Yesterday, When I Was Young


maple leaf and acorns

I looked in the mirror yesterday and saw my mother looking back at me.  It was horrifying.  Not because I hate my mother, I hasten to add, but because my mother is older and I am young. Or so I thought until I looked in the mirror last night.  I turned 45 this month (anyone who thought they were reading a blog written by someone young and cool, I am sorry.)  and I think the problem is that in my head I am still in my mid-twenties.  Sometimes I find myself talking to people in that age group and I feel like I fit in until I look around and realize...I could be their mother.  It is a weird feeling to perceive yourself one way and  then realize that others perceive you completely differently.  I assume it only gets stranger as you get older.  My 90-year-old grandmother says she feels about 45 inside.

My grandmother isn't one to let age defeat her.  I hope I take after her.  She had a stroke a little over a year ago which left her in a wheelchair and basically paralyzed on her right side.  You would think she would have enough to do keeping up with physical therapy and relearning how to perform basic life skills but she has done so much more.  She had started writing poetry a few years ago and was determined to continue even though she couldn't hold a pen anymore.  She got herself a tablet and learned how to use it.  She can type with her left hand.  It is time consuming but she does it.  But the thing that really amazes me is that she has taught herself how to paint with her left hand.  She now has a whole wall of her artwork. Her enthusiasm for life has not diminished as she has gotten older.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I know that life isn't over at 45 but I think I need to figure out what it means to me to age gracefully.  That is different for everyone.  For me, it has little to do with whether I have gray hair (I have some and I don't care) and everything to do with attitude and a zest for life. Is it too trite to say I want to be young at heart?  My grandmother is young at heart and because of that, people see past the 90-year-old body and see the person inside.  I think too often, once you reach a certain age, people just see the age and not the personality.

I also think we live in a crazy world where men become distinguished as they get older and women just get old, or at least that is the common viewpoint.  Where is the fairness in that?  And if I think about it, maybe some of my concern about getting older is because of the emphasis the society we live in puts on appearance.  I know that in stores I frequently reach for clothes I like and then hesitate.  I don't want to look like mutton dressed as lamb. (that expression makes me laugh.  I was hoping I could work it in.)  But then, why should women dress like an old ewe just because they are no longer 22?  I think I refuse to do that.  Wear what looks good on you and on your (current) body and leave it at that.  That is part of aging gracefully.

I wouldn't really want to go back to being 22 anyway.  I like the me I am now.  I am more confident, less concerned with fitting in, happier in my own skin even though that skin has a few stretch marks and scars.

I am still going to be startled when I realize I am old enough to be the mother of a 25-year-old.  I still will fall back in shock when I see my mother's face reflected at me in the mirror. But really, I am 45, I have gray hair, and I don't care.

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