This March I turn 56. And for the first time, it is not a birthday I welcome. It will be the first one without my husband since we married over 26 years ago. My daughter is leaving home and moving to Colorado five days later. And I look in the mirror these days and feel old. Not just older, old.
It is not something we often admit, certainly not in public or polite company. And yet here it is. I look in the mirror and see ….
Skin that does not snap back the way it used to.
Wrinkles in new and ever-expanding places.
Gray hair that shows more quickly.
Age spots have become constellations across my arms.
I need glasses to put on my makeup.
Even the shape of my body is changing. No longer quite so pert nor quite so round.
Gravity is having her way with me.
Egads. If this this doesn’t scare the men away…
I consider turning off the tap to this train of thought, but then decide, what the hell, in for a penny, in for a pound. Let it pour, let it rant, let it overflow the banks. No way out but through. And so, the pity party rages, and down the rabbit hole I tumble with …
Stories about being old, and used up, with nothing to offer, and nothing to give.
The flirting is finished, the feeling of being delicious and desirable, done.
I imagine what will it be to walk into a room and feel no longer seen, no longer wanted.
The painful questions seep out from beneath mud and slime.
Who will want me now?
Who will want me like this?
Is this all that is left?
To wrinkle and dry, and ache and break, until
One day I blow away like the dust that we all return to.
Good Lord – take me now.
At this point I am considering gorging on pizza and Haagen Daaz chocolate ice cream. But then I’d probably be sick as well as sad.
I sit with this spewing for a while, giving it permission to swirl and shift and finally settle. Then ask kindly, gently, “Is that what you truly believe?”
With a deep breath and wiping of my eyes I consider and answer as truthfully as I can.
I acknowledge that this is a particularly challenging time, grieving and loss, and more change than I think I can manage.
I acknowledge it hurts, still hurts, all hurts – though not as much as before.
And I acknowledge I am getting older, no spring chicken, I. Closer to 100 than to 10.
But I also notice how many of these fears have to do with how I believe I will be perceived. I notice how many of the fears are based on an ‘outside’ looking in. And these fears are fed voraciously by a culture that wants us to believe we are not enough, never enough. Instead we consume, and yearn, and follow the leader like good little sheep, in hopes that one day we will find our way to enough…
We have been given a cracked mirror.
So what can I learn from this raging pity party?
It is good to let it out.
It is good to purge it.
It is good to shake it, bake it, burn it out.
And then it is time to put that cracked mirror down.
To try, instead, to see with eyes of love and compassion and kindness and trust. To believe that there is meaning to it all, even though we may not know what. To trust that we have been gifted with this life, this mystery, and that it is ours to experience until our very last breath.
I cannot change that I will age, nor the effects of that aging on my body. At some point, my body will give out and I will die, a fact, like taxes. I confess that end does frighten me.
But until then, I can choose how I live my life. I can choose to write and perform and create until the day I can’t lift my pen nor speak a word. I can choose to travel the world and learn to sail a boat or fly a plane (maybe not the plane). And I can choose to enter a room and reach out to friends and strangers and believe I am seen, I am welcome, I belong, just as as I see and embrace and welcome them as well.
We all get to choose. In this great mystery and wonder, we have been given the gift of life. To take the days, months, moments, of what we have been granted and live, good days and bad, as fully and richly and thoroughly as we desire.
To your journey.