few months, slowing down my reading until I realized I could go to the second hand book store and purchase all the crappy books no one wanted. Aging bodice rippers with pages yellowed on the edges and smelling of the mustiness that collects on books packed into cardboard boxes for a long time. I duped myself into spending a bit of money to save a lot, and more importantly, save myself from having to continue reading the passed over books which are still, five years later, sitting in my bookcase. Heard of the library much?
I also promised I’d give up my magazine subscriptions for an annual savings of maybe $100 and solidified my decision by telling myself I was saving trees. I thought I’d have available all the recipes and decorated rooms, flower potting tips, and personal essays at my fingertips simply by surfing the web. Although I did manage to remove quite a few magazine subscriptions from the pile I often felt was helping keep the publishing industry afloat, I still receive four magazines each month as well as others which mysteriously appear because I’ve taken pity on some phone survey caller, or yet another charity asking for money and promising a magazine subscription of my choice if only I’ll please give, give, and give some more. The magazines pile up, and as much as I enjoy them when I actually sit down to look at them, I can’t keep up. They all need to go — just like the newspaper subscription we’ve had for more than 20 years.
And then there’s photography. I think I’ve always looked through lenses at life in general, often seeing things others can’t see, don’t want to see, or are too busy to notice. As much as I work to create images with my words, I’m most happy when those words are accompanied by an image. Sometimes, it’s not easy for me to say which comes first — the image or the words — but I’m not sure that matters. What does matter is that I take the photos. Taking a photo a day for nearly a year helped get me through one challenging year. It helped distract me enough to acknowledge each passing day, find something to shoot, lose myself in editing, then post and share what I’d made with others. Learning from what they’d made. Learning more about others and their lives — helping to put mine in better perspective. I’m still thankful for that.
There have been travels, too. Each time I set out, whether it’s by myself or with family, I know I want to go even more. We’ve seen parts of Italy, drove through England again — and not for the last time, taken road trips to places we’ve never been in California before, like Lake Tahoe, Big Bear, and Mendocino — a place I’ve always wanted to visit. A trip to Mexico with girlfriends to celebrate a 40th birthday was memorable, but didn’t quite allow me to escape the Swine Flu that had international borders closed at the time. And blogging has taken me places like San Francisco — my favorite city, Atlanta, and Ohio to meet the people I feel I sometimes know more than people I’ve known here for years.
I’ve lost dear pets and gained a new one, and as much as I know they add something to my life that is unique, they also require time and attention — just like children. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to live without a pet, but wanting to travel more often does make me stop and think about it differently. I remember taking my young children on trips, and although there are lovely memories connected to those times, I’m looking forward to being with my husband — just the two of us — taking off somewhere for no reason in particular, without having to worry about who’s taking care of the pets. Selfish — especially when I think about the company they provide on a daily basis. It’s company that comes with the price of unraveled upholstery, rug yarn ripped out by claws that need shedding, hairballs that blend with the travertine, and fleas. I think they’re worth it, so I probably need to find a house sitter.
My body is without organs it was born with and made good use of birthing three boys I’d give my own life for, seriously incapacitating anyone who tried to do them harm. I have a knee that will probably never be the same again even though it’s been fixed, and reminded of it each time I walk up stairs. I’m padded in places I never knew existed, and according to my beloved who seems perpetually sleep deprived, snore. I can’t see my toenails to paint them as much as I used to, and the hair on my legs — never really enough to be a nuisance — has thinned to such an extent, I rarely bother to scrounge for a razor to shave. The blonde hair on my forearms, so thick when I was in elementary school it embarrassed me and cut it off, is also so thin I rarely notice it — unlike the white spots beneath it caused by years of sun without sunscreen. My butt fits into pants better than it ever has, but it’s anyone’s guess if it’s because I’m losing muscle tissue in my glutes, or my waistline has expanded so much, the waistband of my pants can’t find my waist. Thank God I don’t have to deal with high-waisted pants. I think. I give the scale in our bathroom the hairy eyeball occasionally in passing, and ignore the sticky on my Mac that inquires about whether I’ve done at least 20 minutes of exercise a day, but I make every effort to go up and down the stairs many times each day rationalizing that I’m moving my body. I lift my weights between commercials when we’re sitting in our respective spots each evening, and during the day when I’m home alone, I find reasons to stretch and kick, and on good days, dance. And then there is the giant ball I sit on when I’m at my Mac.
Ah, but then, there is also wine, but I’ll save that for another time.
I have a good life. I count my blessings. My family is healthy — well, sort of. I love my husband. I think he likes me on most days. I don’t need anything I don’t already have. And my boy men are good people.
Now, let’s see what the next five years will bring, shall we?