Who doesn’t love a birthday party? It’s a day when we get to eat cake, open presents that we pray come with a receipt, and find out just how tone deaf all our relatives are when it comes time to serenade the birthday boy/girl. Okay, so most birthday parties suck. But there’s CAKE and that’s enough incentive for me to show up and act like I give a shit.
Lucky for me, no one in my family tries to get too inventive about the cake. It’s usually round, covered in chocolate, and straight out of a box – just the way I like it. I don’t want to hear the phrase, “I thought I’d try a new recipe” before the cake is served. Keep your creativity in your own kitchen where it belongs. I waited a whole freakin’ year for my birthday, and I don’t want to have to be a lab rat for your raspberry cake with pistachio frosting experiment. Yellow cake, chocolate frosting – just the way God and Betty Crocker intended.
But I thought I’d shake things up a bit this year…. no, not with the cake – weren’t you listening to me? I wanted to do something memorable that I could look back on in twenty or thirty years and say, “Oh yeah, I remember turning 40! That’s the year I (insert crazy and/or possibly life threatening activity here). That was AWESOME!!”
I figured there were two potential outcomes to this plan: I could fail miserably, and suffer gruesome bodily injuries that would freak out my future grandkids; or I could walk away victorious, with both hands raised up like Rocky Balboa while Survivor sang “Eye of the Tiger” off in the distance somewhere. Either way, it would make for a cool story to tell around the campfire.
The hard part was deciding what to do. Skydiving, learning the trapeze, and rock climbing were right out because of my crippling fear of heights – they also relied a bit too heavily on my non-existent athletic ability for survival. I was in the mood to be adventurous, not suicidal. I also wasn’t interested in lion taming, swimming with sharks, or anything else that involved animals with sharp pointy teeth and a healthy appetite because I’m not an idiot with a God complex. I’ve also seen enough episodes of Fatal Attractions to know how that story ends. Besides, it’s only a good story if you’re still around to tell it – otherwise it’s a eulogy.
As it turned out, I didn’t have to rack my brains for long. My friends ended up placing two ideas right in my lap. And like most harebrained plans, these involved peer pressure and copious amounts of alcohol – both of which deluded me into thinking that I was capable of accomplishing both feats in less than two weeks.
The first was a 35-mile walk to help raise money for breast cancer. Walk? Hell, I can walk! I do it all the time on my way to the fridge. And I can beg my friends and family for money – those people have been freeloading long enough. They’ve had the pleasure of my company for the last 40 years; the way I saw it, it was time to pay up because this kind of awesomeness doesn’t come cheap.
Here’s how the LI2Day walk works: you walk 20 miles the first day, sleep in a two-man tent at a campground overnight, and then walk 15 miles the second day. What I didn’t fully realize was that even walking, when done long enough (in this case, for two days), takes some stamina and athletic ability – two things I was sorely lacking. Unfortunately, I didn’t find that out until after the first 15 miles were completed and I had developed blisters the size of quarters on both heels.
It was while I was having my blisters lanced by a volunteer podiatrist (who, in my opinion, was a little too scalpel happy) that I realized two things: First, it probably would’ve been a good idea to attempt walking more than 3 miles in the months that led up to the walk. Second, I wasn’t even halfway done. Shit.
I sustained myself on water, trail mix and the glorious dream of lying sedentary on my couch at home. Every time my foot met the pavement, my brain screamed, “STOP DOING THAT, YOU IDIOT!! IT FUCKING HURTS!!” I told my brain to shut the hell up, couldn’t it see that I was on a mission? I had miles to cover and boobs to save.
At times like that, when the flesh is weak, you have to dig deep and find out what you’re really made of. As it turns out, I’m made of something roughly resembling baby oatmeal. But the sense of humor of my friends and their ability to smuggle alcohol into the campground got me through the rough patches.
Despite the fact that I felt like I was walking on thumbtacks, I had a smile on my face as I crossed the finish line at the end of the second day…. okay, maybe it was more of a grimace, but I was smiling on the inside. I had rediscovered something about myself that I had long since forgotten – when my soft baby oatmeal center is pushed past the boiling point, it turns into one pretty tough cookie.
I’m proud of my team and myself. We accomplished something amazing and we helped raise over $25,000 for a really good cause. Would I do it again? Ask me again in a few months, after I’ve had the chance to put on my rosy-colored glasses….
Tune in next time for Look What 40 Made Me Do: Part Two, where you’ll find out what other crazy shit I did to help celebrate my 40th birthday.
(To be continued….)