Friday, February 11, 2011

Halfway Somewhere


I am beginning to look like someone I do not know. It’s an odd feeling to glance down at my own hands and suddenly recognize my mother’s. I look in the mirror and am surprised to see not the reflection of my inner vision, twenty and blonde, smooth-skinned and slim as a whippet, but a sixty-five year old woman with streaks of silver at her temples and fine lines around her eyes. My skin is freckled with what my grandmother called age spots and my dermatologist calls sun damage. My stride and my stamina are shortening. I go to bed earlier and wish I could wake up later. I used to think people my age were old. No one told me I’d get here and still think young.

I have lost a few things on my journey to middle age. I’ve lost some of my absolute trust that things will always work out the way I want them to. When I was a child I was the center of the universe. As an adult, I am only the center of my own. I’ve had to move over and share with the rest of the world. I’ve lost some of my blind trust in grown-ups, too. Some adults say children are often cruel. They should know – they teach the lesson so thoroughly. I’ve had to temper my trust with a healthy dose of, "Oh yeah? Says who?" and then hold up their truths against my own hard-won notions.

It seems just yesterday that I was in high school. I can still recall the excitement of commencement night, the feeling of standing in an open doorway looking out on an infinite future. I was invulnerable, impervious to harm, destined to fly. I’ve since lost the notion I can soar on my own. I’ve learned I need the wind. I have gone past the middle of my earth journey. I’ve grown from a clinging, needy infant dependent on other people for my basic needs to adulthood and the frightening, freeing responsibility of caring for myself. I’ve loved and been loved, hated and had it come back to bite me, borne children and buried parents. I’ve faced fears head-on, I’ve let places and things and hearts go that I would rather have hung onto. I’ve allowed myself to become vulnerable and open to hurt so that when bliss comes, and it does come, I can fill up and flow over. I’ve learned neither state lasts forever.



11 comments:

Marion said...

Wow. You could be talking about me.

"No one told me I’d get here and still think young." Isn't it the way! I am surprised at the way I am sometimes perceived by others...as a little old lady!

It can be frightening to be an adult; I like that you can recognize bliss. And that you allow it to fill you up and flow over, even knowing you may be hurt.

Thank you for this post, Pauline...it was something I needed to read today. xo

Gary said...

Wow. (I wrote that and then looked up to notice Marion started the same way!) I have had this conversation with friends before and it is shocking to realzie that person reflected in the glass window of a building as you pass is YOU. At 47, I see the changes. Some I like, some I don't want to think too much about. I have always thought that I could do anything with my body but that too is changing. My mom told me about this when I was little. That she always feels young but the inside and outside don't seem to match. You captue it so well. Thanks for writing down the words.

Molly said...

When I am as old as you, Pauline, I want to be just as wise! But I won't be that old for another twenty four years.....well, maybe not years...would you believe months?!

Brian Miller said...

smiles. sounds like you are in a great place...it does seem like yesterday...and its great to look back and sounds like you have gleened quite a bit of wisdom...

Judith said...

Pauline,
In case you didn't recognize what you were writing, it is called WISDOM.
Hard won, not valued enough (at least not these days), but well worth knowing, if not cozy touchy-feely.
BTW, I had a dermatologist once who called them Wisdom Spots. Nice job reframing!

Roberta S said...

Pauline, thank you for putting the muddle in my mind in order. Yes, all of it is so true. I find myself looking in the mirror, putting on a pale natural looking lipstick and going to town thinking I'm a rather pretty thing. I'm so very glad although I've lost friends, skin elasticity, energy, my competitive edge, and so much more, I haven't lost the imagination of my youth. It is amazing how often I put my fanciful mind to work to create something good out of hard times. Loved this little rant. The thoughts expressed are totally worthy, comforting, and absolutely true.

Pauline said...

Marino - I find the more birthdays I celebrate, the bigger the chasm between how I feel and how I look and how I used to look! Not bad, per se, just interesting...

gary - I echo your mom's sentiments (and my own mother's - she said much the same thing!). What surprises me is how surprised I am when I see what I look like in the mirror compared to the picture I have in my mind!

Molly _ i don't know about wise but I am becoming well acquainted with aging!

Brian - actually it is a good place. I still have eons to go ;)

Judith - you're a peach!

Roberta - my mother used to say (over and over) that pretty is as pretty does. I'm still repeating that to myself ;)

steven said...

pauline - there are several "wows" here so i'll add mine to the collection. this speaks so clearly of the passage of time as measured by our experiences and our bodies and then miraculously it also speaks of the learnings that sustain and reflect something much greater than those outer measures. steven

Hilary said...

So beautifully said, Pauline.

Lee said...

Scary and true.

But somehow reassuring too.

focusfinder said...

Well put.

Now that sixty is the new forty, we're OK.