Kevin had a birthday a few weeks ago and I like to mock how he has aged. It’s all very tongue in cheek because I, myself, have another birthday approaching and am discovering bones that never used to creak, waking up with aches that are new, and of course the occasional grey hair has sprouted (only in my eyebrows, thank-you-very-much.)
In a culture surrounded by looks and accomplishments and the next trendy diet, aging can be a drag (and I mean that literally. Walking through Wonderland is not pursued with the same speed or enthusiasm it was 20 years ago. I drag… my feet, my arms, the dislike of crowded spaces.) When we’re younger we think, “by the time I’m 30, I’ll have done this…” or, “oh man, 45 is so old…” and even, “I’m going to have a BA in English, taken some marketing courses, own a book/coffee shop, toured Europe, a vacation home on a lake; I’ll be tall, svelte, athletically inclined, play the piano like a virtuoso, be a successfully published author, have 4 kids, 2 dogs, a cat – and my allergies won’t bother me at all!”
I recognize that there are many people who have achieved the epitome of their dreams. They have the degrees, the family, the vacation home… but not me. I have half the kids, half the dogs, and no cat at all (my sinuses are grateful.) I’ll never be tall (I stopped growing “up” years ago!) My piano skills and athletic ability will never improve. Svelte is a shattered dream, mostly because graceful is not a word ever used to describe me.
In reality, there are days I am grateful to just have survived the night, to wake up in the morning and be thrilled knowing that I have a roof over my head and food on the table. My post-secondary education never happened, but I can laugh at the stupidest things and my heart has expanses I couldn’t imagine. My knee may ache, my hands are scarred, and my belly sports stripes like a zebra – and I wouldn’t change it, because they mark the challenges faced and overcome, memories made, and adventures (tame as they may be) that we took along the way.
I told someone the other day that although life doesn’t look the way I thought it would when I was 11, 17, or even 21, I am happier with who I am and where I am and the people that surround me than I could have ever imagined. I’m aging… and there is nothing I can do to stop it – time continues. I hope that as my body continues to show some wear and tear, that my gratitude is renewed; that as my wrinkles get deeper, the depth of my love and compassion expands; that as memories fade, new special moments pop up to replace them; that my accomplishments can be measured in terms of kindness and generosity, and not just in numbers on a scale or diplomas on a wall.
When I hit 40, when I reach 65, when I find 80, my hope is that when my name is spoken or thoughts of me cross someone’s mind, that I’m thought of fondly and appreciated for warmth, integrity, and encouragement. My story may not be thrilling, but new chapters continue to be added. I’m grateful for the experiences and people I’ve encountered and how they’ve molded me along the way. And I begin to recognize and acknowledge that aging truly is a treasure to be embraced and I will appreciate every beautiful moment that marks the process.