I have been redesigning my life since I was 48 in the hopes that I would have it "about right" by the time I turned 50. I am happy to report: mission accomplished. My plan was to celebrate my 50th birthday in New Zealand. The way my itinerary turned out I spent the actual day (November 27) in Christchurch, Akaroa and Kaikoura on my own. The next day (November 27 in the USA, also known as second birthday) I also celebrated on my own. On my own but not alone.
From the time I landed in Auckland at 5:00 a.m. in the morning I could not stop smiling. I felt sublimely happy. I was excited to see my friends and looking forward to various activities planned. My happiness bubbled up from being able to return to a place I love. It felt good to have the resources to visit and know that it is in my power to visit again, and again (God willing). I know how to navigate in New Zealand and especially Auckland. I had a quick stopover in Auckland: time to get to St Heliers, attend the 9:30 service at St Philip's, give a big hug to UK Sarah and surprise Lynley, Kate and Beverley. It still feels like home.
My friend Ole and his girlfriend Karen invited me to dinner at her house. Even though I had a rental car I was thankful that Ole came and picked me up and chauffeured me because so much of Christchurch is still closed off or under construction. They had 4 small earthquakes the night before and over 3,000 since the first one 2 years ago. We had a good catch up and they shared a lot of the stress and heart break of living in a city that keeps getting punched in the face. We also shared lighter moments: Karen made me a Pavlova* for my birthday. It was unexpected and a lovely, lovely surprise.
*Pavlova is a dessert that both Kiwis and Aussies take credit for inventing. It is a very sweet meringue concoction that is delicious.
The next day I woke up and realized that I had crossed the threshold: I was now the other side of 50 years old. It felt great. I bounded out of bed and hit the road to go sea kayaking with penguins. The next two days was all about doing what I wanted to do in beautiful places. I met lots of gracious people who shared a bit of my adventure. I even had a sacred moment at the Ohau Waterfall with seal pups.
My birthday was also feted by many friends. Before I left I had phone calls, cards, and a chocolate cake from Alison and Tyla. In St Heliers I hosted a dinner with my favorite people at my favorite restaurant Moreton's. Then I organized a dinner with my children and three long-time friends and their families at Al the Wops (because kids cannot destroy the place) in Locke, CA. Little did I know that Tevis had been planning a surprise for me on Saturday.
I was lulled into thinking it was planned by Tevis and Connie and I thought it would be a gathering of Bay Area Panther-friends from my leadership group. Ray had called before I left for NZ to say he could not come out to California until the new year. First Tevis surprised me with a fabulous hotel room in downtown San Francisco. Then he helped orchestrate Ray's surprise: he flew in from New York City to help celebrate. We went to the restaurant and Connie and Dale and Nicole arrived from the Panthers, but also Cameon and Dave, and Petrea and Vince came for a second night of celebrating (this time without kids!). We had a great time and it was an unforgettable party.
I continued to get presents and cards in the week that followed. It helped confirm that I am rich in friends, family (especially Tevis and Sarah), and have enough of everything. I have a level of contentment that I could not have even aspired to when I turned 40. Giving up everything I own, everything I identified myself by to redesign my life has paid big dividends. For the first time in a very long time I am looking forward to each day and my future life.
I'm so remiss in my blog posts. Rather than write one super long post I am going to write on topics: turning 50, penguins in NZ, UK Sarah's ordination, and other topics.