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.