Bill says that the key to happiness is, “Someone to love, something to do, and something to look forward to.” He always attributes it to some motivational speaker; however, I’ve seen it attributed to Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), Alexander Chalmers (1759-1834), Rita Mae Brown (1944 -), and Elvis (1935-1977). Take your pick. All I know is that it resonates with me. Planning this trip to Ireland with my children and Bill meets all of those requirements.
With our trip in mind I have approached SIXTY like a champ! I also keep in mind that aging is a privilege that many do not receive. I am grateful to have reached this milestone today.
I remember my other monumental birthdays well. I was underfunded at the time of my thirtieth birthday. I was a single parent with two little boys, doing my best to support us on my income. There were very few frills back then but there was the blessing of amazing friendships. For lunch on my birthday my work colleagues took me out for my very first lobster. I know that I enjoyed it more than did the lobster. I felt loved and supported by those people and still cherish them to this day.
For my fortieth birthday it was time to jump out of a perfectly good airplane. I had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia several years before and wanted to start knocking things off my bucket list while I still could. Nothing prepared me
for that amazing experience! We lifted off after work as the sun was sinking low to the west over Lake Michigan. Once the plane reached the prescribed height I could see Saginaw Bay to the east and Lake Michigan to the west. All of the lakes and rivers between the two Great Lakes glowed like pools and rivers of gold. It was incredible! I think my heart skipped just one beat as we tumbled out of that plane. I’ll never forget the serenity that came over me once the parachute opened and we glided so quietly to the ground. It was obviously a successful tandem jump. I did not even need the protection of the “adult undergarments” I had worn just in case.
Fifty was ushered in by a surprise birthday party thrown by Bill. It was attended by friends and family from as far away as Vermont. He even hired a jazzy little band for entertainment. It gave us pleasure to see our mothers “tripping the light fantastic” and dancing the night away. We lost both of them during that decade.
Bill and Kelly at Skellig Michael
We sealed that fiftieth celebration a short time later with our first shared trip to Ireland in May of 2009. It was also our first international trip together. We crushed it! We were even lucky enough to make it to the top of Skellig Michael prior to the Star Wars slam. Our boat was the first to land and we hurried to the top before the place was crowded with other tourists. We both think of it as a peak experience.
My goal for SIXTY was to buy a motorhome and convince my employer that I could work from the road several months a year. I spent a lot of time researching motorhomes and dreaming the dream. A lot. As the date drew nearer I realized the goal no longer appealed to me. Maybe I should blame it on Erik Erikson’s seventh stage of psychosocial development, “Generativity vs. Stagnation”? I’m not sure. Instead, I found myself experiencing a strong desire to celebrate this next phase of my life by giving back to my children; by creating special moments in time, that I hope we will all remember with great fondness and protect with ferocity.
Bill and I are having the time of our lives together. We find joy in most every single day whether we are traveling or spending time at Plum Loco. We were not born perpetually happy. We have each had to worry about money, health, and those we love. We work on our shared happiness and try not to “sweat the small stuff”. That is to say, I am in a good place today as I cruise into that next decade. I look forward to sharing that good place with the kids in the form of this trip to Ireland. Yep, I could have cut them all a check and it would have helped temporarily. But money eventually disappears down whatever money pit it finds. I’m hoping memories are more permanent.
I confess this is not 100% altruistic; not even close. I have less value for things but I greatly relish experiences. We have become a unique family unit over the past few years. Every time we are together brings joy and flavor to my life and to Bill’s. All three of these younger people have had their struggles but they are good, kind, loving, and decent humans. They’ve had their sibling moments and we’ll probably have some during the trip; but, they’ve successfully worked through them. I am most proud of how deeply they care about each other.
And I am wildly crazy about being their parental unit on this journey. Happiest of birthdays to me!
Take off is in 50 days.