Today is the final day of Christmas. It’s also my parents’ birthday. It’s the second of their birthdays without dad here, which is still hard for me to take in, but more jarring than that is that my mother is eighty today. When I told Elihu he said “That’s crazy. She seems more like sixty!” I’ll be sure to let her know. Best gift she’ll get from us today! Yup, this is a hard one to wrap my brain around.
Yesterday I went to have my hair cut, and I looked around at the gals in the shop with new eyes. I remember when I’d moved here six years ago, somehow they’d seemed like ‘older’ women – not my generation, but not my mother’s either, they were somewhere in between… from my perspective they were definitely in a place I was not. And as I’ve done all my life with ‘older’ folks – I kinda dismissed them as irrelevant and unrelated to me and my experience in the world. And I suppose they were. Until now.
Sitting in the chair I had a moment of insight. I’ve been grappling over the past several years with my identify – what my role is now, the things I should prioritize, how I might envision myself in the larger scheme of things as time moves on. Regular readers may even be a little tired of the subject. We all get old, shouldn’t I be over it already? Yes, and no. I get it, but not until that moment, yesterday, while sitting in that chair, looking at the women around me, did I begin to really feel ok about it. These women looked vital, stylish and relevant. They were enjoying each other’s company, enjoying their work and the company of their patrons. So what if they – we – were older? What was wrong with this? It didn’t seem so bad. Ok, so maybe none of us have the hair or skin we did a few years ago, but really, so what? I was up and over wall of fifty and had several decades still before me if things went according to plan (!). I’d spent the last couple of years agonizing over unexpected changes in my body (no, moisturizing alone is not enough to prevent crepe-y thigh skin) and as I sat there, I realized that there was absolutely no use fighting it. It was a choice I could make: get crabbier and more pissed off as the years passed, or give it up and enjoy the life that remained. And in that one moment of realization, I felt better and more hopeful than I had in a long time. As Wendy scrunched my hair into its new shape, I didn’t dwell on the older woman I saw in the mirror as I had so many times before. Instead I just admired the fabulous new haircut.
My new look invigorated me for sure, but when I enthusiastically declared aloud “We are all going to GO FORTH into 2015!” and was met with a rousing cry of agreement from all the women in the room, a renewed feeling of hope began to grow inside me… I’ve been plagued by so much doubt lately – and even dread – at my future, but now, somehow, with this new insight, things felt just a little different… I suppose it’s not so bad to be older. It’s even kinda freeing in a way. I’m not saying it doesn’t bum me out when I notice that faint creases have become permanent lines, or noticing that my neck is starting to look like somebody else’s, I’m just saying that at some point, you just gotta give it up. You can’t be what you aren’t. And the main thing, I suppose, is that you’re still here.
Fifty-one or eighty, I didn’t quite imagine either one of us would be here one day. But we are, and that itself is something of an epiphany.