A Full Life, Repositioned

Not too long ago I had an epiphany…my life had changed and I didn’t know how to live through, or navigate, the changes. We’ve all been through some big shake-up that takes us for all we’ve got in life. If you haven’t been through it yet, you will, and you will be called upon to muster all your inner power and strength. This was my time.

I had just suffered my fifth sports-knee injury requiring surgery that caused me to have to give up the sport of polo forever and, therefore, the horses I loved.

My Great Dane, Dana, my fifth Great Dane, died suddenly, leaving me to rethink the large breed dog I and my children had grown accustomed to.

14671072_1220298504695950_3725892066222107026_n

This is Dana, our last Great Dane, at Oak Forest, our equestrian estate. Losing her was the most impactful. Realizing one must live without a Dane…heartbreaking.

I discovered a terrible thing…my mother, long gone, suffered with a personality disorder I knew nothing about, but that had enormous life-impacting repercussions on her three children going back all the way to childhood, including me.

Giving up horses and the wonderful smell of the stable in the mornings, losing the last of our Great Danes and realizing some childhood trauma lingered made me rethink the trajectory my life was on.

Add to all that the fact that my last child was off to college and major changes were happening in my world all at once, including this empty-nester stuff.

Waa-waa-waa. Not really. It was just obvious that other adventures were in store for me and I always embrace new experiences, good or bad.

Though change is difficult for everybody we always seem to bounce back as new and improved versions of ourselves and I was no different. Those who resist…those who insist on staying who they were…are those who suffer the most and often with some form of PTSD. Don’t think you’re immune.

We seem to set our entire identities to the careers we have, the hobbies we love, and our passions. In my case, I needed a different venue to process so much shake-up in so little time and I needed to find healthful new ways to live. I had to find a way to continue to be an athlete given the reality of knees that were blown and nothing appealed to me that worked…bicycling or swimming.

One thing I knew for sure…watching reality tv and blogging about it certainly wasn’t a productive use of my time or energy.

Fortunately, I have what most of my girlfriends don’t have…I have a wonderful and compassionate husband who also happens to be a practicing psychiatrist. Yes, you read that right…I happen to have a built-in therapist who just happens to also love me. My darling insisted I make a dramatic physical move to take my mind off the estate life I knew. (and, no, he wasn’t suggesting the insane asylum, silly).

I decided to make a move to a city we loved to visit, but didn’t know if we could love to live…Las Vegas.

Vegas is 5-Star in every way and I loved entertaining my friends from all over the world who, it turns out, love to visit Vegas. My husband could and did fly in every week-end. One year we had guests from 19 countries and I loved driving them down the strip at night with the top down on my little convertible. I learned I had many favorite 5-Star restaurants I loved and discovered the fun of piano bars and singing.  I made a ton of friends and had decided, professionally, to start a private bank for the hundreds of celebrities who domicile in Vegas and millions of wealthy throughout the world who want to have something, anything in the United States, including a bank account. It seems these celebs and the uber-wealthy really don’t have a luxe private bank designed specifically to cater to their needs. I quickly got the commitment of a $10M investor from India (a business acquaintance of mine) and was beginning to place well-heeled Las Vegans on my Board of Directors when…

…I suddenly realized that I didn’t want to work so hard anymore. The bank was going to take at least two years to launch and my husband would move his practice there, but I had no time to do the relaxed stuff I enjoyed during my polo years when I was creating exquisite bespoke table top china, sterling and crystal for the yachts and private aircraft of great titans of industry. I loved and had the best fun (and, p.s., made the highest income) designing home accoutrements (bedding & linens) and dishes.

I just wasn’t loving the concept of putting on suits (especially in the Vegas heat) and I wasn’t motivated by making a lot of money anymore.  This was a huge shift for me.  I guess I had come to realize that life wasn’t just about having more and bigger things but, rather, having great, fun experiences.

Ultimately, I discovered that our life in Vegas, though highfalutin’, wasn’t really a life at all, but a pretending experience, a party, if you will…no, not the drinkin’, gamblin’ and smokin’ life one would imagine, but an endless barrage of out-of-town guests and fine restaurants, world-class entertainment and…well, for lack of a better word…nothing serious enough to consider sustainable. I simply did not want to party and entertain my way through the rest of my life. I didn’t want to wear suits anymore and I just wanted to relax and breathe.

The kids were gone and I had a whole new and different life ahead of me.

We decided that Vegas is a wonderful place to own a home and visit, but not the place  to put down permanent roots. We would travel there for a show every now and again or a reunion with friends…but I longed to live a more self-centered life like other people once the nest is emptied and the kids are grown.

We moved to the Napa/Sonoma wine country and got us a little wine country cottage…the kind you love, where you can cook French food every day and enjoy wineries, wine clubbing and hanging out with our vintner friends. In no time our little cottage became a French Country cottage, filled with some vintage touches, coupled with laughter, fun, good wine and more friends. It turns out our friends love to visit the wine country almost as much as they love to fly into Vegas.

This very simple lifestyle, coupled with a DIY creative space is so much more in-line with the simplicity I was seeking and seemed to do the proverbial trick. I’d found an outdoorsy, healthy lifestyle where I could become a specialist in some of the things I wanted…perfecting the pizza, eating truly artisan foods, entertaining outside on the barnyard tables we had built and getting back into the groove of creating wonderful “things”. The wine country diet is an eating experience. Cooking with wine, pairing good wines with meals was so much more fun than choosing which restaurant to eat at each night in Vegas.

img_0428

The wine country table I had made for our front garden. There is a matching table in the back.

Yes, my husband is serious about making his own wine (he is a great lover of chemistry) and starting small by buying the grapes from various vineyards. We have learned that there is nothing more fun than inviting family and friends the world over to enjoy a bit of your own wine. (trust me, making it is the job of the grapes and knowing just when to pick them is where the chemistry comes in, but the grapes do the work). Our dream hobby project is pictured below. We really have no intentions of buying a vineyard or becoming farmers. Our interest is only in the creation of the wines and securing the right grapes from the perfect appellation is what makes a great wine.

img_1063

This is yeast beginning its job with the grape juice and just put into the barrels

Last summer we had a bit of a splash for our family and friends at Mumm Napa with a lobster feed on the vineyard green. This will be an annual event for our friends and family. Remember, I’m all into experiences now and it’s much more fun than just living life.

This wonderful wine country is an event maven’s heaven. I may be doing monthly events, they are so much fun! (I did tell you I think I’m in heaven, right?)

winery-events-lobster_f819

The family & friends event that will be our tradition

In no time I’ll actually have time to sit down and watch the Real Housewives shows I’ve missed and the fun of us talking about the drama as it unfolds. Something tells me that, while I’ve been absent for at least two years as I have made the wonderful life transition, I may not have really missed too much. I am curious to know all the many businesses the Housewives have started as they have transitioned from Real Housewives to real businesswomen. I am still in shock that beautiful Yolanda Foster and her husband, her King, split. Is that really true? That’s how out of it I’ve been, but I’m back now!

Looking forward to reconnecting with you and the world of high drama once again.

From my heart to yours…your friend,

lady-brooks-signature

Advertisements