29 Oct Aging gracefully (or trying to)
The other day I was out for lunch with a friend who was wearing a great shade of lipstick. When she handed me the tube so I could check out the name, I couldn’t see it. I held it at arm’s length and squinted, the letters barely coming into focus. “Look at you”, she giggled. “You can’t see!”
I have to admit, lately it’s been a bit of a struggle to do my beloved New York Times crossword puzzle. Not because the clues are getting more difficult, but because the words are getting a little fuzzy. I’ve noticed other weird things too. Like when I sleep on my side, the indentations from my pillow are likely to stick around on my face for a good part of the day. I think I’m starting to see the beginning of jowls and I’ve started doing that thing in the mirror, where I pull back on my cheekbones to remember how I looked ten years ago, when my skin had a much better memory and didn’t leave a stubborn road map of sheet marks on my face.
I turned 44 a couple of weeks ago, which, if we consider that the average Canadian woman lives to be about 84 years old, puts me very firmly at middle age.
I don’t quite know when it happened, because I swear I was just 20 years old, drinking Long Island Iced Teas at Blue Dog and stressing about final exams at McGill.
But here I am, the mother of three high schoolers, five years past my own 20th high school reunion and 30 years past my first foray on the metro to go see a new movie called The Breakfast Club.
I can’t believe I’m old enough to have done anything 30 years ago.
It’s all happened so insanely, dizzyingly fast. And I can’t help but think that I’m a little responsible for making the time pass so quickly. For so much of my life, I’ve been in a rush to get to the next destination on my life map. I couldn’t wait to get out of school and start working. At 24, I was anxious to get hitched and start married life. When I struggled with infertility, I wanted to fast forward past anxiety-provoking pregnancy and get to the baby part, and when I finally had those babies, I remember consoling screaming infant twins at 3 am, desperate to get past the newborn days so I could get some sleep. I’ve prayed for the end of countless cold, dark winters and counted the days until I could hear the delicious dripping of melting snow. I’ve even wished for the end of summer and the return of schedules and routines. Bring on the next stage, the easier stuff; the part where I can breathe and enjoy and be in the moment.
Middle age may be accompanied by lousy vision, but it’s also allowed me to see some things more clearly.
I know now that in my race against the clock, I missed out on some pretty precious moments. I never imagined how much I’d miss tiny feet kicking inside my belly and how quickly those helpless newborns would grow into self-sufficient teenagers. I wish, now, that I could go back in time to those nights that seemed painful and endless and cuddle those babies for a few more minutes. I wish that I’d been more in those moments instead of rushing to the next.
I can’t stop the clock, but I’m going to make sure that I spend the next half of my life slowing down time. I’m going to breathe and embrace, even when, especially when, I feel like the floor’s falling out from under me. I will live in the moments instead of just passing through them. And I might even put on a pair of reading glasses and appreciate the beauty of a winter storm. A Long Island Iced Tea might help with that.