I was recently reminded by Kid C of a statement I made about a year ago at a December 2019 family birthday party for one of my youngest nieces. Until she mentioned it, I had completely forgotten that it happened. Now I feel like Lucy Ricardo and I’ve got some ‘splaining to do. But first, a flashback…
It was the fall of 1985 in southern, coastal New Jersey. I was just about to turn 15 years old and one of my birthday presents was the privilege of tagging along on a weekend sailing trip with my dad, my uncle, and each of their best friends. I was naive enough to go out on a 27′ sailboat in the Atlantic Ocean and have little to no idea of how to actually sail a boat, how to navigate, or what safety procedures to follow in a crisis. Ah, the joys of teenage invincibility. The five of us left port out of Toms River and headed out of the bay into the big, blue sea.
Except for may dad, my house at the time was occupied by all women – my mom and three little sisters, as well as my grandmother and my aunt and their female dog, so I was really excited to spend the weekend with dudes who were doing dude things… smoking cigars and drinking alcohol and then the inevitable imparting of their wisdom and life lessons. To this teenage girl who was floundering around and trying to figure things out, I could think of no better, drama-free way to spend a weekend.
I don’t recall many specifics from the bulk of the trip, but I have great memories of watching these influential men in my life sail the boat, prepare and serve meals and drinks, and interact with one another. I felt so much support from them as they gave advice on how to navigate friendships, family, boys, and life in general. On our final Sunday afternoon leg back toward the marina, I recall feeling really grounded and so very loved and protected. I was confident and ready to take on the world!
Suddenly, and practically without any warning, a huge squall popped up in the middle of the ocean. Driving rain, swirling winds, and very rough seas prevented any of us onboard from seeing beyond our own extended arms. It was all hands on deck to batten down the hatches, or whatever real sailors do to keep their passengers, crew, and boat safe in that situation. I ended up on the bow of the boat, my hands gripping the pulpit tightly as I stared this monster storm right in the face, and I smiled right at her. I didn’t have any actual sailing skills and I figured I’d just be in the way, so I went where I thought I’d be the least underfoot. It was so loud and wet and incredibly scary but also invigorating as the boat rose and then fell upon the waves over and over and over again. I felt like I was at one with the upheaval and the feeling was powerful. Those moments of pure adrenaline coursing through me while still relishing in the safety cocoon that had been established over the past few days will stick with me forever. I felt so alive!
Then, as quickly as it showed up, the storm disappeared. I found out immediately that my instinct to get out of the way was not well-received by any of the sailors. Because there was such limited visibility in the thick of it and I was not below deck, where the “normal” people apparently go in such a situation, they actually thought I was a (wo)man overboard throughout most of the chaos and they were not happy with me. They all hugged me tightly while simultaneously scolding me the rest of the trip in for being an absolute effing moron. But I was still grinning because of my life-altering experience up on that bow.
Fast forward more than three decades to 2019… I have now been married to Sheepdog for 26 years and together we have five incredible kids. My life is amazing by every standard, but I am definitely the boring one on the team. Sheepdog has jumped out of an airplane, flies downhill on a mountain bike while navigating stumps and jumps, is an actual boxer in a ring with punches to the head and body, commutes to work on a bicycle in crazy Atlanta traffic, and who knows what death-defying X-Game he’ll attempt to make part of his daily life next? This has been an integral part of his personality his entire life, so it is not my place to challenge him for behaving like that. As yin to his yang, I have a personal need to be the steady and dependable one in the duo. That, in conjunction with the reprimand for my sailboat antics, has curbed me from doing anything too dangerous over the years. Now I plan meals, make sure the kids have school supplies and toiletries, and I do laundry. That’s about it. Cue the adrenaline rush.
As our kids become more independent and head off to college and move out and get married and get older in general, my role is changing. They need me less and less (although part of me hopes they’ll always need their mama just a little bit) and I started having more time to myself, as well as the ability to branch out and do more exciting things than pick up the dry cleaning.
In the fall of 2019, Kid C left for college, so it was just me, Sheepdog, and the two boys at home. While Kid D is a high schooler and Kid E is still in middle school, they are pretty self-reliant and I started to taste the freedom. I got excited about dipping my toe back into a life that was a smidge more about me than about my husband and kids. After years of almost exclusively doing my mom job, I was ready to think about things that brought me joy and excitement… things that brought back that feeling of being in the middle of an unpredicted squall on the bow of a sailboat and make my soul feel truly alive.
So at this family birthday party at the very end of 2019, I wanted to gauge reactions of those closest to me to my plan and I started announcing that 2020 was going to be the YEAR OF ME. My 50th birthday was coming up in October and I just knew that this was the right time for a change. At some point, Sheepdog heard my declarations (in all fairness he had been encouraging me to do something along these lines for a while, but my justification for not doing anything was that someone should still be the reliable parent while the kids are young and he certainly wasn’t changing any of his behaviors). Later on during the party, I overheard Sheepdog telling another guest that 2020 was going to be OUR year of travel and time together and lots of new stuff. He was so proud and excited as he started naming exotic locations and adventures.
Right then, something inside me snapped. How dare he hone in on my year? I understand and appreciate that he loves me and wants to spend time together and wants the excitement for us both, but the plan – MY PLAN – was to be selfish and I wanted Sheepdog to be the yang to my yin and maybe sit still safely in the corner playing the role of the dependable one for a few minutes while I did my thing, whatever it may be.
So I stood up in the middle of the party and I said loudly to Sheepdog, “NO!” and then to everyone else I over-dramatically raised my hands and voice and proclaimed, “2020 is going to be the YEAR OF ME, or it will be the YEAR OF NOBODY!”
…and that is my confession and while I am humble enough to realize I can not affect an entire planet, there’s the whole thing about the power of words and what if another person said the exact same thing at the exact same time and it was like a Jinx situation? I have knocked on wood and thrown salt and thrown a ball far, far away and all of the things you’re supposed to do to undo bad fortune. I am so very truly sorry that I yelled what I yelled and 2020 has been such an upside down and sideways debacle and I’m sorry that I was being selfish and I hope that by writing this post I can undo whatever wrinkle I put out into the universe and we can all just go back to boring and regular and normal next year. The End.
Wish me luck for tomorrow and I wish you all a healthy and happy new year and may you all make 2021 your BEST YEAR EVER!
I love it when you write stuff.
I love it when you invite me on sailing trips! XO
And I thought it was my fault for buying a really expensive planner!
Miss Liz, I am totally comfortable sharing the blame.