Returning from vacation is always a challenging moment. Especially when you've had the opportunity to experience tropical paradise for a week. Seven days of sunshine, Gulf breezes, sandy beaches, and relaxation were difficult to leave knowing what my daily planner has in store for me this week and next.
Our resort, which had an ecological/sustainability theme running throughout, whether we were reading plaques about the flora and fauna we might see on a given day to the very fact that it was built near a centote. The centote, which is essentially a sinkhole filled with perhaps the clearest water I have ever seen, was home to little, black crocodiles, fish, turtles and other creatures. From a prior visit to this area in Mexico, I recalled that the cenotes were used in Mayan sacrifice, which became a a tool in my box when my daughter's voice evolved into a whine around 5 pm everyday. (keep it up and Mom will sacrifice you to the Mexican rain Gods.)
And if the cenote wasn't interesting enough (the resort built a walkway along it to view its inhabitants) there was a family of eight spider monkeys living in the forest surrounding the cenote. Add the monkeys to the sometimes friendly, mostly cranky iguanas, and the very bold and screeching birds and we had a week living in Animal Kingdom.
Beyond the beautiful views, neat animal sightings and amazing food, we had the privilege of experiencing exquisite service from the nicest people in the world. They could not do enough for us. My five year old was even una "Princesa Por Un Dia" (Princess for the Day) at the spa where she had a massage, manicure and pedicure as well as the "royal" treatment. Relaxing in the "relaxation room" as we watched a few monkeys jumping tree to tree in the forest, she told me it was "the best day ever." I believed it; I had a few spa treatments as well. But just seeing how genuinely elated mi princesa bonita (pretty princess for those of you not following the Spanish) was to experience everything from her pink bathrobe, to her little cup of tea to the view of the monkeys outside the relaxation room, made it "the best day ever" for me too. A nice mommy/daughter moment.
So in absolute paradise, I ushered in my 40th year without much fanfare. First of all, and backing up a few days, on my actual birthday I got crushed in my first tennis match in 21 years. Worse, I was really sick (excuses, excuses)...like 101.4 fever, tight asthmatic chest, sharp headache, sick. But that's not entirely why I lost the match (mostly, I wasn't very good). It is however, why I missed out on a fun volleyball game with my work friends and any public acknowledgement of my birthday. And to make matters worse, my daughter's school nurse called, "Anna has a bad stomach ache"...so as I tried desperately to rest and recuperate before our Saturday flight, I had "mom, mom, mom, mom..." sitting next to me on the couch all afternoon and most of the evening. Needless to say, a couple healthy doses of Nyquil and DayQuil later had me forgetting how freaked out I had previously been about turning 40. In fact, I slept through most of the day and night, and when I finally came to, I was landing in the Mexican Riviera. Crisis averted.
With the exception of a lot of very kind text messages, phone messages and Facebook messages from friends I've made over my 4 decades and my family, I escaped this birthday. If this is 40, so far it's not so bad.
For those of you who may be looking for an opportunity to travel to Mexico, which just so happens to be my favorite vacation spot, our resort was called Azul Fives. I highly recommend it. It is part of a "family" of Karisma Resorts throughout Mexico, the Caribbean and Europe.
Happy to be home and looking forward to my next tennis match this Friday. I probably play pretty well for my age.
Sitting in traffic Friday, I had an opportunity to listen to Nancy Reagan's funeral service broadcast over the air waves. One of the honored guests, Former Canadian Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney, presented a letter Ronald Reagan had written to his wife during their first Christmas in the White House. It was well-known that the Reagans were a romantic couple, devoted to one another. This letter was particularly moving - moved me to tears, actually. In it, the new President in 1981 describes the "many women" he loved, the many facets of Nancy Reagan.
"Fortunately, all these women in my life are you - fortunately for me that is, for there could be no life for me without you," he wrote to his wife and he signed his letter, "Lucky Me."
Hearing this tender letter read made me ponder the Reagan's devotion to one another. They were married for 50 years and their love had been described as "the greatest love affair in the US Presidency." Given some of the inhabitants of the White House and their notorious reputations, it is no doubt the Reagans would hold this "title."
In terms of a romantic partnership, John and Abigail Adams offer competition for the Reagans' romantic title. Their letters to one another span decades of history, struggle and tragedy and yet, their love and devotion to one another endured. Of course, there is Robert Burns, the bard of Scotland wrote songs and poems inspired by his great (and many) loves. And who among us hasn't swooned at some of Shakespeare's romantic sonnets (just me? Really?) - these, the love letters of long ago.
For whatever reason, I find expressing myself in writing far easier than articulating my thoughts out loud in conversation. Perhaps because there is no one to interrupt me, no one to disappoint, no one to react badly when my thoughts are only between me and my keyboard. I find thoughts of love most difficult to convey properly. Surely, saying "I love you" is easy enough to say when it's true, but finding the appropriate combination of words to go beyond the obvious is just better suited to a love letter, in my experience.
And sadly, we just don't write them the way we used to. I remember a handwritten note every day from my high school boyfriend, folded into a square or triangle with my name on it. Mix tapes with mixed messages that I would wear out, rewinding and replaying to decode someone's heart - does he really love me, or want to kill me?. In later years, I recall thinking it was a good idea to share my own poetry with my crush in college (Footnote: that was not a good idea at all, and I still have yet to live that one down. Not all artists are appreciated, sadly...).
I have and always had a weird compulsion to tell the object of my affection just how deep the river runs - early and often. That level of romantic honesty has not always led to equally romantic results. But in those rarest occasions, those risks have returned all the butterflies, fireworks, incredible highs and dreadful lows a sap like me could desire - all of the elements that make love, love and not something else. Love is as awful as it is wonderful. But unless we take the risk, we never can get to the wonderful parts. Those wonderful parts are different to different people too - some crave the adventure, the chase and the conquest, some favor the comfort and security and others the companionship, the passion, the loyalty...to each their own. Love has many faces.
Robert Burns, renowned lover of many, many, many women, wrote in one of my favorite love poems, Ae Fond Kiss: "Had we never loved so kindly, had we never loved so blindly, never met - or never parted, we had never been broken hearted." Burns knew, as he said goodbye to another lover, that if their love had not been so dear and so special, parting would have been easy. Love hurts.
I remember Nancy Reagan's sad goodbye to her husband as she kissed his casket at his funeral and talk of her broken heart over his loss in subsequent interviews. But I imagine the Reagans' love and devotion to one another wasn't all a cake walk. In their 50 years of marriage, I'm sure they had some rather trying times. Between Hollywood careers, the Cold War, Iran Contra hearings, Alzheimers and the Just Say No campaign, I'd wager that every moment in the Reagan house wasn't perfect and loving. But for them, the years of joy and struggle were worth it. To hear such beautiful words shared at Nancy's funeral, whatever difficulties they may have faced were clearly worth their life together. And what a life.
To be sure, for us hopeless romantics, there is no worse agony than being in love. That pure torture can only be matched in intensity by losing love. And yet, we try and try until we find the "one." For me, the juice has always been worth the squeeze and always will be:
"My dearest friend, my love for you refuses to fade, though time and trials play their roles. With masks, we hide and with quiet resolve, we resign ourselves to play the parts for which we are cast. We wander through the mist, blind faith pushing us forward to see the sun. And there I say, I am yours - so gently goes your hand and tongue, for I can provide no greater gift than that of my heart and soul. It is all of me and all I have to give. Forever yours, so take good care of me."
If we lived a long time ago, that would be my love letter...corny mix tape to follow.
When I need a bit of inspiration - whether it's fashion, decorating, fitness or romantic - I do what most warm blooded American women do and turn to that mecca of creative brilliance, Pinterest. I admit, I've become addicted to searching for recipes that I will never attempt and room designs I can't afford. Mostly, I troll at night, before bed when I need a little something to set my mind at ease - I never knew how relaxing a search for spring outfit ideas could be. The other night, a really great quote landed in my feed: "Never give up on something you can't go a day without thinking about."
Now, if you ever read or follow "The Secret," you'll recognize that the universe sends us many signs and that we are supposed to listen and read these signs. I'm not overly superstitious or spiritual, but I do believe in the power of the universe, in general. Science, definitely, but on that other level, I believe there are elements which draw us to certain events, people, interests, careers and so on. Forces of nature lead us to places and people. As with magnets, we attract and are attracted to certain people or ideas. Some might argue that life is a series of random coincidences that lead us to one place or another. While I don't necessarily believe there is a deity setting the course of our lives - our life course is set by us - there are forces and elements that draw us in one direction or another at particular times.
But just as this quote suggested to me, and although I began to believe that the dreams I had were not going to come true - certainly not on my timeline, maybe ever - I just couldn't let them go. I thought about my goals nearly everyday. Anyone who knows me knows that I don't like to wait. Lately, the waiting has been the hardest part when all I want to do is kickstart the next phase of my life. I have a strong passion to see my ideas and desires set into motion.
Sometimes being stubborn is a significant flaw in my personality, but in this case, my faith in the universe and in other people and perhaps my unwillingness to believe there are things which are impossible to achieve, have allowed these new changes in my life to occur. The forces in nature which pulled me toward this path were just too strong. And even when I told myself to turn my back, walk away and pursue an easier course, some force pulled me back toward that thing - those ideas that danced in my head on a daily basis. My heart couldn't let them go, so why should my head?
This "don't give up" message isn't unique, but a good reminder that some ideas or dreams - even my wildest - are worth holding on to and pursuing. So today, on my daughter's 5th birthday, I submitted the final manuscript of my second novel, Queen Makers for final editing and formatting. One of my dreams was to have two books under my belt before 40...even if it's only a few weeks before 40. Look for Queen Makers online and in local bookstores this spring. Box, checked.