12 December 2014

On the eve of my 40th birthday

 Dear Alison

So, tomorrow you turn 40.  On a Saturday.  Well played lady - you can have your party on your actual birthday.  And we know you love a party, particularly a dress up one.  It's been 19 years since your last dress up birthday party and quite frankly, that's too long.

Parties are great.  They are a fantastic way to get lots of people you adore into one room.  You don't get people that don't like parties - it's like saying "I hate being surrounded by my friends". And you are exactly the opposite.  You like being surrounded by your friends.  A lot.  And mainly because you know a lot of really fucking awesome people.

40 is a good number.  It's far enough away from puberty and the teenage years which were, to put it bluntly, shit.  But it's also super far away from 100 so you might just fit everything in that you want to fit in.

But the thing you promised yourself for your 40th was to own all you've done.  It's been a tough year and one where you have felt like a bit of failure far too often because you've had to rely on others more than you like.  You much prefer helping to being helped.  You know it's the human condition but still, asking people for help has been hard and sometimes, despite you being really fucking good at what you do, some of people's well meaning but nevertheless relentless negativity has crept in more than it should. PS: You're shit at selling yourself.

So dear self - we're going to reflect on what you've achieved in the last 40 years. It won't be an exhaustive list because your memory is bollocks but it'll do nicely.  And your psych will be very pleased to hear that you're owning your own achievements and not waiting for validation from others.
You will try anything, twice to be polite, three times or more if you like it.  So you've bungee jumped, roller bladed, ice skated, water skiied, iFlyed, learned to play the piano, ukulele and guitar (none of them properly), failed to conquer the hula hoop, belly danced (like a thunder bird), become competitively proficient at ballroom dancing, performed on stage, sung solo (albeit badly) on stage and to this day remain fiercely resistant to partaking in karaoke.

You learnt some Russian, learnt some Spanish, learnt some German, paddle boarded, canoed down the Volga, kayaked on the ocean and down rivers, you've gone 4WDing, skiing (both types), snowboarding, hiking, camping, abseiling, caving, prussiking, ridden a bike, flown a plane, got a motorcycle license, owned a motorcycle, crashed a motorcycle. You've been horse riding, stayed on a bolting horse but fell off a standing camel. You have ridden a camel in the Sahara desert and have the pictures of the gaping abscess in your arse that developed as a result.

You have slept in brothels in several countries (because backpacking), you have hitchhiked in places you should not have and once hung off the back of a car on your roller blades as it got up to 80 kilometres per hour in south Canberra.  You've crashed a few cars - only one of them yours, pierced your ears, your belly button and gotten a tattoo before it was cool.  You've worn glasses, contacts and had laser surgery.  You've broken an arm and a leg falling off buses in an ungainly fashion, had your nose broken twice and have some spinal damage from one of the car accidents but nothing that has produced interesting scars.

You've climbed several volcanoes but not yet Mt Etna, travelled to a lot of amazing countries on all of the continents but haven't done nearly enough. You've skinny dipped in the Mediterranean, eaten herring in Sweden, caviar in Russia, laid water pipes in Indonesia, build a medical centre in Ecuador, houses in Mexico and danced in Taiwan.  You've volunteered for over 25 years with the likes of Barnardos, Welcome to Australia, World Vision, Scouts Australia, Crisis, Amnesty, Starlight and cancer charities.  To raise money you've shaved your head, sold chocolates, shaken buckets, dyed your hair blue, canoed 100 km, kept silent for 60 hours, run an ultra half marathon and a couple of smaller runs besides and you should be extremely proud of raising tens of thousands of dollars along the way.

You've made a lot of friends, been lucky enough to keep a lot of them. You've learnt that it's not always you when somebody to decides to end a friendship, but sometimes it is.  You've dated enough guys to learn a lot about yourself but cheeses girl, you were a slow learner.  You have had good sex, bad sex and no sex. You can grieve. You can laugh. You did actually spend an entire night crying to a Michael Bolton song and now you can't even remember the guys name. You've never forgotten the names of friends that passed through illness, accident or suicide.  You won't. You find some of your friends so freakin' inspirational that having them in your life makes your heart ache with the good fortune.

You find joy in small things. You have learnt to control your temper, you laugh and you do try to be kind.  You are self aware so you know what you're good at, what you need to work at and what you just don't give a shit about.  You are okay with being a fussy eater. You aren't big on people fussing and you don't like long goodbyes.  You hate apathy.  You are what is known as opinionated.  Everybody has opinions, opinionated just means you verbalise yours while others don't.  When you're tired or hungry you're an arsehat.  Yet even after all this time - you miss the signals.

You have read a lot of books, magazines, papers. Anything that will fire up the brain. You have watched a lot of movies but still hate scary ones. You explored theatre but found it boring as bat shit but have embraced the musical.  You have discovered that interpretive theatre is a con.  You no longer queue for bars or clubs because you're out for the people not the venue. You do like rollercoasters,   You quit smoking, sensibly never tried drugs bar 'the marijuana' a couple of times, which you recognise as a bit of good luck in hindsight. You still bite your nails and drink, however considering you could be a bigot, an arsehole and habitually mean - you'll stick with those flaws and count your lucky stars. You know enough about a lot of things to be able to contribute to conversations unless they are talking fishing, cooking or reality shows and then it's time for a nap. You taught yourself to sign the alphabet from the Yellow Pages and have never seen a painting that moves you as much as photography.

You've done things you're not crazy proud of, things you recognise were wrong, things that you copped the blame for but didn't do and things you did do and got busted doing.  You've had a mortgage, you have rented and you have lived in share houses. You have stories.  Man, some brilliant ones. You've loaned money and borrowed money.  You preferred the loaning - even the time it left you $25,000 out of pocket. An expensive lesson but a lesson none the less.  You owned a 1958 Morris Minor - which you still miss but are cognisant that selling that car and the house led you to the life you have now.

Your black and white view of the world has morphed into something splendidly and gloriously grey. Nuanced but loud. You like to go marching in support of things you care about and you care about a lot. You try never to read the comments. Sometimes you read the comments.  Idiot.

You are gentle with your ten year old self and your twenty year old self and thirty year old self in a way that you never used to be.  You can thank the various PND, PSTD and depression diagnosis' for that. Therapy has taught you to recognise the you spent far far far too many years listening to the wrong voices. You know now how to embrace the right voices.  You recognise that you are okay. Imperfect but loveable. You are outspoken about things you believe in and about the people you believe in. You swear way too much but couldn't really give a fuck when it comes down to it.

You don't hold grudges because to hold on to that kind of negativity eats away at a person so it destroys them.  You can do CPR and was once able to juggle.  You were part of a team that produced a best selling app and you can touch type like a demon but learning shorthand was a waste of a year. You have proven yourself to be a good manager but will never have a career in diplomacy.  You are ethical but still use plastic bags. You make assumptions about people based on their love of velour, dream catchers and crocs. They are still your friends.

You have worked in some amazing jobs and some crap ones. You have worked for good people and you have worked for people that are horrid. You got you some edumacation and despite doing very well for yourself in the corporate world, took last year's redundancy as a sign to Carpe Diem the shit out of your dreams and have spent this year setting up your own business in an industry that didn't exist when you left school. You're finally doing something about your lifelong love of writing. All if it's getting there, but it's taking time and the learning curve has been steep and the money scarce. That has been scary and it has been stressful. But girlfriend - at least you fucking did it.

Despite the stress of this particular year, your favourite decade has been the last one.  You met the wrong man.  He has loved you 'just as you are' and has never wanted you to be anything more or anything less, which is a genuine blessing.  You two have built a really good life together which as anybody in a relationship knows is an achievement in itself. You've travelled, argued, laughed, danced, played scrabble, moved countries, gotten engaged, married and produced the two most beautiful girls ever born in the history of the entire universe and all the universes beyond. There is nothing that you would change in your life, nothing, in case it took you somewhere that didn't include this family.  These people.  This little circle of happiness.

So when you lie awake at 3 am wondering if you've done enough in your first 40 years the answer is the same as many of your early reports "If Alison talked less, she could achieve more."  Which is strangely at odds with "Practice makes perfect" which is where your music teachers all felt you were lacking.  But they were all completely correct in the end - You are ace at the talking and there is still stuff left to do on your lists.  And when you get to 4 am, no you are not a loser, yes your friends do love you and yes, you do need to go to the toilet.

So. Enjoy tomorrow. You've done okay for 40.  And for fuck's sake - you've got plenty of time to sort out your shit.  So enjoy the party and worry about real life on Monday.

Big love

Your profaning, imperfect but ultimately entirely excellent self
Al x

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