Friday, February 23, 2018

Come What May

20, blonde, and slim as a whippet.
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 seventy-two 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 past 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? then hold up those other 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.



Stella Jones said...

I am in the same place as you Pauline! Nothing about my body or my mind is quite the same anymore. My hair, once thick and lustrous, is now thinning and dry as is my skin. What I once spent on makeup, I now spend on moisturiser. I wake early after disruptive nights because I just don't seem to be able to get comfortable anymore and I go to bed early because I am tired, yet I do so much less than I used to do.
It is hard to watch your children growing away from you and needing you less. I don't mean they don't need your help with the grandchildren, I mean they no longer ask for advice or even want a chat much. They are so far removed from my life as for us to be almost different people.
Like you, I thought, when I was young, that as I went through life, things would get better. They haven't. They've got worse. I long to go back to the way things were, the days when people talked to each other more and cared about each other more. Duty seems to be a forgotten word too these days.
I suppose we must just get on with it for there are so many people worse off. We see it on the News every day, don't we.
On the bright side, I take pleasure from the smallest things, like watching a crocus grow and bloom or watching the night sky on a clear night.
I feel blessed and yet sad, just like you, I think.

Pauline said...

Ah Stella, how right you are. I thought my life would be so much different than it turned out. I keep in touch regularly with my children and grandchildren, but like you said, they are very involved in their own lives and they seem far removed from what I'm experiencing. I long to return to the feelings of my childhood, where I felt safe and engaged. Now I feel like life is wrenching me this way and that, though like you, I find myself taking great comfort in the lovely little things. Thanks for reading and responding :)

Out on the prairie said...

I explain that I still hear that younger man, it is just when I look in the mirror that shows changes. Those years slip by providing the world our legacy.

Wisewebwoman said...

It is a bit of a shocker as we drift along and catch the glimpses. I have my father's hands. rather stumpy and gone "rusty" as my granddaughter used to say. I like that description. Gone rusty.

I have days like you describe, ennui paired with an internal restlessness. I wonder where that hopeful girl went too, she's still there, I feel her when I see an eagle soar or hear the water shush the pebbles on the shore. Or the night sky, yes.

I read more now, I find joy in that. Escape to other places with my eyes only.

I am fortunate in that my estranged daughter is balanced with a devoted daughter who comes and stays for weekends or books tickets to shows or special brunches. We do laugh a lot. A true gift of old age is ability to laugh. At myself mostly.


Sabine said...

How right you are.
A short while ago, I revisited my old university and when I walked into the main cafeteria were we plotted the revolutions I noticed strange looks from today's very well behaved students (from those who had the time to look up from their blue tinted screens) and it took me a while to realise that I was the object of their irritation. An old woman.

Pauline said...

OOTP - yes, the younger me is still there, but she's not the one I'm after. I want the child, the one who knew what was what with the world. I felt I had more wisdom at 5 than I've had since!

WWW - Love the "gone rusty" hands. My granddaughter calls mine speckled. And I agree, being able to laugh at ourselves is a great gift!

Sabine - I find I'm all three people, child, adult, and elder. I just wish all 3 would occasionally coordinate so I could have a clear thought! Thank goodness not all students are well behaved these days.

Friko said...

I think that surprise when we look in the mirror is universal. I hate what I see, brrr, I look like a witch. I hate looking old. Sad, isn’t it, now the exterior is not something we can for granted. It takes so much more work than it did. As the effects of all that work are minimal, I don’t bother. I tell myself it’s personality that counts!

However, there are advantages. One thing I have definitely learned is that I no longer need approval or validation from others. And slowing down can be a great pleasure too. What I considered ‘wasting time’ is now well earned retirement.

Pauline said...

Friko, I have no arguments with being happy about not feeling I have to seek validation or approval from others - it's a great older-age perk! And I love describing my leisure time as well earned retirement. Still, I'm a bit nonplussed when I see my face in the mirror ;)