My teen asked me the other afternoon what it felt like to grow older. He must have seen me looking outside the window forlornly, sipping coffee for the third time that morning and watching the day pass too quickly. I wasn’t sure how to answer the question in the 140 characters that kids are getting used to these days. I told him to imagine what he feels like right now and then imagine waking up one day in a body that doesn’t work quite right. The sad thing is, I’m old enough to know that he won’t understand it until he’s sitting on the other side of the table.
I never understood it when I was young. The idea that inside of my Mom was the same young person she’d always been. It’s now hard to imagine how I was completely ignorant of the fact that my Mother had the same emotional spectrum that I did, that she could be hurt, have a broken heart, desire or feel overwhelming passion for something. She was just Mom. Looking at my teen in his ignorance of aging, I know that in many ways he is looking at me through the blind eyes of innocence. All the things I wanted to say would fall on the deaf ears of childhood. So I decided to write this while he was sleeping, for myself, for him.. for those of us that are just waking up to the understanding.
Some days I look in the mirror and I don’t know who is looking back at me. Things start changing and rearranging themselves on my skin until I feel as though I’m locked inside of a broken suit. I don’t know when I started getting ‘tired’ or when the rings around my eyes deepened to the well known “mommy” shadows. It honestly feels like one day I woke up and looked in the mirror and there was someone else there and it took awhile to adjust towards acceptance of this new skin.
There are days it is hard for me to accept that I’m “older”. I feel like rushing out to greet old friends, drinking dirty martini’s until 2am and dancing mindlessly to Industrial music in outfits that I probably couldn’t even get my foot into these days. At some point I realize that my memory and imagination met up and went out for a coffee without logic. I don’t have the tolerance to drink like a 20 year old and I’m getting too old and tired to dance the night away. Going to Target with my tot is enough to make me wish I could get a 2 hour nap in a bowl of aspirin. I know there are a lot of people my age still able to keep up with the younger generations, but most haven’t pushed out two kids or let gravity do some heavy work on their lower halves.
The sad thing is, with all the physical changes, my mind is still as adept as it was in earlier years. I may be wiser for all the time I’ve had to endure hardships, parenthood, deeper sorrows and joys than childhood or teen-hood generally see, but my heart and my mind are still achingly young. Inside my heart I still pine for affection, acceptance and appreciation only now it is from my children and my husband rather than a knight in shining armor. I still dream like a young girl dreams, of wishes and promises and happy endings. I still need love like you.
There was this line in Bridges of Madison County where the Mom says, “You become a mother; a wife and you stop and stay steady so that your children can move.” In aging I haven’t done anything but become steady. Everything moves so fast around me because my children are growing and expanding in my universe, but I remain as still as the sun. In that stillness gravity and time are having a lot of fun turning my body into a Picasso painting, but inside of myself I am still the little girl waiting on the porch for balloon notes and flowers and the missing to pass.
On days I can’t face the changes on the outside, I put my makeup on in the living-room and dress without mirrors. I put headphones on at full volume and dance on the kitchen tiles like I used to do in what feels like ages ago. Most days I don’t even think about it though. There are so many things to be in awe of at any age in life, so many things to be thankful for. I was such a sad person when I was younger and in many ways growing older blessed me with a content happiness, in myself and my life. I would much rather be a happy old person than the sad young person I once was.
And the truth is, I have a long way to go still. I may feel ancient some days and my son may see me as ancient, but I’m just in my 30s and only beginning to succumb to time. The way I see teenagers is still the way my Mother sees me. I’ll always be young in her eyes, still growing and expanding in her universe just as my children will always be growing older in mine.
In this way, “You’re only as old as you feel” takes on a whole new meaning.