…but nobody else is either. I have been giving some thought to the idea of aging lately. Not in a frustrated, fearful, or negative kind of way…just pondering. A post at absence of alternatives put into words some of the things I have been thinking. Some of this post echoes what she so poetically expressed (however, not quite so poetically as I am doing the writing).
“The great secret that all old people share is that you really haven’t changed in seventy or eighty years. Your body changes, but you don’t change at all. And that, of course, causes great confusion.” ~Doris Lessing
I do not remember (if I ever knew) who Doris Lessing is. However, this statement is so incredibly accurate, and I know as truth that the feeling can start long before reaching 70.
I turn 46 this birthday, and as I will be as surprised as anyone to live to 92, that puts me firmly in the category of “middle aged.” How in the world did this happen? In my mind’s eye, I am 26 years old. I can no longer answer without thinking the question, “How old are you?” I have to think because the number does not match the way I feel inside. Inside my head I am 26 years old, lithe and spunky, bold and impulsive. I can still go into a store and purchase any piece of clothing that catches my eye. The only question is “do they have it in my size?” the questions about how much it reveals or hides of my middle aged body have not been thought before. The 26 year old inside my head knows that while there are many women more beautiful than she…heads will turn and she will be noticed as she pushes the shopping cart down the aisles.
The reality is different. I am 46 years old. I do have a middle aged body. I do not turn heads in the grocery store. In fact, at times I feel I have become nearly invisible. I say this as a statement of fact–not as a lament. It just surprises me when I see myself in photos or catch a glimpse of my reflection as I walk down the sidewalk. I work with people (real, whole, grown people) who were not born when I graduated from high school. How can this be possible when I am only 26 years old? The disconnect continues to assert itself.
Do not think for a single moment that I want to be 26 years old again. I have lived, loved, laughed, cried, struggled and fought for every single day of the nearly 46 I have been on the planet. I am comfortable with (and even proud of) the gray streak in my red hair. I did not stress over turning 30 or 40, and should I make 50 it will be a happy day. I have earned the gray hairs and the (few) wrinkles. I own them proudly and confidently. I like myself more than I did when I was 26. I am still spunky, bold and impulsive. I hope I am using what the years have taught me wisely–I certainly try.
I am happy where I am–to paraphrase an unattributed quote, “I am not 46 years old–I am 26 with 20 years of experience.” I’m good with that.
(However, if given the opportunity, I would trade this body for that lithe 26 year old one any day.)