Aging

I am growing old before my eyes. Fighting a rash on my face that has lasted a few months has brought my attention to a focus. I have watched the lines appear, slowly, one after another, the skin on my neck loosening. It has been a hard year.

I think about that phrase, “It has been a hard year.” Looking back on my life, I have not faced anything more difficult this year then I have in years previous, the only difference is my desire to not be in denial. Facing who I am, how I feel and honestly assessing what I have done, has changed me. For the better? I hope. Taking responsibility for my feelings and actions is written on my face however. For the first time since I was a child, I look my age, 44. My life is halfway done.

Acceptance. Part of me wants fight against this aging process. Go out and spend the little money I have on Oil of Olay. Stop the process in its tracks with modern science. To what purpose? We all grow old, no bottle of fancy chemicals can stop it. My hair is grey. Has been for a long time. I fight that with Nice & Easy. Has it stopped the process of gravity? No. A good bra hides it, but someday in the future I am going to want to be naked with a man. Candle light.

I look at the people who are my age who come into the store where I work. I find them beautiful, attractive, handsome. They find me the same or seem too. Rash and all, I have gotten more invites then I have since high school. Men and women, talking to one another on a different level that isn’t about precarious joy and fun, but the hard knocks of life that put each of the lines on our faces and each of our grey hairs on our heads. Acceptance from my peers. Inclusion in a group based not on what we look like but what we have survived. There is an energy of realness, of…….understanding that dreams are just phantasms that haunt life keeping us from seeing what matters. An understanding that all we have is this one day, whether it sucks or not, this day is ours to live, to endure, to enjoy. Tomorrow may not come. We have seen enough people our own age die to trust that tomorrow is another day. We know that the world is not in our control and fate is fickle. We accept this day for what it is, good or bad.

Perhaps this acceptance is what freaks young people out so much. They have the world ahead of them, fresh and new. My daughter graduated from college last week. Summa Cum Laude. I cried. Cried off and on for hours. I kept thinking of her in her little pink cowboy boots and orange Halloween sweatshirt with the black cat on it, tromping into the library to pick out books. Thirty at a time. We would read 5 or 8 or 10, every night. First I would read them to her, then she would recite them to me, then before I knew it she was reading them to me. We read Lord of the Rings together during elementary school. I would read some, she would read some. Now she is a woman, a year older then I was when I gave birth to her. She has the world ahead of her. I wonder what she dreams about, what she hopes for. She keeps those thoughts close to her chest like a good poker hand. When you tell someone your dreams, they try to alter them with shoulds and how to do’s, trying to make them their dreams since they failed their own. Life has been hard on her. She had a crazy mom. But for all my failings, I instilled some good too. Individuality.

My son walked out on an assembly yesterday. He was angered by the changing of part of the National Anthem for “school spirit“. He felt it disrespectful to our country and the men and women who have fought and died for it. He is now displaying that anarchist in him that was instilled in him by his anarchist mother. Not to break windows, but to quietly decline to take part in a society norm that he feels is wrong. It was a small step but I applaud it. Even though I should yell at him for cutting school, I couldn’t quite do it. Despite all my failings I have shown him to stand up against his own apathy. I am proud. He tells me all his dreams of being a mechanic, of modding cars. I try to encourage him to follow those dreams. I try not to alter them. Dreams are good.

And yet, at 44 I have let go of dreams. I have accepted that dreams lead to heartache as you watch them die. But I will not dissuade my children from dreaming. It is a passion of youth. Perhaps that is why I am suddenly getting old. What would I dream about now? My pleasures are simple. I have discovered that I truly enjoy forestry. I like cutting up the old dead and down trees to use as firewood. I like my new chainsaw. I like thinning out young trees so that the strongest can grow. I like using an ax. I like watching the wildflowers progress through their lifespan. I don’t want much. I wish there were more organic vegetables available at Safeway. I am looking forward to mudding my walls in this year so that the drafts will be eliminated. I have found another crack in the wall were the straw clay shrunk and I can see daylight. No wonder I was so cold last winter. I can’t wait to paint the walls. I love painting walls, adding color and texture. I will be learning how to make different types of natural paints, experimenting with different recipes until I get the right mix. It will be far different then buying a can of paint from Home Depot. So, perhaps I do dream, simpler ones, but I have realized that I don’t have to dream to “become something” because I already AM something. For the first time, I feel as if I belong in my life.

As it is, I am 44 and now look my age. There is no turning back. Only forward, forever, slowly, forward. One wrinkle at a time.

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