Friday, March 25, 2011

Birthday Indulgences

I just celebrated my birthday. Actually, I celebrated an entire birthday weekend with family and a few close friends- a night out at my favorite restaurant in the city, family dinners, lots of pasta and too much cake. I had an amazing time.  It was much different from any other birthday, but it was truly wonderful.

When I turned forty (nine years ago) I started a ritual.  I was suddenly single after being married for nineteen years. I had a new career, new friends, a new life. I was so broken after my divorce that I did not want to get involved in any kind of relationship with a man. I dated occasionally, but would never allow it to go beyond a few dates or any real feelings or commitment.  However, when my birthday rolled around, I missed that extra attention from a partner so I decided that every year I would buy myself a gift in honor of my special day.  

The first gift I bought myself was an 18K gold necklace. It was thick and gorgeous and expensive.  I wore it twice and recently traded it in for cash at a friend's gold party.  I never wear gold---I wear silver-- so I have no idea what possessed me to buy it in the first place. 

As the years rolled by, I continued to buy myself birthday gifts.

When I turned forty-one, I found a silver butterfly ring in a little gypsy shop on Hollywood Blvd. in Los Angeles.  That was my gift to myself that year. I wear it on my left ring finger (where my wedding band used to be) and I have never taken it off. The ring represents freedom and my metamorphosis. It serves as a reminder to keep growing, keep learning, and to keep changing.

As I became older and more successful in my career in the mortgage industry (READ:  more money), my lifestyle and my habits became more extravagant and more expensive.  So did the gifts I bought myself each year.

The first year I began working in NYC, I treated myself to a Cartier tank watch on my birthday.  I wore it once.  I still have it but it was so expensive, I am afraid to wear it.  It sits in my jewelry box.  Every once in awhile, I take it out and admire it.

Then there was my first real Louis Vuitton tote bag and matching wallet. The wallet and all of its contents were stolen at a bar one night.  I never replaced it. I still have the tote bag... somewhere in my closet.

On my 44th birthday, I bought myself a diamond ring from the jewelery store down the block from my office.  Every morning on my way to Starbucks, I stopped to admire that ring in the window. It was gorgeous-- delicate and unique with a butterfly made entirely of diamonds.  I had to have it so on my birthday I marched into the store and bought it.  I wore it a few times, but it catches on everything I wear. Now it keeps the Cartier company in my jewelry box.

When I turned 45,  I wanted to do something completely different.  I got my first tattoo-- a Japanese symbol for sorrow.  Why sorrow? I am not a sad person-at least not on the outside.  Several years ago, I suffered from terrible depression.  I cried all the time.  For years.  Eventually, I separated myself from all those things that were making me so sad and depressed and I don't cry anymore.  But deep inside, there is still a sadness I cannot explain. It only comes out when I have too much to drink.  I sob uncontrollably and don't know why.  One day I will discover what it is that still makes me so sad, I will heal it, and add a small little butterfly emerging from my tattoo.

When I turned 47, I decided it was time to buy my own home. I found an adorable little place and was all set to put down a deposit on my birthday. Then I got myself into a bit of trouble and the money I had set aside for the house was spent on something else. I will never forgive myself for that. STUPID STUPID STUPID! Two years later, I am still living in an apartment.

Over the years there have been so many changes.  Gone is my career in the mortgage world and the huge salary that went along with it.  I am comfortable and all my bills are paid.  I still have a little extra to do some fun things. I am not starving by any means. There have also been some other major changes in my life and how I live it. When my birthday rolled around this year, I wanted to do something a little extreme--make a statement to declare my independence and evolution. I decided to pierce my nose....a little diamond chip right on the side. I have always wanted to do that.

Parading around with a nose ring would break my father's heart.  He detests that kind of stuff and still hasn't quite forgiven me for my tattoo. Yes, I know I am my own person and I shouldn't live to please others.  In fact, I tell other people that all the time.  But if your beloved father was battling colorectal cancer and having chemo and radiation treatments every day, would you want to add more stress and heartache to his life?  I decided against the nose piercing....for now.

My gift to myself this year:  two books from  $29.95--including shipping.  They just arrived and I am more excited over these books than any other gift I've ever purchased for myself.

If I tried to explain the ways my life has changed, it would take pages and pages to share. I will spare you the details.  I will tell you this: not only did I buy myself birthday gifts each year, I celebrated in big ways.  Not just one day, or a weekend, but the entire month of March was one big party.  I am sad to say, I really don't remember anything that happened during those months. If I add it all up, that's nine whole months of my life I can't recall.  In fact, there isn't much I remember about the past nine years. I was too busy trying to fill the empty void of my life with something that turned out to be quite destructive in the long run.

I stepped off the crazy, wild,  roller coaster of a life sometime ago.  Looking back, I see that got off that ride just in time.  If I hadn't, I would not be able to endure what is happening in my life and with my family right now.  I would be useless and selfish and not want to deal with any of it.  I would be looking to escape and numb the pain and the fear.  It's harder to face it all head-on, but in the midst of pain and suffering are precious moments I never want to forget.  I want to remember every minute of time I get to spend with my father and my family.  I really don't know what the future holds or if my dad will make it through this, but regardless of the outcome, I want to be fully present for each and every moment.  I don't want to look back with regret years from now because I was someplace else when my father (or anyone else I love) breathes his last breath.

So, I have my books this year.  I look forward to lighting my candles, pouring a cup of hot tea, snuggling up beside my little cat,  and reading them. Yes...this is quite boring compared to how I used to live my life but  I am here, I am present, I am safe.  My form of escape now is a good book every once in awhile.  I am perfectly content.  Happier than I have ever been.  Peaceful.  And the best part, I will remember every single moment.

And this is my Daily Cyn............

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