About Me

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I write, mostly to keep my head from exploding. It threatens to do that a lot. My blog is the pixelated version of all the voices in my head. I tend to dive into what connects me to God, my community, my family and my doubt. I do a lot of searching, not as much finding. I’m good with that. I have learned, finally, to live comfortably in the gray. In the meantime, I wrestle with God, and my doubt and my joy.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Growing Up, Growing Old(er)

When I was in sixth grade, I read a dog-eared copy of Judy Blume's Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret. I found it in the school library, plain as day, but felt as if I should hide it (if not between butcher paper, then at least somewhere in the stacks, away from the prying eyes of the sixth grade boys). It was my guilty secret, a prepubescent Philosopher's Stone. Here at last, an unexpurgated and honest telling of my truest desire: Please God-- let me get my period. 

In a word (ok, in seven words): Please God, let me grow up. Now.

I was so quick to want to grow up. To be a woman. To be older. To skip adolescence altogether and race right into the next phase of my life. I was ready, and had been since fifth grade, when we got the first Talk; boys in one room, girls in the other. I have no idea what they said to the boys, but we girls got the Miracle of Life speech, the Changing Body speech, the Hormones and Pimples and Babies (oh my!) speech. 

All I could think was PleasepleasepleaseNOW! 

And it happened. Soon, or now, or close enough to not matter. I grew up, got older, moved from child to adolescent to woman in the blink of an eye, all with a stately and inexorable rhythm.

I think of this now, as I squint to read the not-so-fine print of my book or listen to the creaking of my  knees as I unbend less than gracefully getting out of my car. The infinity of my youth has finally given way to the dictates of entropy. 

I am old. Older. I am not sure if I am willing to concede the mantle of my youth quite yet, and trade it in for a lap blanket and rocking chair. I will not go gently into the afternoon, let alone that dark, dark night.  The sad truth, though, is that while I may rage against the dying of the light, the stranger that greets me in the mirror every day is fine with the dying of the hair. And it must be that stranger; it certainly can't be me

I remember looking at my mother (with all the condescension that only a twenty-something can muster for her ancient parent) when she declared she needed to have Work Done (the capital letters clearly underscoring her words).  She talked not just of hennas and highlighting, but of lifting and tucking and cutting. There were diets to follow and Exercycles to be bought (Not actually pedaled, however. Apparently, we lived within a magical force field where just owning exercise equipment was enough to realize its toning potential). Suddenly, there were creams and unguents littering her bathroom shelves, where once there had been suntan oil and cigarettes.

I listened to her, nodding and smiling (and hoping my derision was almost hidden well enough to make her think twice), thinking that I would never - never - stoop to such lows. I swore to myself that I would march proudly into my age, wear my wrinkles and folds and sagging flesh with pride. I will have earned those wrinkles and folds, damn it, every last one of them. I will be careworn and weathered because I will have lived my life to the very edges, never shrinking from adventure or passion. I would never cave to societal pressures or sadistic ideals of beauty.

She was at least a decade younger than I am now when she first made her declaration. Ugh. I felt no compassion for my mother, only pity. 

So now, I have grown into my age. The face in my mirror is barely recognizable at times. Those aren't wrinkles; they are chasms. There is paunch and spread. It is harder to see, harder to sleep. There are times when it seems as if I will spontaneously combust. I have conditions, and sometimes those conditions have conditions. I can no longer travel without carrying a pharmacy in my bag.

My body hurts, dammit. It creaks and aches and doesn't listen to my wheedling demands (as if it ever did, but at least way back then, it played nice and snapped back into shape with relative ease). There are now creams and unguents on my bathroom counter, along with appointments for highlights and hennas on my calendar.

This is not my body. This cannot be me. Can it?

When I was 11, reading Judy Blume, I wanted my period, wanted to be a Woman. Now? Funny: when I started to write this, I could have sworn it was going to be a scathingly sarcastic ode to menopause and aging. I could have sworn I was going to wax rhapsodic on wanting just ten more minutes of a different body-- younger, and firmer, more fit, more beautiful, more me-- the me I carry in my head.

Here's a surprise: I thought wrong. I wish less for something that I am not (for something that may never have been and certainly will never be again), and hope more for blessings and grace. And so I offer, not sarcasm, but a prayer:

God of infinite love and boundless grace, Let me see that the truest beauty is found in forgiveness, a kind heart and a gentle soul. Let me live a life that matters, with boldness and courage and faith-- which are far sexier than perfect skin or a toned body. These aches and pains and wrinkles that seem to have taken up permanent residence are not evidence of defeat, but my medals of honor of a life lived-- sometimes well, sometimes not, but lived, in all its messy glory.

When I was young, I wanted to be old(er). Now that I am, please, God, let me be myself.