I was at work lamenting my impending birthday when a young man came up behind me and said,
“Is it your birthday today?”
“Not yet sweetheart, in a couple of weeks”
“Well how old are you going to be?”
I sighed…”Well hon, I’m going to be 40″…more sighing
And he said (drum roll please) “You don’t look 40! You look like sunshine!”
Oh, out of the mouths of babes. And just like that, 40 meant something entirely different than mid life and thoughts of botox. Never mind the smile on his face that could have easily melted the sun itself, it occurred to me that he wasn’t being a show boat, he was serious. He did not see 40 when he looked at me. He saw sunshine.
He didn’t try to convince me I looked younger or advise me he thought I looked older, he cast the numbers aside entirely and looked AT me. He measured and weighed out all the time we had spent together, searched deep within himself and found what he thought was a reasonable facsimile and then said it out loud. Imagine…if we all did this?
If you couldn’t use a number to describe your age, what would your age look like?
I asked my very good friend and she looked me dead in the eye and said, “weary…that’s what my age looks like”. I could see that asking this question wasn’t always going to elicit the same response as I got from my 8 year old friend. And so it almost begs the question instead, “What do you think other people see when they look at you? If you think about the people who love you, what would they say?” So I looked at my friend and I thought…I see trees. The kind that everyone sees and calls “majestic”. The kind with deep roots, the roots that don’t stay put in your own yard because she considers everyone family and her family tree extends to anyone who needs to understand the definition of unconditional love. Her tree – her family tree – holds a hundred different people, all ages, who seek her out in times of trouble, in moments of accomplishment and just about any time…because her door is never closed. She thinks this is nothing, but she’s so wrong. Not every one sees the greatness in people who are struggling. Not everyone has enough strength to hold every one of them without falling over. Strength and beauty. That’s what her age is. Does that sometimes look like weary? It would be ridiculous if it didn’t. That doesn’t change the fact that in her years she has developed the ability to create oxygen for people who are gasping for breath. Sorry sister…nice try. ; )
Now let’s get real – she would not come up with this answer on her own. There in lies the problem doesn’t it? Why do we need to rely on other people to tell us all the cool, amazing, wonderful, crazy things about us that honestly can only be garnered with years and our life experience? Because as my magnificent friend pointed out, it can be very difficult in trying times to find the gift of said trying times. Aging brings wisdom and perspective but it also brings gravity…and challenges…and sometimes regret. It would be very unethical of me to peddle it as rainbows and butterflies. Aging is tough. Your body slows down even if you are the kind to live at the speed of light and proudly display your developed pecs. It’s just harder. I used to be able to jog around the block and lose 5 pounds, now I gain 5 pounds after a work out and my trainer says it’s all muscle. (I love you lady but we both know it’s my love of cake ; ) I get injuries that I never used to and they take much longer to heal. My brain holds an infinite amount of experience and wisdom but I can’t always access it at the moment I want to and I find myself saying much more often…”You know that thing, with the thing that does that thing!” And if I’m lucky, I have my very good friends around me who nod and say “Yep, I know exactly what you’re talking about.” God bless you sweet women, even if you have no idea what the hell I’m talking about.
The truth is, despite my very best efforts (and I am VAIN so my efforts are intense), I have not always been able to age gracefully. Cue the time a 26 year old told me I was the perfect woman…for his Dad. Cue the 10 shooters I drank right after to console myself. Nothing graceful about that. So I am going to try instead, to age gratefully.
Here’s what grateful means. Grateful means that I recognize that above 26 year old spent the better part of the night at my side and told me he had not had so much fun in all of his life. He also noted that he would have stayed longer but he felt truly that he would hold me back. Grateful means that despite the hangover that lasted almost 3 days, I can dance like a beast, drink like a sailor and become best friends with the DJ in a way that would have my 20 year old self green with envy. Because I am sure of myself in a way that my 20 year self could not have dreamed of. I accept compliments with “I know right?!” instead of “Oh this old thing?”. Grateful means when my adult son comes and sits on my bed and regales me with tales of how his friend doesn’t know how to do his own laundry – I recognize that my son DOES. And I taught him that. Even though he spent years turning everything pink. Our struggles have turned into accomplishment and his acknowledgement means it was all worth it. I’m grateful suddenly for the years he said I was the “meanest mom ever”. Even though to be honest, I did his laundry more times that he ever did.
Aging gratefully does not have to mean I turn in my sexuality badge and and get myself a cardigan. It means that I can redefine what sexy means to me. Sometimes I am the sexiest when I am in my sweat pants, pounding out a blog on my laptop, wine in hand, sparkle in my eye. And now I know to have people around me that recognize the sexy in that. It also means that I can clean myself up in clothes that compliment my body, tell a story about what it can do, about what it has yet to do. I have a shirt I call “The Baby Maker” – let’s get real, I’m closer to being someone’s grandma than making any more babies but DAMN…it makes me feel like giving it my best go and by proxy, it has brought the suggestion from others. You know when you have a really good hair day, it brings all the boys to the yard? It’s the power of suggestion my friends. When you are oozing the HOT vibe, people can’t help but notice. Age is exactly like that. If you are putting off the varicose veins and water pills vibe, you will find people respond in kind. Here’s the thing, I have varicose veins. I have stretch marks too. But I can still rock a reverse cowgirl like nobody’s business. And you can too. If you like that kind of thing ; ) Define your own sexy and wear that shit, even if it is a cardigan.
Being grateful means presenting the things you know about yourself to be true and that you are proud of. My friend may not have said as much when she used the word “weary” but she got that way for a reason – because she is tireless and caring and relentless in the pursuit of sending out love. She got weary because she is fabulous. And being weary does not change all those fabulous things about her. And being grateful means we learn how to tell THAT part of the story too.
So tell me, if you couldn’t use a number to describe your age, what would your age look like? Go on and use the first word that comes into your head even if it’s negative but then look deeper into that and tell me why. If you could only use one picture, one symbol, one word – what would your age look like?
I’m going to stick with sunshine. It was given to me by someone who simply doesn’t have the ability to complicate the issue. And it resonated with me. I am silly and ridiculous and have never failed to see the good in any person, (Even you ex husband. Harumph). I am the life of the party. I am the burning hot optimist. I am sunshine.
B : ))))))))