[The little graphic that I made is so Pinnable, isn’t it??]
This past week, I became a quinquagenarian. No—it’s not a new dietary category. It’s a person who is between 50 and 59 years old. Yep, I stopped being a quadragenarian and am now a quinquagenarian. (I love dictionaries!!!)
(I also love the F word, and I trust if you’re still reading this after my title, you can handle a few more of them below…)
My birthday is this week. It will mark my 46th year in this world. If I make it to 92, then I guess I can still entertain the notion of being middle-aged.
I don’t have a problem telling my age, though I’d be lying if I denied the clock’s ticking doesn’t make me sad sometimes. I don’t want to run out of time. When I feel this way, I reassure myself by remembering that there are no guarantees to the days ahead—I could get hit by a bus tomorrow. Hmmm. That doesn’t sound very reassuring, but my point is that there is no set time we have on this earth, and there is no limit for striving, seeking, finding, and not yielding.
Age for the average person doesn’t come without a few wrinkles, and while they’re nothing I aim for, I accept them—at least more than some people. I remember one bizarre conversation I had when I was the ripe old age of 19. I was in a college film production class downtown when these two very upscale girls came up to me after our first class. “How do you do it??” the one girl asked me as she smoothed her full-length fur coat after placing her oversized sunglasses on her face.
“Do what?” I replied.
“Stay so wrinkle-free?” I thought they were joking, but they were indeed very serious.
“Uh…I’m 19…there’s nothing to do…”
“Oh, yes, yes, there is. We are very careful. We stay out of the sun and smile as little as possible. We don’t want laugh lines! And we saw you just laughing away in class. Yet your skin looks so nice. So what do you do?” These two were maybe 21. I was dumbfounded. I think it was at that moment that they helped me see what value I would put on wrinkles in my years to come.
“Well, I guess I’ll be the wrinkled one who’s laughed a lot as the years go by.”
With that response, they simultaneously looked at me with disdain and turned and left. I sometimes wonder where those two might be today. I really hope they have a few laugh lines.
As a kid, I was very into collecting patches or stickers of places I had traveled to, and in a way, wrinkles are a variation of that kind of collection to me. While I don’t have wrinkles specific to certain experiences (that would be interesting!), they are still a reflection of the life I’ve lived so far.
It bums me out that wrinkles are such an issue for American women. There is more value to us than the elasticity in our faces. We should be proud of the journeys we are taking. And while I absolutely believe that we should take good care of ourselves, I don’t think the aging process should be a cause of shame, but more like a badge of honor.
Lately, my 87-year-old mother has taken to looking at me without her glasses and announcing, “You have no wrinkles!” I know she is trying to make me feel good, and I also know she has a pretty strong eyeglass prescription.
I do have wrinkles. For now, they’re mainly evident when I smile or laugh. As my 19-year-old self foresaw, it shows that I have indeed done some considerable laughing and smiling in my 46 years. Isn’t that something to feel good about? I think so.
Today is my son’s 10th birthday. As a parent, there are so many life lessons I want to share with him…from why morning breath isn’t “cool” to the importance of kindness. And I always hope that the good parts of what I say stick, and the less than ideal ones fall away.
But some lessons I aim to share with him are ones that I need to hear myself. Over and over again.
Though I’m told it’s typical behavior for a boy his age to need to be told everything at least three times, I really want him to be better connected to the world around him. For instance, after taking a trip dozens of times, the other day he asked, “Are we going the right way?” illustrating that he hadn’t been paying any attention. This is just a tiny example of how he is in his own little bubble that I would like to pop. Many times we have had “conversations” (read: nag-a-thons) of how he needs to pay attention to what’s going on around him.
But what about me?
Though I may know the route I’ve taken dozens of times, how connected am I to the actual moment I’m in? We who struggle with the juggle of life also struggle with the clichéd stopping and smelling of the roses.
Recently my husband discovered a robin’s nest in the pine tree right outside our kitchen window. After we all enjoyed seeing the beautiful blue eggs, the mama robin nestled in. She had expertly camouflaged the nest, and when she covered the eggs with her body, there was no way any of us would have known what miracles lurked beneath. I realized that it was the exact right perspective at the exact right time that clued us in to this exciting little world. My husband’s height gave him the angle to see, and the fact that the mom was out stretching her wings gave him the opportunity to discover. It came together in one ideal moment. Now we all know where to look and are enjoying watching our new little neighbors grow.
But what do I miss because I am not looking at the right angle at the right moment? I wonder.
Too often I have my “busy-busy blinders” on…on one mission after another, I power through and forge ahead. My bubble may move faster than my kid’s, but it’s still a bubble.
Thankfully, there are times of self-awareness where I simply make myself stop. Stop the swirl. And in those moments, inevitably I find something worth looking at…truly seeing. Maybe it’s enjoying my favorite goldfinches dart and weave after getting a nibble at our feeder…or maybe it’s seeing my son practice his piano with his bare feet (growing bigger by the day) keeping time while his tongue peeks out from his pink lips and tries to help him along.
The older he gets, the more I am trying to savor those moments. It was only yesterday, it seems, that he let go of my leg and walked his first steps. Only yesterday that he waved goodbye to us on his very first day of school. Only yesterday that he would pummel me with questions like, “Mom, does the sky end? Does the grass end? Do our days ever end?” Only yesterday.
As Gretchen Rubin says, “the days are long, but the years are short.” If I can get my little man to understand this sooner rather than later, then I will have helped him in a big way. I know I need to be a better model to help him see this truth more clearly. I better get my act together.
My stubborn self knows this is a life lesson I need to teach myself over and again. I guess the silver lining is that we learn best what we teach, so maybe there‘s hope for me yet.
Happy birthday to our beautiful, not-so-little-anymore boy who is loved tons and tons forever and always by his crazy mom and dad. You make the world a better place to be.