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On the Edge of a Cliff

I’m not a party person.

Not anymore, at least. If I’m being honest, the better part of my twenties was doused in red wine and cheap beer. But between an epilepsy diagnosis and family addiction, alcohol consumption has become a thing of the past for me. Even pre-COVID, I tended to avoid parties altogether, preferring small, intimate gatherings, dinners with friends, and my own living room with a movie, Indian takeout, and a fire in the fireplace.

Sometimes, I worry that this makes me seem boring, and I miss the more raucous version of myself that relished my early twenties. As my 40th birthday (and my husband’s 41st) began to approach this fall, I started to think about the ways that I “should” celebrate and was secretly grateful (as tacky as that sounds) for the global pandemic that would make throwing a party a very bad idea.

Enter Sedona. Scott and I ultimately decided that a trip out west, staying in a rental cottage and spending most of our time alone and outdoors, would provide the perfect opportunity to celebrate our birthdays, not only safely, but also in a way that actually felt meaningful to us. Less “should’s,” more “want-to’s.” I hear that’s allowed in your 40’s.

If you’ve never been to Sedona, go put it on your bucket list. Now. I’ll wait.

This small city in northern Arizona is nestled between stunning red sandstone hills that reach into a cloudless blue sky. Cacti and stubborn trees grow on impossible ledges, and the cliffs are full of secrets—ancient cave dwellings and breathless views of the canyons below. I didn’t know I wanted to visit Sedona, or the Grand Canyon, but I’d go back in a heartbeat, and—as it turns out—the edge of a cliff was the perfect place to celebrate my entrance into the fourth decade of my life.

You see, my late-in-life epilepsy diagnosis means I have to take anti-seizure medication three times a day. Seizures are only managed by having a steady and consistent level of medication in the blood, which means medication has to be taken by the clock. Before our trip, I had to set new reminders to take my medication on Eastern time while in Arizona, which meant packing these little blue pills in plastic baggies like party favors and pocketing them to take whenever my reminders alerted me. Even if that was on the lip of a red rock, or perched above the Colorado River, two miles into the Grand Canyon. Which, of course, is exactly what happened.

I hate taking these little blue pills. When my reminders alert me that it’s time to take my meds while with friends, or at restaurants, or during a work meeting, I am consumed by a rush of humiliation, and often excuse myself to the bathroom where I pop the pills and wash them down with a handful of water from the sink. I’m not sure why I still worry about other what people think of me, but turns out being 40 doesn’t mean you have all your shit together, and I have a feeling this is an issue I’ll be grappling with well into my next 40 years.

But back to the cliff. On our day trip to the Grand Canyon, Scott and I followed the rest of the unsuspecting tourists down into the canyon, shuffling along sandy steps so steep, we had to drag our fingers along the rock walls for fear of sliding. While we had every intention of making it all six miles to the bottom of the canyon, the looming climb back up soon changed our plans. So, like most everyone else, we stopped at Cedar Ridge, a small plateau with a bathroom, offering the opportunity to rest, snack, and realize you’re not really as fit as you thought you were as you worry about the hike back up.

At Cedar Ridge, we found the perfect lunch spot at the tippy edge of the flat rock surface, where we could stare down into the canyon, but rest easily in the sun. That’s when my medication alarm went off, announcing it was time to take my meds.

There was no one near us, so no reason for me to feel embarrassed. After all, this isn’t a story about overcoming embarrassment or fear of what other people think of me. If it was, I’d have given it a different title. Check back for that in about 50 years.

This is just a story about taking my 2 p.m. pills at Cedar Ridge, on the tippy edge of a flat rock surface, staring down into the Grand Canyon.

Because as it turns out, life is both anti-seizure medication and the most magnificent views I’ve ever seen.

It’s way bigger than the small, dark space the fear of seizures can sometimes lock me in.

It’s full of joyfully slipping and sliding and of arduous uphill climbs.

It is uncertain and it is dangerous and it is fucking beautiful.

These are the truths I settled into as I put my little blue pills on my tongue, staring into the Grand Canyon, with my husband on the cliff beside me.

Not a party, but a true celebration of 40 years and of the blessed unfolding ahead.

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