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~ The Big One! ~

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I’m not going to pretend that turning 50 isn’t a bit freaky. Even saying 50 feels weird. 50, 50, fiftyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!!!!!!!!

The anticipation leading up to a new decade is always daunting. But now that I’m here, 50 doesn’t feel the way I imagined it would. 50 always seemed to be the entryway to “old.” My impression of 50-somethings were frumpy older characters on TV shows or the schleppy older neighbour down the street; basically, anyone who is frumpy, old and schleppy. But when I look at my almost 50-year-old friends and famous folks who are turning 50, I see fit, vibrant, and very hot guys and gals!

Among many others, Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman, Lisa Bonet, Jason Statham, Jamie Foxx and Liev Schreiber are all 1967 babies. Not bad company at all. True, I’m no Nicole Kidman (though M would counter, “She’s no Bonnie Kim!” Yup, M’s good like that). Besides getting some help from great makeup artists and lighting directors, Nicole clearly has exceptional genes on her side. I mean, have you seen her in the HBO series Big Little Lies? Gorgeous!

Sure, there are moments when I feel a bit creakier and crepier than before but, for the most part, 50 isn’t looking or feeling that crappy at all.

So, in no particular order, here are some of the best and worst things about turning The Big 5-0!

The best thing about turning 50 is the fun party M is throwing me. Food, drinky poos, ping pong, and a bunch of people I enjoy eating, drinking and ping ponging with, gathering together to celebrate MEEEEE!!!!!!!!! Playing ping pong (is it “playing ping pong” or “ping ponging?”), brings out the kid in me, and triggers fits of laughter and other curious vocalizations. At the end of the night, my face will have an imprint of every joyfully expressive moment. That’s the ironic pay-off for having fun – looking old when I’m feeling young.

The worst thing about turning 50 is when I tell people I’m turning 50, and their reaction is something like, “Wow! Happy Birthday!” and not something more appropriate like, “What?! Get the fuck out?! You don’t look a day over 35!” Throw a gal a bone people!

The best thing about turning 50 is, aside from falling asleep on the couch before 9pm, getting tipsier than usual after just two cocktails, and how ridiculously easy it is to throw my back out (opening the cheese drawer in the fridge anyone?!), I don’t physically feel the way I thought 50 would/should feel. I can basically do everything I ever did, I’m just more selective. I mean, there’s no point in both of us getting up and crossing the room to close the door, turn out the light or get my vodka martini with extra olives, etc.

Seriously, if I don’t continue to demonstrate the combinations in my dance classes full-out, I’ll be just a few pas-de-bourrées away from parking my 50-year-old ass in a chair, from which I’ll end up teaching the entire class, banging a stick to keep tempo, shawl draped across the chip on my shoulder, cigarette dangling between my snarling lips, nursing a diet coke and reminiscing about my glory days as a “dahncer.” That’s right, I’ll adopt a nondescript European accent and I’ll be bitter.

The worst thing about turning 50 is I’m often the oldest person in the room.

The best thing about turning 50 is I don’t always look like the oldest person in the room.

The worst thing about turning 50 is it’s sometimes hard to watch those who are older than me, getting older.

The best thing about turning 50 is I say what I mean more often (which can also be the worst thing).

The worst thing about turning 50 is I’ve lived more than half my life.

The best thing about turning 50 is my priorities have become crystal clear.

The worst thing about turning 50 is I have less patience, so I can get bitchy on a dime.

The best thing about turning 50 is I can still turn a head or two!

The worst thing about turning 50 is how invisible I feel in the world sometimes.

As 50 approaches, I don’t have all the answers. I’m kinder to myself. I’m a good person. I have faults. I value good health more than ever before. I don’t forgive easily, if at all. I’m usually self-aware and sometimes a ding-dong. I believe we get what we give. I believe we get in our own way most of the time. I hate complainers, especially when the complainer is me. I think a lot about the world, people, stuff. I’m protective. I have love in my life. I wish I was as generous as my dad.

Happy birthday to all you ‘67 babies!

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~ Speaking of joy… ~

A little while back, I was in the presence of joy.

I was at a music club that I hadn’t been to in more than 20 years, watching an indie band play to a full and very  supportive audience. The crowd was a mix of middle-agers (like the band), those who could have been the band’s parents and young hipsters. One of the lead singers is a friend of one of my friends. Years ago when they first met, the singer had an entirely different life – married, working in the corporate world and thinking about having a baby. She was already dabbling in music part-time, but wanted to try it full-time, so her husband gave her something like a year to give it a shot. If she couldn’t make a serious dent with it, they’d have a baby. Long story short, she’s no longer married to the guy, she came out as a lesbian and she’s a full-time, full-on musician, in a band with a very loyal following that includes my friend.

The joy moment occurred during the encore, when the band stood at the edge of the stage, close to the audience, unplugged, no mics, just acoustic guitars and sweet harmonies. This singer, this gal with this story, had an expression on her face that struck me. It wasn’t a look of the performing pro that she’s clearly become; it was, very simply, joy.

I scanned the seedy club, with its eau d’urine stairway and dim lighting, and thought about this gal’s imaginary backstory: maybe she made more money in her other life; maybe she had a bigger house, a nicer car, more affluent colleagues; maybe her husband was a good guy and she could have continued to have a pleasant enough life. But this look of joy on her face, caused by the thing that changed everything, in this dingy club filled with friends and a bunch of strangers was something special. And I wondered if she would have ever known this in her other life.

What are you willing to struggle for?

I recently read an article by Mark Manson asking that question. Not, What do you want? Rather, What are you willing to slog through the shit for? Because we all want something – to be rich; to have a great relationship; an awesome body; a fabulous career – we just aren’t willing to deal with the shitty stuff that can go along with getting it.

So I thought about all of my wants and asked myself what was slog-through-shit-worthy. Dance has been that for me. At more than 30 years, the longest (and so far) ongoing love/hate relationship of my life. That’s a shitload of shit that I’ve tolerated, accepted, ignored and endured on the way to those gems, those rare moments of joy that somehow sustain me until the next joyful moment. These gems often occurred onstage when I was still performing. There’s really nothing like the sort of mash-up of control and abandonment that I sometimes felt as a performer. Not to mention the recognition. I don’t care how much a dancer denies it, if you want to be a dancer then you want to be SEEN and RESPECTED and RECOGNIZED. End of discussion.

Those feelings didn’t just vanish once I stopped performing. They were just rerouted, as I transitioned to other areas. Every now and then joy will strike me in a rehearsal, and I’ll think, Holy crap! This is good. And no one else gets to feel this. Same thing happens sometimes when I’m teaching class or when people respond to my writing or when I’m watching a rare phenomenal work that gets in there; right fucking in there!

Catch me on a good day, and I’ll bypass the shit and only talk about the good stuff in my artistic life. Admittedly, the good stuff is harder to come by as I get older and less patient, and the slog-through-shit-worthy criteria changes as the years go on.

But I’m still at it.

I’m still here.

~ Full-time Daughter ~

I’ve been waiting for an e-mail. For nine weeks.

I entered a writing contest in a popular women’s magazine, and the description for the contest was this: We want to read your well-crafted, deeply personal stories about love, loss, friendship, marriage, dating or family. These true-life essays should be creative, compelling and soul-baringly honest. Submissions should be between 1500-2000 words and previously unpublished (in print or online).

So here I am, 47, freshly married, dad recovering from a stroke, lots of stuff to write about. I wrote a well-crafted, deeply personal, creative, compelling and soul-baringly honest true-life essay, sent it in, and received an e-mail saying that judging would take place at the beginning of September, but only winners would be notified. Hmm… not crazy about that. Considering my time and soul-baringly honest effort, and the fact that most submissions will likely be from the magazine’s own subscribers, I think even a form letter of thanks but no thanks is warranted. Having worked in magazine publishing before, I know the lead-time can be upwards of several months, but with contests, I have no idea how long it might take to choose two winning stories, contact the writers and publish. So suddenly, an “Oh this sounds like fun,” story-writing thing, turns into an anxious waiting-for-an-e-mail-I’m-starting-to-feel-increasingly-bitter-about-this-bullshit-contest situation.

I sent the magazine a reply e-mail about a month ago, asking when they might choose a winner. Nothing. I sent another e-mail directly from their website asking when they might choose a winner. Nothing. Boy, they really don’t want to engage with losers/non-winners.

Here it is: I want to win this fucking contest! I want the editors to read my story, be entertained, moved, shed a tear and most of all, I want the editors to think my story is worthy enough to publish in their magazine. I want this to happen like you have no idea. I need this to happen. Because despite feeling over-the-top happy in my personal life, I’ve been feeling otherwise stuck in my career lately. Partly because I’m, yet again, re-evaluating contemporary dance and my place in it, and partly because the amount of time I spend with dad, is time away from my career.

My main gig since dad’s stroke is managing his life: physiotherapy twice a week; doctor’s appointments, consultations, check-ups; following up on doctor’s appointments, consultations and check-ups; phone conversations; music therapy bi-weekly; booking Wheeltrans, waiting on hold for Wheeltrans, waiting for the late Wheeltrans bus; it all takes a lot of time. Dad’s wife, my sister and I each have our roles, and this one is mine. Though most of these things would usually be overseen by a spouse, dad’s wife simply can’t handle this kind of stuff. I can. When I talk with some of my girlfriends, they speak of similar challenges trying to balance kids, partner and career. Instead of being a full-time mom, I’ve become a full-time daughter.

My life is very full. I love my husband, I have good friends, and nothing’s better than when dad’s doing well. But much of my identity has been shaped by what I do, and when that takes a hit, I sort of lose track of who I am anymore. I’ve built a career around being a support system for other people, their artistic vision, their neuroses. My writing is just mine and this blog is mine, and an e-mail from a magazine choosing me, my story, my words, would be so sweet and validating right now.

Stay tuned for the story that didn’t win…

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