I turn 51 on Friday…and I feel reborn.

Over the past year, the shifts and changes in my life and attitude have occurred slowly, almost imperceptibly.

Evidence of how far I’ve come: Friday night I attended a formal symphony fundraising event…a wine tasting, followed by a five-course meal prepared by local chefs, a silent auction and lots of dancing.

Since I’m not a fixture on the social scene, I don’t own a closet full of ball gowns.  So I wore the same garment from last year, a simple, black, floor-length halter dress with a decorative rhinestone detail.  Its claim to fame is that it’s extremely low-cut and therefore, very out of character for me.

I knew changes were afoot as I soon entered the room.

Two men clearly could not stop staring as I signed in at the registration table.  One tried to strike up a conversation; he actually blushed, stammering and tripping over his tongue as he attempted to speak to me.  Women hugged me, air kissed me, told me I looked beautiful.  Even the friend who invites me year after year whistled in delight.

“Wow,” he said.  “I love your new dress.”

“I wore it last year,” I replied, rather enjoying his stunned, slack-jawed response.

What I didn’t wear last year was the attitude.  The dress didn’t change; I did.

And…oh!…the power of a low-cut dress worn confidently.  I loved the Shiraz wine featured at the South African tasting table.  I asked if I could buy a bottle there on the spot, even though it was a little pricey; it was to be a birthday present for a wine-loving friend.

The vintner glanced around, then handed me a bottle.

“Here,” he said, “Just take it.  Enjoy, pretty lady.”

I turn 51 on Friday…and I feel sexier, more confident and far more empowered than I did at 50…or 40…or 30…or 20.  Ten years ago, or even one year ago, I doubt anyone would have handed me a bottle of expensive wine gratis.

One year ago, I was struggling, lost emotionally, physically, mentally.  I had no home, no marriage, no true love, no clue.

But the Universe has a sly and self-mocking way of manifesting one’s desires.  First, though, I had to hit emotional bottom to shake myself, pull myself out of the pit of my own despair.

Once I decided to stop stressing about the home purchase, willing to walk away, thinking about beach living instead, the massive, messy morass of paperwork suddenly skidded to a halt in January, speeding to conclusion within two weeks of the final acceptance letter.  And so, at last I moved into my little townhouse.  With the move came my first tentative steps toward true independence.  For the first time in my life, I wasn’t a married homeowner or a single renter.

I became, instead, owner of my own home, mistress of my own domain.

I still look up through my skylights every night and feel overwhelming gratitude for this place that I call my own.  I love my cozy home, despite fried air conditioners and leaking roofs and overhanging trees and crunched gutters.  It’s mine…and therefore, it’s beautiful, warts and all.

The divorce became the best decision The Ex and I ever made together.  From cordial-yet-frigid spouses to warm-and-loving friends, our attitudes toward each other softened and mellowed almost immediately, once we stopped living together, pretending to be happily married.  We could finally breathe, shedding the guilt over the hurt we’d inflicted upon each other for too many heartbreaking years.

Today, one year later, we are best friends.  We adore each other, chatting regularly and meeting for family meals.  We’ve even planned dates without the kids so we can catch up on the “adult” aspects of each others’ lives.  He advises me on my love life; I advise him on his.  We laugh, we share, we support each other fully, lovingly.

Yes, The Ex and I have become what we were meant to be all along.  It feels damned good to have him in my corner…as my friend.

As for that post-divorce affair…well, I’m still dealing with the sooty residue and fallout.  My heart occasionally aches, missing the parts that were good, knowing I want that feeling in my life again one day.

But again, my attitude is shifting, changing to one of acceptance. It simply is what it is…and it has made me stronger, wiser, yet somehow softer, too.  I’m grateful for the lessons learned, of discovering my enormous capacity to love.

Therapy, time, distance and blogging have helped me heal, discover myself more deeply, confirming that this is a period for growth and change, one I’m convinced should be absent distractions of a fully-engaged romantic heart.  I’m no longer looking for love in all the right or wrong places, not right now.

I’m too busy looking for me.

And I’ve found a piece of me in the form of yoga teacher training, which I never envisioned a year ago, even though I’ve dreamed about it for many years.  Although only two weekends have passed, already I can feel how I am changing, inside and out.  As I write, my physical body is aching, throbbing even, unaccustomed to engaging certain muscles or holding poses for extended lengths of time.  I’m exhausted from retaining my breath far longer than my scarred lungs usually allow.  And yet, I am exhilarated, my mind expanding, opening to the infinite, learning, absorbing, growing.

My children have segued gracefully into their dual lives.  Of course we still argue, fuss, snipe and harp at each other.  But in general, our lives together are happy, joyful, filled with contentment.  They’ve become far more self-sufficient over the past year, getting themselves to and from school, fixing their meals, completing their projects without my hovering.  My heart simply overflows with love and wonder over these extraordinary creatures who enrich my life, who give me every reason to feel humbled and appreciative for my many blessings.

The friends who surrounded me and loved me through last year’s birthday turmoil remain in my life, stronger and truer than ever.  In particular, the magnificent Warrior Goddess, who fretted that I would not have a decent cake even though her troubles were far more significant, has conquered her own demons, battling through surgeries and chemo and radiation to emerge sweeter, stronger and more beautiful than ever.

And so this birthday will be celebrated doing what I love, with those whom I love.  I’ll be volunteering at the yoga conference all day, sharing food and my favorite apple cake with family and friends, then grooving to a funky kirtan concert at night, oceanside.  Afterwards, I’ll slip into a clean, lush, cozy hotel bed, piled high with comforters, snuggled in the oh-so-necessary fuzzy robe.

And I’ll be in the best possible company: My own.  When the day ends, I’ll be alone, by choice.  Alone…to reflect, to meditate, to dream.  To give thanks for the past that brought me to this present and to manifest this present into a glorious future.

I turn 51 on Friday…and it’s going to be a good one.

Happy birthday to me.