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December 9, 2013

Lisa Madras: Anxious over another birthday? Nah, I’m still soaring on my solo flight

NEW CASTLE — How short would your life have to be before you would start living differently today?

So as you're reading this, it's the day after my birthday, and I've just crossed over that year I was dreading so much  — the big 4-0.  I was horrified when I reached that milestone birthday last year, and I'm sure you remember me boo-hooing about it. It wasn't the age so much as it was the cosmic slap in the face that my life sucked, and I had pretty much run out of time to do anything about it.

I'm not gonna lie, it was a pretty low time for me.  Aside from having my two wonderful children, I'd failed to reach any of the goals I'd set for myself when I was younger.  No happy marriage, no job that actually used my college education, no house without a leaky roof and creaky floors.  I'd tried to make all the right decisions (or so I thought) and had still ended up at the bottom of the human heap.

Before then, I'd always hated to hear people complain about getting older (um, and the alternative is???) but there I was, a swirling vortex of my own misery and self-pity.  It might not have been so hard if I'd had someone to share it all with.  But at that point, everyone who'd ever claimed to love me had turned their backs on me and my kids in some form or another, and I sort of felt like Amelia Earhart must have felt in her final moments over the Pacific Ocean.

I don't mean to sound so depressing, really.  At least I made it out alive.  Amelia, interestingly enough, was exactly 40 years old when she disappeared.

I'm not sure if it was actual determination or simple necessity that made me realize that I wasn't going to disappear at 40, too.  So far, I hadn't made any solo trans-Atlantic flights or even managed to develop a single healthy relationship, but all I really knew was that I wasn't going to spend the second half of my life sitting around being bummed out about the first half.  (I'm probably being overly optimistic by assuming I'll make it to 80 since most of my internal organs are already failing, but hey, I'm trying to be positive, and I like working with whole, round numbers.)

So I decided to pretend I was 20 again, but with all the knowledge and life experience I didn't have the first time around.

I know, I know, it sounds sort of silly, but it's a crazy world inside my head, and I figure at this point I should stop fighting the madness and just go along with it and see what happens.  Sure, I can't move as fast as I used to, and I struggle to stay awake past 9 p.m. on most evenings, but those are trivial things compared to the weaponry I now have at my disposal.  You see, at this point in my life, I now understand the value of time, and of a good night's sleep, and of not leaving your fate in the hands of a co-pilot, no matter how much misplaced trust you have in them.  And I've got the advantage of an Ivy League education from the School of Hard Knocks.  If you look at my diploma, it says Masters Degree in Survival, and down at the very bottom, in teeny-tiny little print are the words, "You're never gonna keep a sista down!"

The great thing about that particular diploma is that it grows more valuable with every year that passes.  And that means that each birthday is truly something to celebrate.

I still say that Amelia Earhart's unfortunate disappearance was probably Fred Noonan's fault. (Leave it up to a dude to bring a woman down — literally.)  But I've got an extra half a lifetime to live that she didn't.  And this time, I'm not giving up control of the cockpit to anyone else.  This time I'm in charge.

Man, it's amazing how much better 41 feels than 40 did.

"The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward." — Amelia Earhart


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