I recently returned from a family reunion. Such a daunting experience. Photos from decades ago flashed on a 65-inch screen while friends and family dabbed their eyes in fond memory. Loved ones turned to me and said: “You were so beautiful back then.” What is the right response? Thank you for noticing that Mother Nature has ravaged me or At least I’m not dead yet? I doubt that any retort is apt, and so, like any other public angst, I grinned til it was over. The slide show, that is. I still gotta a lotta living left. No matter what those people said about me.
The reality is I’m a senior citizen. The world thinks my job consists of trekking to countless doctors’ appointments and draining the Social Security trust. I may say things like “Age is just a number” or “You’re only as old as you feel” but I will admit that I’m not happy that the hands that drum to Bohemian Rhapsody on my steering wheel sometimes look like my grandmother’s. And, while my mother is an example of graceful aging, I sure don’t want my reflection in the mirror to be a dead ringer for her.
On days that I gaze into the mirror puzzling over who is staring back, I swear I hear giggling behind me. This is usually when I’m trying to squeeze into Lululemon yoga pants or some frothy nothing from Victoria’s Secret. You’d think that Mother Nature had better things to do with her precious time than to prank me. Yet, I’ll thank the old girl for one thing. I don’t need to travel overseas to experience foreign lands or diverse cultures. Each time I stand in front of a mirror, I trek to places that are new to me. I gaze over the landscape of my body, and wonder, “Where am I and how did I get here?”
Eleanor Roosevelt said: “Do one thing every day that scares you.” For me, it’s looking in the mirror.
I invite you to join me on my next excursion. We will traverse a southern route, with points of interest highlighted along the way.
First stop is the top of my head. Once the hues of a golden sky in the dawning light, my hair is now the dull silver of a waning moon. Yet, I refuse to blot out this beacon of aging with a few squirts of dye. It’s admitting defeat and I’m not going down nice and easy.
Called the windows to the soul, my eyes are partly obscured at half-mast like shades, and I’m not talking Foster Grants. If I stand in front of the mirror and prop my eyes open, I lose 10 years of living off their weary visage, but which 10 years? Each decade is chock full of joy and pain, and I doubt that Mother Nature would let me pick and choose the years to obliterate time’s effects.
Continuing the journey southward, it’s as if I’m standing in front of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. I’ve got a mouth that shares little. Am I happy or sad? Sometimes I wear an expression that says nothing, like I’ve got my game face on. I’ve heard it said that smiling uses fewer muscles than frowning. The number of so-called laugh lines constructs a road map crisscrossing my face. A cartographer’s dream that is astounding in its detail, it is a dizzying reminder of the many roads I’ve taken and valleys I’ve crossed. It’s no wonder a challenge of aging is to maintain balance and preserve strength.
And, while pumping iron is not my forte, I am committed to remaining upright as I march into the rest of my life. Weak is a four-letter word of aging. Perhaps this explains why any senior-focused magazine harangues about getting rid of a weak chin. These are two words I never put together until I started hanging out with AARP and the like. Sadly, there is no strength training to reverse the effects, so I will love my jowls for what they are. Loving reminders that I am not 21 years old.
Ah, the craggy terrain of my neck, described so eloquently by Nora Ephron . ‘Nuff said.
What amendment gives me the right to bare arms? I don’t think I’ve seen the arm of a woman over 50 for the last decade. Baby boomer arms have gone the way of T Rex. Clothes shopping has me scrambling for Xanax, which no doubt explains the acres of denim that line my closet.
Continuing the trip, and trudging through miles of discomfort, my butt reluctantly takes up the rear, preferring to remain seated. I need to whip it into shape to remain vertical and able to withstand the assaults of aging. “Come on, girl”, I urge daily. “We’ve been through so much together. Don’t give up on me now!”
Dimples belong on cheeks. The ones on my face, not my thighs. In all the books about golden years, no mention is made of body quadrant reversal. Had I known this was possible, I might have been made better preparations. Although I’m not sure how.
A shapely ankle is a sign of royalty. Mine must be heralding the onset of a military coup, because the royals have been taken to their knees. Speaking of which…
Knees should be seen and not heard, yet mine announce themselves with a variety of creaks and groans like the settling beams in my grandmother’s Victorian home. I will treat them like the ladies they are, keeping me sane and upright in this crazy youth-obsessed world.
I’m not sure if it’s the glare, cataracts or a spark of wisdom that moves me nearer to the mirror for closer reflection. For a moment, my eyes traverse the topography as memories of my life pass before me. Each bump, sag and wrinkle can be mapped to joy with some coordinates of sorrow throughout my 65 years. The terrain of my life is filled with peaks and valleys, adventures all.
I marvel at the many escapades I’ve enjoyed over the years, charted by the changes to my body. No passport needed as I have traveled through frontiers into lands for which there are no maps or GPS coordinates.
Mother Nature, one gal to another, thanks for saving me time and money on far-flung expeditions. Sure, sometimes it feels like jet-lag when I get my bearings and realize that I’m truly a senior citizen, yet it continues to be an incredible voyage.
As the song says: “I wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now.”